|System: PS3, PC, Xbox 360|
|Dev: Spicy Horse|
|Pub: Electronic Arts|
|Release: June 14, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence|
With that said, the combat is actually very satisfying. Switching between weapons is a breeze, mainly because there are so few to choose from, and striking enemies with any of the game's four weapons feels powerful. This becomes especially true as you start using the teeth you've collected to upgrade your arsenal. There are two close-ranged weapons: the Vorpal Blade is a quick and deadly knife, and the Hobby Horse is a defense-smashing hammer. The two ranged weapons are the Pepper Grinder, which is basically a machine gun, and the Teapot Cannon, which is exactly what it sounds like—a defense-breaking cannon.
The constant platforming, combat, and puzzle-solving are sometimes broken up by the random unexpected segment of gameplay. Seemingly out of the blue, you'll be asked to play a tune like you're performing a track in Guitar Hero, slip down long slides covered by groups of deadly obstacles, or fight off sharks and crabs with cannon arms as your ship dives deep below the sea. You'll even get to do some of your platforming in a gorgeous 2D envisioned Wonderland. For me, these 2D areas were the most memorable parts of the game, and they broke up the repetitive gameplay very well. The only problem is they're too few and far between.
One of the game's strongest assets is its sound design. The music varies from one level to the next; it's a beautiful distraction when it needs to be and provides an epic backdrop to the fight sequences. The voice work is just as strong as the well-written dialogue, and both come together perfectly to make the characters that inhabit Wonderland feel alive. I found myself grinding through the platforming sections just so I could get another piece of the story, meet an interesting new character or watch one of the game's many stunning cinematics.
In the end, Alice's second trip into madness isn't quite as satisfying or fresh as her first. Everything feels dated and there's an unfinished, even hurried quality to the game that's more than a little disappointing. That doesn't mean there's a shortage of great moments or fantastic ideas, because Madness Returns has both in spades. It's just that the overall experience is bogged down by slow pacing, repetitive gameplay, and visuals that could've used a little more work. But if you're looking for a fun, unique adventure filled with beautiful worlds and entertaining characters, Madness Returns won't disappoint.
CCC Contributing Writer