Alice: Madness Returns First Impressions Preview
Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC
Alice: Madness Returns box art
System: X360, PS3, PC
Dev: Spicy Horse
Pub: Electronic Arts
Release: June 14, 2011
Players: 1
Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p Blood and Gore, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence
We’re All Mad Here. I’m Mad. You’re Mad.
by James Trujillo

Close to ten years ago, game designer American McGee released his vision of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, entitled American McGee’s Alice. Considerably more horrifying than the acclaimed novel, McGee’s version took a grim look into Alice’s psyche years after the original storyline and portrayed an elaborate visual style for its time. Now, McGee is going back into the world of Wonderland, releasing a direct sequel to his first grisly game that is currently under development by his Shanghai-based independent studio, Spicy Horse.

Alice: Madness Returns screenshot

The sequel takes place eleven years after the original (also coinciding with the game’s tentative release window) with a traumatized Alice still struggling to recover from the loss of her family. After spending over a decade in Rutledge Asylum, she is finally released into the care of a psychiatrist in London. As her nightmares and hallucinations continue to worsen, she realizes her torments were never fully resolved and seeks to find refuge in Wonderland, the only place she truly knows to be safe. However, upon her arrival, she discovers that during her time away, things haven’t gone well in her absence. On a mission of self-discovery, and in order to unravel the truth about her past, it’s up to Alice to save herself and the world she loves from a darkness that threatens to consume them both.

The few teasers we’ve seen for Alice: Madness Returns have certainly been doing their job. Showing off a unique visual style American McGee and his games are known for, we’ve seen glimpses of a vibrantly detailed Wonderland. The game world itself appears to be a primary focus, and it’s obvious when viewing the background textures in their recent screenshots from the Tokyo Game Show. These screens give a hint at just how beautiful a scene can look one minute, with gleaming open skies and bright fall-colored trees, and then turn to a dark and dismal setting the next, showcasing mechanical shades of greens and browns. It might even be appropriate to compare a few aspects of the world to Rapture from BioShock, but with much more color and a lot less water.

Alice: Madness Returns screenshot

There is also a new trailer they’ve been showing off at TGS to give an even deeper look into all the fantasy madness. It features the newly freed Alice wandering the lonely, night-filled streets of London. She happens upon what appears to be a dimly lit carnival carriage with a small display of the Mad Hatter, the Dormouse, and the White Rabbit having a tea party. She is then surprised to hear a faint voice calling her name, which she recognizes as her mother, but turns around only to see an empty street. Just a moment later, a fiery apparition presents itself in the display and reveals itself as the Queen of Hearts, along with the White Rabbit, before wrapping Alice in her tentacles and disappearing into the inferno.

It is apparent in the first game the Queen of Hearts represents the whole of Alice’s insanity, while the White Rabbit represents her doctor from Rutledge Asylum. If I were to take a guess, I would have to assume her freedom in London could only last for so long. There really isn’t much more to discern from the trailer other than the fact that Alice will once again be faced with a deep internal struggle.

Alice: Madness Returns screenshot

Aside from what we’ve learned with the various assets provided by the publisher, Electronic Arts, we do know for certain the game will have a similar platform-like style of gameplay to the original. It’s even distinguishable in a piece of concept art where Alice is traversing an area littered with gears and clocks. She appears to be maintaining her balance on a steel beam with a long pole, trying to make her way from platform to platform. If there is any sort of balancing mechanic in the game, it remains to be seen, but there will most definitely be moments where she will proceed through environmental obstacles.

Another revelation from TGS was the connection to a collectables element in the game. It was noted during a short pre-alpha presentation that Alice was seen to be picking up her “memories” scattered throughout the game world, much like the audio logs from BioShock, which would fill players in on important elements of back story. I imagine that since the sequel will be released on consoles, this will be tied to some sort of Achievement/Trophy component.

Alice: Madness Returns is still in the early stages of development, so there will be plenty more to reveal before its tentative release sometime in late 2011. But judging from the little bit we’ve seen, it’s shaping up to be another bright blip on our radar.

By James Trujillo
CCC Freelance Writer

Game Features:

  • Explore the dark twisted world of Amercian McGee's Wonderland.
  • Discover exactly what happened to Alice after the end of the original cult classic.
  • For the first time ever, Alice makes her dark adventure available on home consoles.

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    Videos / Game Trailers
    Alice: Madness Returns - Debut Teaser	 - click to enlarge
    Debut Teaser
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    TGS 10: Fiery Tentacles Teaser
    Alice: Madness Returns - Teaser Trailer	 - click to enlarge
    Teaser Trailer
    Alice: Madness Returns - Gameplay Trailer	 - click to enlarge
    Gameplay Trailer

    Screenshots / Images
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