Turning a classic story that kids have enjoyed
into a super dark tale can have mixed results. With the exception of Big Fish, Tim Burton
has been ruining my childhood for years, and after he cast Johnny Depp and his own creepy
wife in their 57th movie together, Alice in Wonderland was pretty much dead to me. I thought
that making a super dark Alice in Wonderland couldn’t work, but the original story wasn’t
exactly a bright and cheery tale. Actually, the game I have today proves to me that dark
doesn’t have to equal “I need an adult” creepy. This is Alice: Madness Returns for
the PS3. As a newcomer to this game series, and I call
it a series because one other game was released at the turn of the century, I didn’t really
know what to expect from the story. Alice is trying to forget about terrible events
in her past, but is still suffering, and the player is immediately stuck trying to figure
what is real and what is in her mind, as the game’s earliest section shifts between her
terrible imagination and what is really in front of her. Although the game itself is
very different from it in most regards, this aspect reminded me of the movie Donnie Darko.
The developers want you to be just as confused as her, and it works really well.
As you get into the gameplay of Madness Returns, it’s actually a very solid action platformer.
Jumping mechanics are great, with Alice having the ability to float and twirl in air to reach
a platform, in addition to finding some spots that fling her up into the air. Combat is
not quite as refined, but it is still very well done. Different enemies must be taken
down in different ways, depending on how they attack. So you might have to dodge and then
attack. Using the pepper shaker is especially fun for taking out some weird spawny things.
Alice also has the ability to shrink down to not only reach areas she could not as a
normal sized person, but also to reveal hidden platforms that she can jump across. The game
will leave these visible for around 3 seconds after you go back to normal size, allowing
you just enough time to jump to them before they can no longer be seen. As this is supposed
to be a horror game or sorts, I also appreciated the way the developers made it scary. I HATE
it when games just make things dark and startle you with quick movement. That’s not utilizing
atmosphere or the plot, it’s just utilizing involuntary reflex. Alice doesn’t do this,
it uses creepy characters and a dark tone to achieve its scariness, a rarity in today’s
games. Alice obviously doesn’t try to go for realism,
this isn’t the type of game it is, but the visual style used actually does look very
solid. Environments are varied and look great, and although enemies don’t look like anything
special, the cat looks terrifying, in a good way. Voice acting is also very good, and the
2D, storybook presentation between sections looks wonderful. I should mention, however,
the game does hang up for a good second when it auto-saves, and this can be a bit annoying.
Knowing nothing about this game and not really having any expectations going in, I am pleased
to say that I enjoyed my time in Madness Returns. I kind of wish they made the movie more like