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    dkirschner's Alice: Madness Returns (PC)

    [January 5, 2014 12:20:31 PM]
    Finished this yesterday, been playing it for weeks.

    Most important thing:

    The art design in this game is AMAZING. It's worth playing just to marvel at. I took like 50 screenshots, which is probably why my time played is a good hour over average. It is so incredibly imaginative and beautiful and horrifying at the same time. It really looks like a messed up nightmare and fits the name of the game.

    The story is basically that Alice's mind is ravaged. Reality and fantasy mix and she finds herself alternately in this demented Wonderland in her mind and in the dreary slums of London where she is an orphan. She's struggling with the memories of her family's death and the house fire that killed them all. As she encounters the people she knows in London and the denizens of Wonderland, she slowly unravels the truth of the fire and deals with her memories and the reality she is faced with. The story is slow-going and comes largely from collectible "memories" throughout the game world, so don't expect a deep hulk of a story. It's simple, well-told, and drawn out to immerse you in her mind.

    That said, perhaps there is some imbalance between the pace of the tale and the time spent just platforming in Wonderland. The platforming and fighting and exploring are all a whole lot of fun, but yeah, the ratio of doing things that don't advance the story to doing things that advance the story is pretty low.

    Combat is sweet and simple. You get 4 weapons over time, all upgradeable (and I upgraded them all easily to max power). There's a butcher's knife (quick piercing weaker attacks), a "hobby horse," which is one of those horse heads on a stick that kids pretend to ride around (slow smashing stronger attacks), a pepper grinder (like a machine gun) and a teapot cannon (like a grenade launcher). There is a large variety of enemies, some overarching throughout the game (Ruins) and some unique to each level in Wonderland, like Samurai wasps in the Far East and drowned sailors and cannon crabs in the underwater world. Each enemy has their own ways of attacking and there are fairly specific ways Alice has to attack each one. It makes for a big variety in combat even though there are just 4 weapons. For example, the female dolls, you need to hit with a hobby horse until you smash their clothes off and smash their bodies open, then stab them with the knife in the heart. One of the types of Ruin, you need to deflect a fireball with your umbrella (just used for deflecting projectiles) to weaken it and then bash it to death with the hobby horse. It's the most fun and challenging when a lot of enemy types are present at once.

    There is also a lot of good platforming action to be had, with some (not very difficult) puzzles. Self-explanatory, yeah? There are switches to shoot, scales to jump on, buttons to press, chess matches to win...There are also a variety of "mini-games," some of which are fun, some of which are highly dubious and not fun. I always enjoyed the slides. I always enjoyed the arenas where you have to stay alive for a certain amount of time or kill all the enemies. The trivia questions are like freebies. I thought the parts where you guide the baby doll head through the maze were cool, but not implemented very well, so usually not much fun. The camera usually was awful there. The music mini-game was simple and pointless. And on and on...

    Camera can be a little wonky. During combat it's fine unless you use the targeting system to lock on an enemy. Unfortunately this is an unavoidable part of fighting some enemies. The camera like zooms in on whatever you're locked on to and Alice gets in lock-step with it, so she can't turn around or anything. This sucks when there is more than one enemy around because you can't see behind you or turn or anything without de-targeting the enemy. Also you can tab-target to switch, but it seems to just switch randomly, so it's a pain in the ass to switch among targets to find the one you want. Very frustrating and a handful of deaths because of it. And as mentioned, the camera during those rolling baby doll head sections is godawful. I can see the camera being more of an issue on consoles than PC because it is a little touchy too. Also, Alice had the irritating habit of auto-running forward or right for some reason. Sometimes she'd just get stuck running and I couldn't stop her. It's not my keyboard, definitely an issue with the game controls sticking at times.

    One of the best parts of the game, as you can imagine from my gushing over the environments and artwork, is the exploration. It's not open world at all, but there are lots of secret areas to find. Alice can shrink. When she shrinks, there is purple writing on the walls that gives hints about secrets. Go through keyholes, hop on invisible platforms and more to discover collectible memories, teeth to upgrade weapons, and just cool looking places. Exploring is very rewarding.

    One last thing that is interesting is that during the credits, most of the names are Chinese. Weird, right? Is this a Chinese game marketed to the West or what? I looked it up and apparently Spicy Horse, American McGee's game company, is located in Shanghai, and indeed they are the largest independent Western developer in China (thanks WIkipedia) and this is the first (console) game ever that was entirely developed and designed in China for export. Fun facts.

    Totally recommend giving this a shot. I loved it.
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    dkirschner's Alice: Madness Returns (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Monday 9 December, 2013

    GameLog closed on: Saturday 4 January, 2014

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Incredible atmosphere, art and music. Much darker than I imagined! Seriously cool. --------- Incredible. Art is amazing.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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