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    Mar 5th, 2014 at 19:32:18     -    American McGee's Alice (PC)

    American McGee's Alice is a single player, third-person shooter with puzzle and platforming elements. You play as Alice as she travels through an even more odd, steampunk version of Wonderland. It was developed by Rogue Entertainment and was released on October 6, 2000. An HD remake was released June 14, 2011 and is only available with the purchase of the games sequel, "Alice: Madness Returns."

    After the event's of the Lewis Carroll stories "Alice's Adventure in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass,"Alice is sleeping when her cat knocks over a lantern and sets her house on fire. Alice survives, but her parents and older sibling are killed in the blaze. Distraught, she mentally shuts herself from the outside world and goes into a coma-like state. Several years later, Alice is lying in bed in a sanitarium. A nurse gives her a small, toy rabbit in the hopes that it might help. That rabbit then speaks to Alice saying that she needs to save Wonderland. Once in wonderland, the Cheshire cat tells Alice that the red queen has enslaved all of Wonderland and that only Alice can save them. After traversing all of Wonderland, Alice finally battles the red queen. The red queen then shows Alice who she truly is. She is Alice herself, but only the parts that believe she was the cause of the fire that destroyed her household. Alice realizes that destroying the red queen would mean that all of her guilt would be destroyed and she could live a better life. She does so and Wonderland is restored back to original state. Alice is then released from the sanitarium.

    The core gameplay mechanic are attacking. While this may seem rather small, the game makes a lot from it. First of all, attacking is varied due to the large assortment of weapons Alice has available. These weapons, or "toys" as the game calls them, range from the vorpal blade, which comes from short poem "Jabberwocky," to a game of jacks and throwing cards. Each weapon is unique and has there own special ability. For instance, the vorpal blades main attack is a simple hacking motion that is good for close enemies, but its special ability allows Alice to throw the blade at distant enemies. When using these special abilities, the player loses "meta-essence", or mana, and it must be replenish before it is used again.
    Another puzzle mechanic are levers. These levers are normally used with puzzles that require a specific order in which the levers need to be pulled. There are variations on this puzzle, but not many. Another small mechanic is a power up system that is only available at certain times. Alice can find these throughout the game to give her a small boost for a limited amount of time. They are infrequent and are mainly used when a large wave of enemies are in a certain area.

    On PC, you control Alice's movement with the WASD keys and mouse. You jump with space and switch between weapons with the number keys. To do your main attack, you click the mouse button, and to do a special attack, you click the right button.
    On the Xbox version, you move with the left and right sticks. The A button jumps and to switch weapons you use the left bumper and right bumper. To do your main attack, you press the left trigger or the X button and to do your special attack, you press the right trigger.

    First Playthrough (PC):
    Starting the game, I was immediately intrigued by this corrupt wonderland. The first thing you see after the first cutscene is the white rabbit, who tells you to not “dawdle” before running away, and Cheshire cat who is nothing but skin and bones and has a massive amount of tattoos all over his body, but he still has his signature grin. He and Alice have a conversation about the state wonderland is in, and I must say that the voice acting and writing for these characters is spot on. The Cheshire cat has a low, rumbling, British accent that fits perfectly for the character and Alice's cool, calm voice makes it feel like she knows where she is and that that the events surrounding wonderland do not perturb her. The writing feels like it would have fit into the Lewis Carroll stories. It has the same wit that I loved in the novels and it has enough dark humor to make me laugh from time to time. After this conversation, I entered the Village of the Doomed. This village is filled with gnomes who have been enslaved by the red queen. Alice sees the White Rabbit shrink and run into a hole and tries to do the same. To do so, she has to meet with the elder gnome who supposedly can shrink her in size. This section of the game, from beginning to end, is the tutorial of game. It's also a great way to show of its visual style. From the characters to the environment, everything, save for Alice, is morphed and mutated into weird angles and shapes that not only fit with the corrupted style of the game, but would very much fit into the normal wonderland.
    After finding the elder gnome, he tells me that he can't do it himself, but there is a way to shrink in a “Skool” held inside the Fortress of Doors. He agrees to take here there, but only after getting some “meta-essence” from some card guards. Once again, as this is the tutorial level, I learned how to fight in the game. I realized that, even on the easy difficulty that I was playing at, the enemies take a lot of life away if they get too close. Since my first weapon found was the vorpal blade, I can only do close combat so, getting hit was pretty much a given. I'm also kind of surprised at how detailed the death animations are. Sometime the card guards would get sliced in half, they would roll up into a ball, or they would simply fall over.
    Afterward, I had to do the first vine jumping puzzle. This was where I think the game started to fall apart. It was so difficult to find the right place to hit the vine in order to grab on. Not only that, but once on the vine, I could not find the correct way to move up and down. It was just so imprecise. Next, I caught up to the elder gnome and he took me to the Fortress of Doors.
    Before I talk about the next level, I have to talk about the music. It is amazing. Without a doubt, one of the best soundtracks for a game I've ever heard. It all fits with the setting and it gave me the greatest sense of what the tone of the game is. Every song is unique in its own way, but the all have a few things in common. First, the percussive sounds in the background of each song sound like a broken clock that needs to be replaced. I think this was creative as one of the main characters, the white rabbit, is obsessed with time and in the game the mad hatter is obsessed with time, so this motif is very much suited for the game. Also, the instruments and sounds that are used in the music is just so odd and unusual. For instance, at one point, there seemed to be some type of toy piano being used as a percussive instrument which was weird in its own right, but it fit perfectly with the visual style and tone of the game. I did some research after playing and found out that the composer, Chris Vrenna, was the drummer for the band Nine Inch Nails, who were known for their odd percussive beats and experimental industrial sounds much like the sounds and music that are in the game. Anyway, back to the game.
    After reaching the Fortress of Doors, I found another mechanic that I think was fundamentally flawed, the jumping. In the Village of the Doomed, it was not much of a problem as all of the platforms were close together, but here, I realize that the jumping mechanic is too hard to control. Whenever there is a platform that Alice has to jump to pair of silhouetted feet appear at the point were she will land. This may sound helpful, but its more annoying than anything else. First off, it causes the player to slow down progress and it feels tedious. Not to mention that every jump feels absolutely frightening. Like the vine puzzles, it just feels imprecise.
    The Fortress of Doors is the best looking level that I saw in this playthrough. It makes me feel like I'm in some sort of vortex that I can only escape by going through doors. What makes it even nicer are the tiny details through the level. Occasionally, on certain screens, I would see a door from a distance coming closer to me. I would soon realize that this door was large enough to fill the whole place space as it would open and engulf the entire world for a brief second. It didn't have to be in the game, but it certainly help give the game some character.
    After, entering “Skool,” I had to go to the library to find the ingredients needed to shrink myself. This ingredients where scattered around the “Skool,” so there's not much to say about this particular mission . I will say, though, that there were some other nice details a saw in the game. There are numerous cracks and holes in the floor that you can look through and see stacks upon stacks of books underneath the building. I realized that these books were holding the “Skool” up. I thought it was a clever touch. Also, this level has, by far, the most disturbing non-playable characters in the game. There are kids who are scattered in the level and all of them have some weird deformities on them. Some had their skulls sliced open and their brains were exposed and other had their eyes permanently open using some strange contraptions. I collected all of the ingredients and set of to the next level.
    After my first playthrough. I definitely enjoyed myself. The game has a unique personality that is obtain through its visual style and sound design. The only real complaint I have is the jumping and vine puzzles.

    Second Playthrough (Xbox):
    I have the sequel to this game, “Alice: Madness Returns” and I decided to try my second playthrough with this version. First off, it's an almost perfect port of the game. It looks and sounds just like the first. The only problem I had with this version in terms of the port is the menu system. This complaint mainly comes from the options menu which, on the PC version, is a chart of the human brain that you hover over to change different options. They left this in the Xbox version and because of this, it was difficult to go to a specific options at times. Other than that its pretty much a great port.
    I decided that I should make some progress with the game itself, so I went through everything I did in my first playthrough and ended up in the next level, The Vale of Tears. There's not much to say about this level other than one thing. The jumping is absolutely horrendous. The developers kind of got carried away with it at this point as nearly every section of the level is some type of jumping puzzle. The one that nearly made me rage quit was a puzzle where you had to jump from leaf to leaf down a small stream. The leaves are constantly moving so this puzzle was so difficult to get through. In my first playthrough, I mentioned a pair of feet that would show where Alice would land. They were completely useless in this part. Every time I think I knew where I would land, I would be off significantly. Other than that there's not much to say about this level. To exit, you have to fight the Duchess who wants to eat you. You defeat her and move on to the next level, Wonderland Woods.
    This, so far, is my least favorite level in the game. It's completely filled with vine puzzles and is much to large to fit with the rest of the game. Most of the other levels took my about 30 minutes to get through whereas this one took me 2 hours. Not to mention that the look of this level is boring. It's filled with grays, greens, and browns that I personally found unappealing. Also, it's filled with vine puzzles which, as I stated in my first playthrough, feel imprecise. I nearly rage quit during the middle of this level due to too many vine puzzles. Like the Vale of Tears, not much happens in this level until the very end. First the white rabbit, which I have been chasing since the beginning of the game, is killed by a giant version of the Mad Hatter as he's walking. Also, you fight a giant, military-like centipede as the boss.
    After my second playthrough, the game left me with a bad taste in my mouth. The fact that the last two levels I played were visually bland and the amount of jumping and vine puzzles did not help either. It just felt like a way to prolong the game time and it did a bad job at it.

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    Feb 10th, 2014 at 14:58:17     -    Trivial Pursuit Pop Culture (Other)

    The player can only move 6 tiles, at most, during a period of their turn.
    The player has to answer the question correctly to continue their turn or collect a pie piece.
    Only one player can move at a time.
    The player can only collect one pie piece at a time.

    Each player gets a pop culture object (ie. cassette tape, lava lamp) to move around the board.
    Each player uses a die to see how many tiles they can move.
    Each player has to collect six pie pieces in order to beat the game.
    Players use trivia cards and a DVD inside of some DVD playing device to answer questions.

    How to Play:
    Each player receives a game piece to move around the board. They then roll the dice to see who goes first. Once each players position is set, they then move around the board using the dice. After each move, the player is asked a trivia question pertaining to the colored tile they landed on. If they answer correctly, they get another turn. Else, the next player goes. To win, a player must collect the six pie pieces of each type of trivia in the game. This trivia, in this version of the game, is movies, tv, music, sports & games, buzz, and fads. These pie piece questions have the player use the included DVD to answer said question. Finally, the player must make it back to the middle of the board to answer the final trivia question and win the game.

    First Play-through:
    My first play-through of the game was fairly relaxed. A few of my friends were playing with me. After we rolled to set our turn order, the game started. The first major problem we faced was the relevancy of the trivia. Since this game was from 2003, a large portion of the trivia was outdated. This especially pertained to the buzz portion of the trivia. This usually meant that we all only had one turn before we got a question wrong and the next person went. When someone finally landed on the pie piece question, another problem arose. The DVD we were using was not scratched, but anytime we clicked on a menu item for a question it would take about 30 seconds before the question even came up. And when it did, we didn't know the answer, so it felt like a unneeded waste of time. What we did think was interesting was the amount of different questions that were on the DVD. During our play-through we never encountered the same question twice, so that was helpful. Eventually, one of us got allsix pieces and went to the middle of the game board. He played the final question and he got it right, thus ending the game. Overall, the game was not too frustrating
    after one play-through. There seem to be enough questions on the DVD that the game could be played multiple times without having the same question twice. This goes doubly for the trivia cards.

    Second Play-through: To start off, I played this again with the same group of people from the last time. We went through the same routine as last time and started the game. Everything was going fine until we started the DVD questions again. Although last time I said that there were plenty of questions to answer on the DVD, know I feel like after the first play-through we exhausted all the available questions on it. Every time we tried one of the questions, we would get one we had already answered. We tried this several times. Each time we got more and more frustrated. Eventually, we decided to just skip the DVD and answer the harder questions on the trivia cards and save the final question for the DVD. Once we got to the final question, we were pleased to find another unanswered question on the DVD. The player who had to answer missed it and game play resumed. When another player got to the final question, the same thing happened. Eventually, all the players were at the final question and nobody could get it right. We kept doing this until the questions started repeating themselves. At this point, we were all extremely frustrated at the DVD and had somebody just keep asking the questions from the trivia cards. I got the final answer right and won the game. After this play-through, I was extremely disappointed at the lack of more questions on the DVD. I know that it was a gimmick in itself for the time, but it still needed more questions. Seeing as the DVD has been exhausted of questions, I would probably never play this game again.

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    Feb 9th, 2014 at 23:45:02     -    Trivial Pursuit Pop Culture (Other)

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