Game Review - by James Allen
Most children's tales have some underlying psycho or disturbing tone. For example, "Ring Around The Rosey" depicts symptoms that arise during the Plague. So it continues in Alice in Wonderland. A just plain strange "children's" story, several authors have written their take on Carroll's saga. Taking the weird and bizarre to the extreme, American McGee brings us, appropriately, American McGee's Alice. Following Alice as a teenager traveling back to Wonderland, we meet a world greatly changed from the encounter during her childhood. The same old characters are present, but usually in a very different condition than before. We are left to find and defeat the Queen of Hearts, and quite a ride it is.
American McGee's Alice lets you, the consumer, play as Alice, hacking and slashing her way through very cool and strangely beautiful levels to, hopefully, confront the Queen. Some familiar lands you shall travel through, although they have been altered slightly. Along your way, you'll encounter such enemies as chess pieces, card guards, and Bush and Gore (Tweedledee and Tweedledum). Other than the single player game, there are not that many other things to do. But, you'll probably go through the game again to check out the wonders that the levels hold. Multiplayer would have been an interesting addition, but it does actually seem out of place with the story-driven gameplay of Alice.
If good graphics aren't enough, the sound is amazing. Every character has a distinctive and correct voice, and the Cheshire Cat's is especially cool. And the soundtrack is haunting and beautiful at the same time. A feeling of purposeful dread came over me while playing in several locations, knowing that I HAD to save Wonderland from the wicked Queen of Hearts. The music is enough to convince me! It must have taken a long time to record all of the audio for American McGee's Alice, because it's so extensive. If only all games were this good.
Gameplay is the only area where Alice has a few hiccups. You control Alice in 3rd person, and I've seen a few instances where everything melds into incoherence while backed up against walls. This doesn't happen very often, however. Alice has health (called sanity) and ammo (called will). If you run out of sanity, you're escapades in Wonderland are over. Will gradually regenerates itself over time, and is necessary for using high-powered weaponry. Luckily, whenever you defeat a foe, they dissolve into meta-essence, a combination of sanity and will in a nice floating icon: tougher opponents submit greater meta-essence. It does, however, disintegrate over time, so you must collect it quickly. There are also amounts of sanity and will spaced throughout the levels.
Your only form of help is the Cheshire Cat, which is both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes he will yield useful information, but most of the time you're more confused than when you started. Thus is the fickle nature of the grinning feline. Navigating the environments is relatively simple. You are provided with a jump indicator, which you can use to precisely jump to a certain location. This has saved me a couple of times, and is a pretty inventive feature. You will encounter things to jump over, such as acid, slime, and lava. Portals to transport you between maps are plentiful, and you'll find that you'll visit the same place several times over. The levels themselves are beautiful, and are yet another reason to purchase Alice. Coupled with the graphics, the levels are slightly challenging and astronomically awesome.
The combat is difficult in Alice. Most of your weapons are short-range, or poor long-range. You are supplied with several weapons throughout the games, which look great, are very original, but aren't as effective as you would hope. All the weapons are a variation on a toy, and include a deck of cards, a jackbomb, jacks, and demon dice. Just buy the game to see what they do: it's very cool, it not frustrating at some times. Some weapons use a disproportionate level of Will, so you are constantly trying to refuel, which is difficult when many opponents are rushing/flying/killing you. Combat becomes a very Rune-esque experience, with a twist: the opposition's forces are not held by the same constraints as you, so they can launch deadly things from large distances all day. This makes the game slightly frustrating. There are a couple of targeting aids, either for aiming or for locking on a distance target. There also exist some power-ups, which give you some strange skill for a short period of time. The ragebox let's you go on a killing spree, for instance. With all of the pluses Alice has, it's sad that the combat model wasn't so exasperating.
The graphics in Alice are astounding. Every level is depicted in such realistic unrealism it's amazing. Everything is slightly off skew, and it creates such a perfect environment in which to journey. I often get mad at the enemies, because they distract the beautiful nature of each stage. One of the primary forces to keep you playing is to see what the next corner holds. Most everything in each level has a purpose; objects are not just there for show. You can climb on almost anything you can leap to, unlike some games, where the side environments are inaccessible. You really feel like you are interacting with your graphics, something that is sometimes absent from games these days. The enemies are also pretty, and move very fluidly. Plus, chopping a card guard in half is fun for everyone (rated "M" for mature). With a detail level this insane, graphics alone is reason enough to purchase the game.
Please go get American McGee's Alice right now. With some of the best levels, graphics, music, and sounds in any game, we can overlook the lack of multiplayer and somewhat repetitive and difficult combat system. You will seriously want to keep playing to check out the next level. A very engaging Wonderland makes American McGee's Alice one of the best games on the et. Don't let the Queen of Hearts's reign of terror last any longer.