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Alice in Blunderland

July 4, 2011

By John Powell - G4 Canada

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Alice : The Madness ReturnsIn the year 2000, 'American McGee's Alice' and its alternate continuation of the classic Lewis Carroll story, advanced the art of storytelling, design and graphics on the PC. Through Alice's twisted mind, Wonderland became a grotesquely enthralling and strangely alluring setting to explore.

As the story went, Alice is the only survivor of a fatal house fire. She is institutionalized when she is unable to deal with the reality of what has happened. Summoned by the White Rabbit, Alice is once again asked to dethrone the Queen of Hearts, this time in a macabre Wonderland that barely resembles the place she once visited. Armed with a butcher knife, this Alice is not someone you want to invite to a fancy tea party.

Alice : The Madness Returns 'Alice' blew my mind back then and when I heard unconventional designer American McGee was returning to develop a sequel entitled 'Alice: Madness Returns', I was thrilled. I was curious as to where McGee would take Alice next.

Little did I know, it was Nowheresville.

Picking up right where the story left off 11 years ago, Alice has been freed from the asylum and lives in a London orphanage. She is under the care of a new psychiatrist as she remains traumatized by the memories of the house fire. Instead of the White Rabbit, this time it is the Cheshire Cat who pleads with Alice to return to Wonderland and take down the latest coup.

Alice : The Madness Returns It has to be said, what is with Wonderland, anyway? It seems it has had as many coups as Haiti, for crying out loud. And why is it always Alice who has to come to their rescue? What? Is there's no rebellion or underground insergency? Get it together Blunderland, please.

Acquiring the legendary Vorpal Blade from Carroll's famous poem 'Jabberwocky', the ability to shrink at will and a pepper grinder that acts as a gatling gun of sorts, Alice is confonted by jumps and puzzles, puzzles and jumps, and more jumps and puzzles in a spiritless adventure that's made all the more dull by the repetitive and interminable level design.

For someone like me who is a huge fan of H.R. Giger, Tim Burton and the like, the settings, creatures and backgrounds in 'Alice' were all sensational to look at. The mix of Victorian, Gothic and modern influences provided some really unique visuals. But, no matter how great things look, the gameplay is just too plodding and redundent to hold your interest for very long.

Alice : The Madness Returns The breakdown of simple mechanics like Alice not casting a decernable shadow so you can judge your jumps properly, the inaccuracy of the pepper grinder when you really need it to be precise or that Alice is stunned, knocked to the ground when she is hit, are not tolerable flaws especially when the levels themselves are so unfailingly unoriginal.

Having such fond memories of the original cult classic, 'Alice: Madness Returns' was a disappointment in so many ways, it makes me wonder if some things are better left in the past where they belong. The game's one saving grace though is that a download code for a copy of the original 'American McGee's Alice' is included as a bonus…or an apology. You decide.


Alice : The Madness Returns Alice : The Madness Returns
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: EA
Developer: Spicy Horse
ESRB Rating: M for Mature 17+
Official Site:
Rating: 4 / 10

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About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see