|American McGee's Alice
|If you buy any game before the end of the year, make sure it's American McGee's Alice!
|December 6th, 2000
|For most people American McGee's Alice needs no introduction but for those who have never heard about it then here's the skinny. Alice is a 3rd person action/adventure title utilizing an enhanced version of the Quake III game engine. It's nightmarish levels and evil atmosphere is certain to leave you wondering just what happened to the fun and happy place known as Wonderland. Quite a few things have changed since you last visited, things look very twisted and demented now. The Cheshire Cat smiles with a devilishly sinister grin and the Mad Hatter is more than just mad, he's pure evil. The game will pull you in with it's facinating storyline, bizarre worlds, and atmospheric music and sounds.
Everyone knows the story of Alice in Wonderland, a journey through the mind of a very imaginative young girl. There's the White Rabbit who was always late, the Mad Hatter, the smoking Caterpillar, and of course the Cheshire Cat, lots of memorable characters that I recall quite well from the original story. Things have changed in Wonderland, not everything is as happy and fun as it used to be. While Alice was spending time in Wonderland one night a fire broke out in her house and she was unable to save her parents from the deadly inferno. She was the only one who survived the catastrophe and the guilt and hatred started to build up inside her, so bad it had gotten that she ended up in an asylum for the mentally disturbed. Now with her thoughts so filled with hate, she once again enters the world of Wonderland. The world has changed so much since she last visited, everything looks twisted, demented, and completely evil. The happy world as she had known it to be was not so happy anymore. And so begins the great storyline of American McGee's Alice. As you journey through Wonderland bits and pieces of the story will start to come out as you interact with some very familiar, yet very different looking, characters that most everyone will remember. It's a quest not only to save Wonderland but to save Alice... from herself.
The visuals in Alice have to be seen to be believed. Everything comes alive in amazingly realistic detail. It's not just the amount of detail that will catch your eye but the environment effects as well. Clocks twist side to side frantically, tentacles pulsate with lifelike movement, floors move up and down, left and right when you step on them. You truly never know what's going to happen because the world is literally crazy. The enemies are also unique creations that you'll only find in this game. You'll encounter enemies such as card guards, soldier ants, robots, and later in the game you'll even face off against chess pieces. Some well known characters have made an appearance with huge makeovers. The White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat, and Mad Hatter are just a few of the ones you will encounter. The design of these characters is exceptional, they truly look evil and demented, there's no better way to put it. Even more impressive than the main enemy lineup, are the bosses. Each one bigger than the last and the final boss offers quite a spectacle for the eyes. I won't give out many details here because the fun of this game is seeing everything for the first time, and as far as graphics go they really don't get much better than this. Every level offers new surprises and more eye popping visuals that force you to play through to the end just to see everything that has to be seen. The level design in Alice couldn't have been done any better, simply put it's absolutely perfect and just fits so well with the dark and twisted theme of the game. The game is somewhat linear however but the levels are just so huge and so full of twists and turns that you'll forget that there's rarely more than one path to take.
The gameplay in Alice is your basic action/adventure title filled with puzzles that range from pulling a switch to more advanced ones that require you to take a look around to figure out what to do next. There's a huge emphasis on jumping in Alice and there's a lot of it. If there's anything that will turn gamers away from this title, it'll be the jumping. I must admit that I'm not a real big fan of games that require a lot of jumping. The main reason is that it's usually flawed somehow and causes lots of frustrations having to keep loading that last save game because a jump wasn't timed perfectly. Fear not in Alice, jumping is executed quite nicely and making jumps in most cases is fairly easy. There were many times during the game that I thought for sure I'd miss a ledge or platform but usually landed it even when I thought my jump was "off". The combat system is great, if you've played Rune then you'll feel right at home here. I did find I had to go through a few levels before I really got used to the feel of it but it's done quite well just like everything else in Alice. There were some occasions during the game where it seemed like I couldn't grab onto a rope, it was almost as if I passed through it. It wasn't a major concern but it happened enough that it did get irritating to take a "leap of faith" at a rope and miss it, sending me to an early grave. The AI in Alice is not always perfect either. Occasionally, the enemies would run in the spot or get stuck in part of the environment, such as a staircase or edge of a cliff. While this isn't a huge problem it was very noticeable, even during the first few levels. Also, it would've been nice if the game were a little less linear in design. There are some levels where the path deviates a little but still has a linear feel overall. All that said though, the gameplay is solid but nothing new or original here, it's typical of most action/adventure titles.
One of the many things that you'll always remember about this title is the audio experience. Without great sound, an enviornment such as the one in Alice just wouldn't work quite as well. The voice-overs are one thing that help carry this game and they are very well done. I don't think the Cheshire Cat would be quite the same without a menacing voice to back up his creepy smile. And the same goes for every other character you will come across, the voices just fit perfectly. Personally one thing I'll always remember, apart from the visuals, is the music. Never before have I heard music that fit so well with a games environment. You won't hear upbeat tunes but musical scores that are even more demented than the game itself. What makes it so great is that it's unexpected just like everything in Alice. The music is just so well done for the whole game environment that it just has to be heard. Rogue Entertainment certainly wanted to immerse the player in their dark Wonderland and they have succeeded in all areas.
There's just one other thing I wanted to mention before I end this review, the weapons. They are just as original as everything else in this game. You'll pick up the weapons as you progress through the levels. You'll carry a knife, croquet mallet, a deck of cards, and diabolical dice just to list a few of them. As you'd expect in any game nowadays there's a secondary fire button so that you can use a different attack for each weapon. I loved every weapon in the game, they're all well rounded enough so that any one of them can be used differently depending on your situation. For example the knife can be thown to allow an attack from a distance, and there's even a frost weapon that can create a temporary shield of ice for you. After playing around with the weapons one thing comes to mind... where's the multiplayer? With such a well rounded weapon lineup it would only make sense for a multiplayer experience. And I'll tell you that after you play through Alice you'll wish there was one. Not for the fact that it adds to the replay value of the title but because it would've been just as original and unique as the game itself. Unfortunately, multiplayer isn't available in this game, but perhaps there will be a multiplayer patch like we have seen recently with SWAT 3. It can't hurt to hope for things like that.
Well it looks like I've gone on and on about American McGee's Alice and I still don't think I've said enough. This game is excellent, there's absolutely no reason not to buy this one despite the fact that it has no multiplayer support. The game in itself is huge and it's certainly not a game that you'll finish in one sitting. The experience simply demands to be played through again, on a harder difficulty level of course, gotta make it challenging on yourself. There's no doubt in my mind that Alice will be "the" game to buy this holiday season and there's no better title to show off to your friends and family come Christmas day. Jot this one down on your wishlist for Santa because this is one title you won't soon forget and one that will be remembered for a long time to come.
The good points: spectacular graphics, excellent sounds and music, long single player adventure, the most crazy and demented world ever created in a video game, well thought out storyline
The bad points: levels are mostly linear in design, a few AI glitches
Review by Mark Dillon
Video Gamer Guy