Sunday, July 24, 2011

Alice in 3 Parts: Part I

I. American McGee's Alice

This game was originally released for the PC in 2000, and features a darker take on Alice in Wonderland. Set sometime after the events of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, the game takes place after a horrible fire killed Alice's family. Alice begins to lose touch with reality, and is institutionalized in Rutledge Asylum. Ten years later, Wonderland draws her back in, to a place that's been damaged by her own twisted mind. This is a far cry from Disney's Wonderland creations. This place is dark, oftentimes reflecting Alice's own insanity.

At one point I owned an original copy of the game for the PC, but I'll admit I installed it, tried playing a few minutes of it, and gave up in frustration over the horrible control scheme. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not much of a PC gamer, so if the controls are too hard to use, forget it. Cheap deaths do not make a game more challenging. At the time, I couldn't understand how anyone could expect a person to play a platforming game on the PC. I'm a casual PC gamer...I didn't even own a PC compatible controller at the time, and playing with a keyboard and mouse is generally not my idea of fun. So my earliest exploits into American McGee's Wonderland were unsuccessful.

Fast forward, eleven years later. A sequel (Alice: Madness Returns) is released. As an added bonus, EA offered a code to download the original game for free. Pretty sweet deal, right? Well, you'd think so. It took me about three hours to download Alice, and probably another half an hour to install it, plus the files for Alice: Madness Returns. So sitting down to give Alice another quick go was another exercise in frustration, but since it was released for my favorite system, and I got it for free I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt. Maybe using a controller I was comfortable with would help me get over my previous dislike of the game.

I was wrong.

This game is terrible. Sure I like the character designs, but using a controller doesn't improve the control scheme at all. Jumping is difficult at best, and cheap deaths still abounded. To add to my mounting frustrations, I found myself having to save after every single jump since there isn't an autosave feature. I guess I'd expected the game to be updated a little, but it was a straight port of the old PC game, clunky features and all. The later levels were difficult to navigate, especially the mazes in Queensland, but the kicker is that I finally gave up at the Jabberwocky boss battle: Part 2. No matter what I tried, I died in one hit. I couldn't get any momentum going against this guy, and I must have died and reloaded at least fifty times. Talk about frustrating. Especially once I discovered that I was really close to the end of the game.

The battle system is completely terrible, as is the camera and the jumping. I liked the crazy weapons Alice collected, but after acquiring quite a few, I became overwhelmed. Why are there so many? And since there aren't any number keys on a PS3 controller, I had to scroll through the list with the D-pad.

The only reason I really sat down to play this game is because I thought Madness Returns might not make much sense without playing through the game the first time. However, that's not the case. I didn't really see much of a story in the original Alice game--Madness does a much better job at weaving a story into the gameplay.

My suggestion? Skip American McGee's Alice altogether. You're not missing much.


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