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» NINTENDO 64 » HARDWARE » PS2 » PSOne » XBOX » GAMECUBE » HANDHELDS » SEGA
Adam (Dead Regime) Ingle December 14, 2000 Review Feedback

American McGee's Alice

There are few games that have moved me. Sure, there have been plenty of great games, but few of them make me forget where I am, and transport me into the world in which the game exists. In the past year it’s been games like Thief and Deus Ex. These games paid close attention and made great efforts to detail a world as completely as possible. Alice moved me. I went straight from my computer chair into a Wonderland twisted beyond all recognition. This is a game of very surreal lands and some very nasty characters. It comes at a cost, which I will explain later.

It has been ten years since Alice first entered Wonderland, ten years since her adventures with the White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat, and ten years since her troubles with the Queen of Hearts. Shortly after leaving Wonderland, a tragedy struck Alice’s world. One night while sleeping, her house caught on fire, and after calling for her parents, Alice ran from the blazing home. The fire took her home, her family, and her sanity. Once the shock set in and Alice realized she was the only one who survived the fire, she lost it and ended up spending the next ten years in the Rutledge Asylum. Her only companion was her stuffed white rabbit. Late one night in the asylum, Alice receives a visit from her old friend the White Rabbit who tells her that Wonderland is in trouble. While her life has been falling apart, so has Wonderland and now the Red Queen holds everyone in terror, and all her favorite places are no longer bright and cheery. What starts as a quest to save those who live in Wonderland, ends up to be a quest to save herself and her sanity.

The worlds in which Alice travels through in the decaying, twisted Wonderland are both inspiring and frightening. Forests filled with plants and insects out to get her. Worlds where chess pieces rule over castles and chessboards. Asylums filled with insane children and towers of gears, steam pipes, and fire. Mixed with this incredible attention to atmosphere and detail are some fairly nice puzzles, some of which are quite inventive, and a nice dose of action. The game manages to balance quite well between fighting and exploring, allowing players to take in the surreal surroundings and puzzles.

Gameplay is pretty straightforward. Alice is a 3D game with a third-person perspective. The developers have done an amazing job with perfecting the follow-behind camera that is often the bane of many otherwise respectable 3rd person games. The camera is almost always positioned in such a way that you can see everything in front of you, and in the times when it does get misplaced, a simple step in most any direction repositions the camera where it should be. The camera is adjustable for those who find the default distance from Alice uncomfortable; however I was able to leave it at the default and had no problems. Controls are your standard walk back and forward, side-to-side, jump and shoot. If you’ve played an FPS or Third-Person game, you already know how to play it. To assist with some of the drawbacks inherent to the third person perspective you are given an aiming reticule to show you where you’re aiming, and with projectile weapons there is a locking aim that shows as two dots rotating around an enemy. When this is engaged, you can launch your weapon and if your shot is not blocked or the target doesn’t move too fast, you have a clean shot. The best thing is the jumping guide. With this, you can look down and a pair of footsteps glow upon the ground, showing where you would land if you jumped. This is extremely useful when jumping over deadly obstacles such as lava. A lot of attention has been paid to refining and fixing the problems that can come with a third person game. As with any action game, you have to keep an eye on Alice’s health. In the warped reality of Wonderland, health is replaced by Sanity. You also have a Will meter that you have to keep charged, as this is what powers your weapons. Will and Sanity can be restored by collecting MetaEssence from slain victims; MetaEssence is the life force of everything in Wonderland.

The core of the game is a balance between thinking and fighting. Level design is excellent for several different reasons. They have a very nice flow, none of them are predictable, but they aren’t such a mystery that you’ll get lost unless you’re supposed to. There’s a fair share of jumping from one cliff to another or from ropes, but it’s not done in such a way that it gets annoying. To break up the strategy of jumping, there are some true puzzles in the game such as one where you have to figure out how to open a series of doors, which in turn enable you to open the only way out. This is done by rotating a mirror to face a set of three pictures, which in turn determines the door you’ve opened, and figuring out what to do once you’ve gotten in. In order to avoid making Alice strictly an Adventure game, the developers have tossed in a nice assortment of nasties, and an awesome assortment of unique and inventive weapons, with a dose of some pretty challenging fights with major characters. The normal minions of Wonderland range from devilish little imps with pitchforks, to Card Guards that shoot various weapons at you, to screaming banshees known as Boojum’s. Boss fights range from taking out Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, to fighting the dreaded Jabberwocky. Each of the bosses are your standard fare of extremely deadly creatures with an Achilles’ Heel that you’ve not only got to find, but find the opportunity to exploit. To help you defend your life and sanity, Alice arms herself with the most original armory I’ve seen in a game. While she starts out with the tried and true butcher knife, she soon moves on to throwing decks of cards, Jacks (that game where you throw down the jacks, bounce the ball and try to grab the jacks before the ball hits the floor), and exploding Jacks-in-the-Box. Adding to this is the fact that almost all the weapons have an alternate fire.

So unique is this armory that I feel inclined to list all the weapons. The knife is typical, you can slash with it or throw it. The cards give you the option to throw a stream of one card at a time, or a burst of several cards at once. The croquet mallet can be used to smash your victim, or alternately you can fire an electrified croquet ball at your enemy. The Jackbomb is a jack-in-the-box waiting to explode, or alternately you can launch it as a rotating flamethrower that eventually explodes. The Ice Wand can be used to freeze enemies, or you can create a small wall of ice to fend of creatures. The jacks can be thrown at your enemy, and they attack repeatedly from all sides for a period of time and then return. Alternately you can throw all the jacks in a quick burst, for a quick attack. The Devil Dice have no alternate attack, but you can collect up to three dice in which you roll in hopes of summoning a variety of demons. However, make sure there are enemies around or the demon(s) will turn on you. The Jabberwock Eye Staff is one of the most powerful weapons. It can either be charged up to shoot a large, constant laser at your enemies, or charged up to call forces from the earth that later rain down in meteor style. The final weapon is the Blunderbuss, a gun that shoots explosive cannon balls. This weapon is so powerful that it knocks Alice back when she fires it. I’ve died a few times firing it by being knocked back into lava or off a cliff. All weapons except your knife are powered by Will, which acts much like Mana for magicians. Your Will is indicated by a blue bar on the right side. Normal attacks use less than alternate attacks. The alternate attack for the Jaberwock Eye staff can take up an entire bar of Will if you charge it up enough and firing one shot from the Blunderbuss depletes all your will.

Continue -- >

Game Title Stats

Genre:
Action/Adventure

Release Date:
Available

Publisher:
Electronic Arts

Developer:
Rogue Entertainment

ESRB:
Mature

System Requirements :
PIII 400
64 MB RAM
3D Card w/ 16MB / 32MB rec
DX 8 sound
8x CD-ROM min
580 MB HDD




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