Lewis Carroll's Alice is one of those characters that almost everyone is familiar with and grew up knowing. We heard the stories as a child, then realized there was more to the story as we got older. The Alice tales have been told and retold, with a different slant each time. The surreal environment of Wonderland is an excellent one in which to base a game. While not an adventure game by any means, Alice is a shooter with puzzles, eerie landscapes, and twisted characters. It's a darker version of the world through the looking glass, but very satisfying to play.
Alice uses the Quake 3 engine to it's full potential. Not only is this an extremely flexible engine, it allows the designers to create a world that is surreal, malleable, and hauntingly gorgeous. Sections of the game have a totally different look to them, and you're never sure exactly what to expect around the next corner. The models are very detailed, beautifully animated, and painstakingly textured. Special effects abound, from weapon fire to environmental anomalies. It's a gorgeous game to look at, imaginative, and filled with nice tricks and lots of attention to detail. Even the cut scenes are done using the game engine to keep you immersed while watching them.
Sound effects are of the utmost quality; this is one of those games where I really cranked up the volume to hear all of the details. With environmental audio turned on, you can hear every detail of the 3D environment. The music is excellent, setting the proper mood for a sufficiently moody game. Voice acting is also of the best quality, each of the actors showing off talents that are rare to see in a game. Most notably, Alice herself and the Cheshire Cat give stellar performances, which is important as they have the most lines to deliver. I could find no problems at all with sound in this game; all of the pieces are of top quality and come together perfectly.
Normally you would expect a Quake 3 engine game to be a typical shooter, and this is where Alice stands out. It is more of an action/adventure, where you will do a bit of puzzle solving while still staying ahead of the enemy. The puzzle are not as detailed as in a traditional adventure game, in fact they're fairly simple, but add depth to the game. There are a lot of "lever-pulling" puzzles, jumping, and others that require manual dexterity. One level requires precision swimming almost exclusively, to test your ability to control the game. None of these puzzles, and this includes the jumping ones, are too difficult. Normally I hate games that test you ability to time a jump mostly because those sequences are there to make the game last longer and frustrate you. Here, there is more margin for error than normal, and those parts of the game don't interfere with the overall fun. To add to that, the interface has a set of footprints that show up on the screen to show you exactly where Alice will land when you jump. Missing a cliff by a hair is not a problem, as Alice can grasp the cliff face and pull herself up. Details like this are very welcome and make the normally hectic pieces of the game much more fun.
The amount of imagination put into the levels and areas of the environment are the strongest part of the game. The landscapes are dark, surreal, and the stuff of nightmares. The dark shadow of Wonderland comes alive in Alice - not that Carroll's version was bright and pretty. This game takes place after Carroll's story, and Alice is traumatized after a fire takes her home and family. She retreats into Wonderland one more time, as the White Rabbit makes an appearance as a stuffed animal. In fact, all of the character favorites from the books are here, including the Mad Hatter, Queen of Hearts, Card Guards, and many, many more. Each is wonderfully rendered using the Quake 3 engine and is very believable.
Weapons are equally imaginative; Alice starts out with no weapons and first gains a knife. Eventually you'll find such things as a deck of razor-sharp cards, a croquet mallet, jack-in-the-box explosives, and many more. One of the most imaginative is the demon dice, which summons a creature to fight by your side. Just don't summon one without an enemy near, as he tends to turn on you rather easily.
Controls are exactly what you've come to expect from a 3D shooter; the most popular and easiest way to move is with the mouse and keyboard. In a game like this, you need as much control as you can get. The game is very responsive and easy to maneuver. You may save or load at any time, and the all time favorite quick save/load is available as well. While there are a lot of jumping puzzles and other tricky areas, it serves the game well that games save and load very fast. Missing that jump a few times is no big deal when you can easily hit F1 and load your quick save in a speedy manner. Had this game not had a decent save mechanism I'd have pulled my hair out. Fortunately it is a well thought out process.
All in all, Alice is an excellent game. Sure we've seen similar gameplay, but it's never been as detailed as this. Wonderland is familiar to everyone, and this dark, surreal version is moody and a lot of fun to explore. Top-notch graphics, sound, and voice acting are icing on the cake. I highly recommend this game to 3D fans that are looking for a bit more than the typical shooter.