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American McGee's Alice
"if you drink a bottle marked 'poison', it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later."
By - Carlos "dr.angryman" Salgado

It's often unsettling, the way a tinge of madness can transform childish things into wicked things so playfully. It will sharpen the edges of a cartoon curves, stain cheerful colors with decay, and turn wonder into terror.

A variation on this theme, Alice is set in the imagined non-reality of the title character's psyche, a despondent Wonderland malformed by tragedy and dementia. Based on the original texts, American McGee's Alice draws influences from the strange, the morbid, and the psychoactive. Overgrown flowers and monolithic mushrooms sway and undulate in a mycophile paradise, recalling untethered memories of a bad trip through Disneyland. Later, fantastical arenas fragment on the seams of reality, splitting and twisting the planes of Alice's disjointed world with the grim accuracy spared in the lighter Disney version, giving substance to the darker vision that some say Lewis Caroll intended.

Books are made into good games and childhood favorites are recreated, but results vary (wildly) when classics traverse mediums. Alice is a rarity because it does this successfully, with a compelling fiction and a stylistic integrity virtually unseen in the action genre during these long, two years since Half-Life.

McGee's team has given mass and magnitude to the hallucinations and sordid fantasies of a troubled child.

The story is simple in concept, but rich in execution; Alice is on the edge of insanity, traumatized by the fiery death of her family. Retreating into an introspective fantasy, she finds a diseased Wonderland under siege by the Queen of Hearts. Defeating the Queen will heal her psychological wound, saving her from the paralyzing grip of total lunacy. Rogue's extension to the story fits seamlessly, giving the surreal adventure a foundation in reality with the believability of its premise and the celebrity of its source work. Wonderland is a familiar place to virtually every child; Alice is so captivating because it plays on our own memory of that place, imbuing it with a morose beauty, and renewing the awe we felt as children.

McGee's Wonderland is saturated with all kinds of sensational delirium. In Alice, shattered chessboard landscapes defy physics and understanding. Towering castles float in a swirling tunnel of liquid light, and living structures groan and pulsate. Militant insects occupy vast forests with artillery and air-support. At times, Escher-esque scenes and mirrored labyrinths confuse the senses. Clockwork beasts and cloaked apparitions inhabit these places, hunting and haunting our sylphish heroine. These hellish caricatures of fairy-tale themes are echoed throughout Alice with great consistency and detail.

Next: Gratuitous use of the word "Wagnerian"...

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