Alice: Madness Returns
||The lead section of this article may need to be rewritten. (September 2013)|
|Alice: Madness Returns|
North American cover art
|Engine||Unreal Engine 3|
|Distribution||DVD, Blu-ray Disc, digital distribution|
Alice: Madness Returns is a psychological horror platformer video game for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 released on June 14, 2011, in North America, June 16, 2011, in Europe and June 17, 2011, in the United Kingdom. It is the sequel to the 2000 Windows and Mac video game American McGee's Alice. American McGee, who designed the original game, returned to design the sequel after EA partnered with McGee's Shanghai-based studio Spicy Horse. It is the first console game entirely designed and developed in China for export. On April 20, 2011, Electronic Arts confirmed reports that new copies of Alice: Madness Returns on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 will contain a one-time-use download code for a copy of the original American McGee's Alice, originally released on PC in 2000, playable on their console if purchased through EA.
In combat, Alice gains a small number of weapons that can be utilized in several ways. Her primary (and trademark) weapon is the vorpal blade, a decorated kitchen knife. The remainder of her arsenal is somewhat akin to the benign and mundane items that take on a deadly quality in Alice's tainted Wonderland in the first game. The Pepper Grinder becomes a crank operated gatling gun, used to attack at a distance and pepper pig snouts. The Hobby Horse is used as a sledgehammer to inflict heavy damage and break barriers and defenses. The Teapot Cannon fires tea sieves that explode to cause heavy damage and, like the Hobby Horse, break barriers. By collecting teeth that are dropped by foes or found scattered about the levels, the player can upgrade these items to more powerful versions. Two other weapons cannot be upgraded, primarily because they are more defensive than directly offensive: the Parasol acts as a shield that can be used to deflect and reflect most incoming projectiles; The Clockwork Bomb is a time-delayed/remote-controlled rabbit alarm clock that does a minimal amount of damage to enemies, but its usefulness is better illustrated as a decoy, as well as a weight to keep switches temporarily depressed.
Alice's health is tracked by a number of rose petals. Should Alice's health fall to zero during game play, the player is forced to start at the most recent checkpoint. Falling off platforms into bottomless pits or dangerous liquids do not damage Alice but restart her at a nearby platform. The game also introduces Hysteria, which can be used when Alice's health is very low, and it can only be used for a limited amount of time.
While working each level, the player can discover various secrets. A primary mechanic is to use Alice's shrinking potion to reduce in size, allowing her to walk through small spaces like keyholes, but also reveals invisible platforms and surfaces; after returning to normal size, these platforms slowly fade back to invisibility, requiring the player to remember their location. Pig's snouts, which make noise when the player is close, can be struck with the pepper grinder to reveal new paths. Radula rooms provide a short challenge to the player, which on completion grants a jar of paint; obtaining four jars earns the player another rose for Alice's health. Memories can be picked up that provide voiceovers revealing parts of the game's backstory.
Upon completion, the player can start a new game plus, letting them play through the game again but keeping all their weapons and upgrades from the previous attempt. From the menu, the player can also review the memories that they have found within the game.
Within events of the first game, Alice Liddell becomes insane, believing herself responsible for a fire that consumed her home and her family, escaping into a twisted version of Wonderland. While held at Rutledge Asylum for treatment, Alice was able to conquer her doubts, and eventually was released from the ward. Alice: Madness Returns takes place in 1875, a year after Alice's release. Alice, now 19 years old, resides at an orphanage in Victorian London, under the care of Doctor Angus Bumby, a psychiatrist who uses hypnotism to help his child patients forget their memories. Though she believes herself cured of her madness, hallucinations of Wonderland continue to appear.
During an errand, Alice is struck by a hallucination and believes herself to be in Wonderland again. Though initially idyllic, the peaceful land quickly becomes corrupted by the Infernal Train that rampages through it, leaving behind the Ruin, a force that attempts to stop Alice. Alice meets with the Cheshire Cat who affirms that it is some outside force, not Alice, that has caused this corruption, and urges her to seek out former friend and foe to discover the source of the Train. Throughout the rest of the game, the player witnesses periods where Alice briefly returns to reality between episodes occurring within Wonderland. In the real world, Alice learns from the family lawyer that her sister, Lizzie, was first to die in the fire, despite being the farthest from its source, and had been locked in her room.
Within the corrupted Wonderland, Alice attempts to learn more from Wonderland's various citizens, including the Mad Hatter, the Mock Turtle, the Walrus and the Carpenter, and the Caterpillar. She is ultimately told that the Queen of Hearts still lives despite her defeat at Alice's hands before, though in diminished capacity. At the Queen's castle, Alice discovers the Queen has taken on the appearance of her sister, Lizzie. The Queen reveals that an entity called the Doll Maker has taken over the Infernal Train and is corrupting Wonderland.
Returning to London, Alice starts to recall her memories of the night of the fire, and realizes that Dr. Bumby was there. He is responsible for the death of her sister and her whole family. She comes to the conclusion that Dr. Bumby is attempting to erase the memories of the fire from her mind and, as he has done with other children, trying to leave her as a "blank toy" to be taken by abusive masters and child molesters for a price. Furious, Alice confronts both Dr. Bumby in the real world at the Moorgate station train station and Dr. Bumby's Wonderland counterpart, the Doll Maker, in her fantasy. Dr. Bumby admits to his crime, and even attests to setting Alice's home on fire after Lizzie refused his advances, removing any witnesses. He points out that by wiping out her Wonderland, he will make her forget the events of that night, while he will continue as a member of high society. Alice defeats the Doll Maker in Wonderland, giving her the strength in the real world to push Dr. Bumby into the path of an oncoming train, killing him. As Alice leaves the station, she finds herself in a hybrid vision of London mixed with Wonderland. Alice wanders into the unknown terrain as the Cheshire Cat monologues that Alice has found the truth that was "worth the pain fighting for", and Wonderland, though damaged, is safe for the time being.
Rumors of a sequel to Alice first developed shortly after the original game was released to critical and commercial success, though at that time, the development team behind the original were working on the ultimately-cancelled spin-off, American McGee's Oz. With a movie adaptation of American McGee's Alice in development at the time, interest at Electronic Arts rose in a remake of the game and work was started on a sequel. However, when the movie adaptation fell through, plans for a sequel were shelved, and remained so for nearly a decade.
At the February 2009 D.I.C.E. Summit, EA announced a sequel, which at the time had the working title The Return of American McGee's Alice. Two pieces of concept art accompanied the announcement, along with the information that the original game's writer and executive producer would also return for the sequel. In November of that year, a fan-made trailer (with the title "The Return of Alice") was mistaken by gaming news outlets as an official teaser for the game, in which Alice is in therapy after a relapse nine months following the events of the first game, and appears to hallucinate an image of the Cheshire Cat in place of her doctor.
At EA's Studio Showcase on July 20, 2010, more details about the game were shown, including its current title, Alice: Madness Returns. In addition to further pieces of concept art and actual, in-game screenshots, the first official teaser was released. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fan video eight months prior, it also portrays Alice in therapy: after being hypnotized by her doctor in a bizarre office filled with dismembered arms hanging from the ceiling, as she opens her mouth to speak, large amounts of blood and teeth pour out. As the game title appears, a whispering voice is heard saying, "Alice... what have you done?"
During the 2010 Tokyo Game Show, new assets, including a second trailer, were released. Alice is seen strolling through a London street, and eventually approaches an area littered with toys and a toy store window, which contains a set depicting the Mad Hatter, the Dormouse and the March Hare taking tea. Suddenly, she sees an image of her deceased parents in the window's reflection, but turns around to find no one there. The window begins to burn and the silhouette of the Queen of Hearts appears before it explodes in flames, and the Queen's tentacles drag Alice into the inferno. Like the previous trailer, it ends with a voice saying "What have you done?"
On February 14, 2011, MSNBC's "In-Game" website unveiled the third teaser trailer as well as a brief interview with American McGee regarding the game. The third teaser depicts Alice wandering around an initially beautiful Wonderland, eventually coming across the Caterpillar, who transforms into a giant, menacing butterfly as the landscape is attacked by fiery phoenixes and turned into a nightmarish world reminiscent of the original game's landscapes. Alice finds herself sitting at a tea party with the Mad Hatter, March Hare and Dormouse. The Hatter sends a robotic teapot to kill Alice, who in turns stabs it to death in the eye with the Vorpal Blade. She grins eerily as a voice asks "What have you done?"
A fourth trailer, showing gameplay footage for the first time and entitled "Beautiful Insanity", was released on March 4, 2011. The trailer featured possible gameplay in Victorian London, new costumes and weapons for Alice, the reprised roles of some of the voice cast from the first game, and the appearance of old and new characters including a resurrected Jabberwock and the Dodo; after the trailer the Cheshire Cat says "Now it's time to put your blade to work". One can also hear Alice's Vorpal Blade being equipped as the title card comes up.
GameSpot released footage of a gameplay demo whilst interviewing an EA executive producer Joel Wade in April. In the video, numerous details about the game were revealed. Wade explained storywise after Alice left Rutledge Asylum, she is an orphan and now lives in an orphanage, and the home's director is helping her to escape her insanity. Gameplay showed Alice can unlock and use several weapons, which can be upgraded by collecting teeth throughout the game. Weapons including the Vorpal Blade, the Pepper Grinder which acts as a projectile machine gun-like weapon, the Clockwork Bomb, the club-like Hobby Horse, and the explosive Teapot Cannon. Alice also collects "memories" that are part of her quest to recall forgotten memories from her past. Enemies are described as having "puzzle elements", namely their weak point which the player must figure out to defeat them.
On May 20, 2011, a prequel to Madness Returns, titled Alice: Madness Returns Interactive Story, was released as an app exclusively for iOS. A port for Android (mobile phones) phones is in development. The app plays as a book that requires you to interact with illustrations and at many times allows you to play mini-games. The story covers the events even before the original game all the way to the events directly before Alice: Madness Returns.
On June 3, 2011, a final launch trailer was released. This showed some bosses, Alice fighting enemies, the Cheshire Cat giving Alice hints, and more.
Alice: Madness Returns received positive reviews from critics with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions getting 70 out of 100 on Metacritic, and user reviews of 8.0 and 8.1 respectively. The PC version has a rating of 78 on GameRankings and 75 on Metacritic. GameSpot gave the title a score of 7 out of 10. The reviewer stated that "Playing Alice: Madness Returns isn't as exciting as looking at it, but you'll still enjoy getting lost in this twisted fantasy adventure." IGN awarded the console versions of the title with a rating of 6.5/10. Stating that "On one hand, Alice: Madness Returns presents a fantastically imagined vision of Wonderland full of secrets, collectables, and wondrous areas of classic platforming to explore. But through questionable level design, graphical inconsistency, and repetitive gameplay, I was pulled out of the experience more than I would have liked. Alice: Madness Returns is a memorable peek through a flawed looking glass."
In May 2011, American McGee stated that a story had already been created for a potential third game, but stressed that it would only be produced if the audience desired it.
In June 2012, McGee reiterated his intention to develop a third game, now titled Alice in Otherland. McGee revealed that the game would be released episodically, and stated that it "would allow Alice to go into the minds of all these characters she encounters, and it opens up the possibility where you could play as Alice and you can enter into a player's mind, change the landscape, and then basically psychologically adjust the character in doing so. Imagine an MMO where the missions aren't locations, but they're people." However, he said that the game was unlikely to be produced soon due to a lack of interest from Electronic Arts.
On March 14, 2013, McGee stated on his Facebook page that during GDC he would have the opportunity to discuss a third Alice game with EA. He did not state whether or not this would follow the desired plot of Alice in Otherland, but stated that the funding for the project would most possibly be done through Kickstarter. 
Alice: Otherlands officallly reached its Kickstarter goal on August 4 and is expected to begin full development. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/spicyhorse/alice-otherlands/posts/559194
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