Alice 2: Man Celebrates Own Name Again

By Alec Meer on February 25th, 2009 at 10:24 pm.

Presumably seeking to finally be known for something other than having a ridiculous name that he insists on writing everywhere, American McGee is to return to the closest thing he’s had to a success since leaving id. A sequel to visually inventive but so-so where it counts goth-o-action-platformer Alice is inbound, handled by McGee’s Shanghai-based Spicy Horse studio.

No information yet bar this gibbering, self-fellating press release nonsense from EA: “EA Partners is ready to help [American McGee] bring his innovative vision for the franchise to even darker, more exciting places.” And from the man himself: “”This new project is a dream come true for me and the fans who’ve kept the Alice flame alive. EA gave us creative latitude and support on the original game which resulted in something beautiful and daring. This trip through the looking glass promises to be even more exciting.”

Being the horrible, gossipy, spiteful little toe-rag that I am, I’m currently more curious about the game’s title than its content. Will EA really agree to slap McGee’s name on it? It is, after all, a moniker that’s absolutely meaningless to a great many gamers these days, and to those that do know who he is it’s now associated with ambitious, high-concept, but disappointing trip-ups like Bad Day LA and Grimm. What on Earth is the point of giving him the Sid Meier treatment all these years on? The man has so much to prove, and there’s a metric crap-ton of designers who’ve repeatedly pushed out far better games than he without electing to celebrify themselves.

Anyway! What McGee has traditionally done is give art equal billing to mechanics – often too much preference, in fact. This does at least mean we’re not in for another grey’n'brown Gears of War/Killzone 2 visual bore, despite Alice 2′s intended appearance on console as well as PC.

We missed this news when it happened a few days back – thanks to ‘sfury’ for the tip.

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53 Comments »

  1. Biggles says:

    I heard that he was actually persuaded to use his name on the original Alice by EA, though not sure how much truth there is in that. The first is one of my favorite games though, absolutely loved the atmosphere all the way through, from the intro cinematic to the sinister cheshire cat, the weird vortex and flying floor pieces right through to the mad hatter’s laboratory and the chess level where you had to move as whichever piece you were masquerading as.

    Haven’t played anything of his since, other than scrapland, which really didn’t do anything for me at all. It may have been a lucky break and successful due to someone without their name on the box, but anything set in that twisted universe is likely to get my cash, that’s for sure.

  2. CrashT says:

    I get the sense that Mr Meer is having a bad day…

    Anyway EA publisher another Alice game..? More of this sort of thing, I say, more.

  3. Angel Dust says:

    Ah, American McGee master of high-concept bullshit, Alice included. I’m sure this game will look ‘cool’ enough, in that generic goth-Burton thing that a lot of creatively bankrupt designers reach for, but it will undoubtedly play like a complete dog.

  4. Larington says:

    As long as they make a return to the visuals of the original and make sure the gameplay is above average, I suspect I’ll love it. Its funny the way that people moan about brown & grey shooters and yet seem to also hate on the games that are more visuals than gameplay.

    Sometimes it just seems as though people on the I-Net just like being contrary.

  5. Chandrose says:

    I’ve always wanted to play Alice, but lukewarm statements (such as Alec’s “so-so where it counts”) have kept me from pushing up my ridiculously long play list. Is it worth the play my trusted RPSers?

  6. AlpineViper says:

    Sometimes it just seems as though people on the I-Net just like being contrary

    No it’s not!

  7. Phil H says:

    Hey, if it means we get an updated/high-res model of his Cheshire Cat, I’m all for it!

  8. anonymous17 says:

    The first Alice was an incredibly atmospheric game. It’s humor is ‘similiaresque’ to the kind of darker World of Goo humor as well featuring great music – if you haven’t played Alice before definitely try it – although it can be a little tricky in places. Looks great on newer machines with the graphics set crisply high.

    Will follow this games development with interest however I do feel McGee’s more recent works have been mediocre compared to Alice, hopefully as Biggles notes, this sequel will not be EA just cashing in on a sacred gaming cow.

  9. Smee says:

    “So-so where it counts”? Like Chandrose, I’ve heard that sort of thing applied to Alice more often than not, and it makes me wonder if I played a different game to everyone else. For a third person action platformer I thought it had quite a lot going for it, the constant changeups in design and gameplay going a long way. It had some really fun and interesting sections with imagination you just don’t normally get in big games.

    What about the bit where Alice gets turned into a variety of chess peices and has to navigate the world by conforming to their movement rules? The truely mental weapons, all abstract damage and nothing (well, maybe the deck of cards) that is the normal “pistol, shotgun, machine gun” combo?

    What I remember most though is, as Alec says, a stress on art style, which produced a unique vision and environments that were on Psychonauts-level in design concept terms. I find it a little sad that it’s a game that constantly gets beaten down because the weapons didn’t kill things in the way we’re used to.

    I will concede that the platforming was a bit awkward. But then, so was Psychonauts, and I forgave that for much the same reasons – the art design was so wonderful.

  10. Schadenfreude says:

    My question is: If the first game dealt with the most prominent characters and events of both books, what the fuck is this one gonna be based on? Are they planning on resurrecting Carroll to write a third story or what? o__O

  11. malkav11 says:

    Alice was pretty decent. Everything past that’s looked okay, played like crap. I suspect the man’s a one hit wonder.

  12. Gap Gen says:

    See, publishers need to stop using phrases like “innovative vision for the franchise” in places where people who like games can hear them.

  13. Dormouse says:

    IIRC, I heard a podcast with him once, and he said that he didn’t really like to have his name on the box but the publishers wanted it because he has a cool, “quirky” name. If his name was Alec Meer we probably wouldn’t have had Alec Meer’s Alice.

  14. yhancik says:

    I’d buy a game with Alec’s name on it!

    (above the title, not on the back of the box next to a one-liner from some review)

  15. Pakman2000 says:

    @ Schadenfreude
    “What the fuck is this one gonna be based on?”

    The first game was implemented as an original sequel to the first two stories; it was not an adaptation but an extension. I imagine the new game will continue in that vein.

  16. alex_jacobson says:

    “dark” is the new “cool” to PR guys.

  17. Dolphan says:

    I played the first one about halfway through when I was younger, really enjoyed it – atmosphere and general ‘feel’ are an important part of what counts (Bioshock, anyone?)! And I don’t recall having any problems with the gameplay, although I did give up after getting stuck on a particularly fiendish bit.

  18. Nick says:

    They should see if SMG (I mean Buffy from TV) wants to do the voice acting, ’cause that might help sales. I seem to recall she wanted to make a film version of the original.

  19. Sp4rkR4t says:

    “sequel to visually inventive but so-so where it counts goth-o-action-platformer Alice is inbound, handled by McGee’s Shanghai-based Spicy Horse studio.”

    That is the first time I have read an article on this site and thought the writer a complete moron.

    “They should see if SMG (I mean Buffy from TV) wants to do the voice acting, ’cause that might help sales. I seem to recall she wanted to make a film version of the original.”

    Yes, Sarah Michelle Gellar owns the rights to make the film, however no-one she has approached to make it with, including Joss Wheddon would consider casting her in the lead role, they have all told her to fuck off, now all we need is for her to sell the rights or die, preferably the latter so someone decent can pick up the project.

  20. JayVilnius says:

    The podcast Biggles and Dormouse are likely referring to:
    http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3?http://download.gamevideos.com/Podcasts/CGW/022208_01.mp3
    specifically starting around 28:50. Keep listening, they address Sid Meier too.

    It sounds like he’s actually pretty modest. You know, the exact opposite of what the title of this article suggests.

    Just be fair to the guy is all I’m sayin’.

  21. psyk says:

    Dont go by what other people say about a game you will miss alot you might like.

  22. sfury says:

    I have to admit I haven’t palyed anything of his since Alice, and I haven’t heard nice things about them either, but I’m still pretty excited about this one.

    The original Alice is not what I consider a masterpiece, but I’m very fond of it and would revisit it any day. It had wonderful art-design, music, atmosphere and one of the most exceptional level designs in a game I’ve played. So if there is a chance we’ll get more of that, I’m all for it.

  23. DMcCool says:

    I think the reason EA would use his name in the title is pretty clear. I mean just look at that name. I remember when the Alice game came out, I was a wee thing at the time and the name “American Mcgee” alone was enough to tell me this game is something to be excited about.
    Besides, what do goth/alternative types like more than to feel they are latching onto a work of some cult-hero? And who is more cult than a name you’ve never heard of before?
    Seems like EA might just simply know their audience.

  24. Darrell says:

    Granted, I’m the most casual of gamers … but I haven’t even thought about American Mcgee in ages. I might not have realized he was still alive. I’m surprised his new game isn’t coming out as shareware. ;)

    Dolphan: atmosphere and general ‘feel’ are an important part of what counts (Bioshock, anyone?)!

    I thought Bioshock had a LOT more to offer than just atmosphere, but I see your point. I do think, though, that Bioshock was better than any McGee game I’ve played and the comparison kinda emphasizes McGee’s weaknesses.

  25. Japanese McLaren says:

    True story – I despise anything with the word ‘American’ in the title, solely due to it’s relentless use by the people to whom it refers (It’s on the Hate List right next to the ‘i’ prefix). Sorry, McGee, but this means I now have to hate you too.

  26. Bobsy says:

    “EA’s American McGee’s Alice’s Wonderland’s Battle for the Cheshire Cat’s Whiskers”

    Brought to you by Iams.

  27. Kast says:

    Uh, why? Why make a second Alice game, when the first had a sensible arc and conclusion. They going to make the poor girl have a relapse?

  28. Valgrind says:

    I’ll buy it. The original Alice was GOTY in my book.

  29. hydra9 says:

    Regardless of what you think about the game, check out this awesome piece of concept art, direct from McGee’s flickr:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/americanmcgee/3291150285/sizes/m/

  30. matte_k says:

    I don’t normally play platformers as i’m incredibly crap at them and get frustrated very quickly, but there was something about Alice that kept me hooked until the end, same thing with Psychonauts. The weapon design was quite inventive, the area map between levels was fantastic, and the voice actor for the Cheshire Cat is one of the best v/o’s i’ve heard, incredibly sarcastic and sinister.
    Not sure about making a sequel, but i’m keeping an eye on this one just in case.

  31. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    @ Valgrind:
    To refresh your memory a little, Alice came out in the same year as: Deus Ex, Baldurs Gate 2, Shogun: Total War, Perfect Dark, Diablo 2, Thief 2, The Longest Journey, No One Lives Forever, Red Alert 2 and Sacrifice. Man, that was a good year for gaming.

    From what I’ve played of it (I picked it up as a 3 for £10 budget title years ago) the original felt like an odd clash of hardcore shooter and finicky platformer with a neat art style and a slightly too self-conscious ‘dark’ edge. Still, there were some good ideas in there, the aforementioned chess level for one. Given mcGee’s recent track record has appeared to be even poorer, they’re going to have to come up with something really special to get me interested in this new effort.

  32. Larington says:

    Love the concept art but I’m unsure how you could directly translate it into actual gameplay.

  33. N says:

    Bad day L.A. was awesome, you can’t expect every troglodytelol to appreciate it.

  34. Kangarootoo says:

    Mr McGee reminds me a little of Jeff Minter these days…

    Make of that what you will.

  35. phuzz says:

    I made it about halfway through the original (I wonder where the disk got to?), but even when I bought it I had no idea who American McGee was, and to be honest, apart from Alice I don’t think I’ve got any more idea now, I know he used to work for ID or something, but then…Daikantana is all I’m saying.
    So as far as I’m concerned American McGee is that bloke wot made the Alice game wot I liked. Therefore more Alice == happy phuzz

  36. Paul Moloney says:

    “IIRC, I heard a podcast with him once, and he said that he didn’t really like to have his name on the box but the publishers wanted it because he has a cool, “quirky” name. ”

    Hmm, if I ever go into game design, I’ll change my name by deed poll to Dulubious Monkfish.

    P.

  37. Irish Al says:

    The name is especially amusing here, as ‘gee’ is a slang word for a lady’s vagina.

  38. anonymous17 says:

    Looking at the concept art is interesting. The first Alice, although set later in ‘Alice’s’ life than the books still featured a strongly childish view of the world, albeit mentally twisted and contorted. If Alice was older the story could be interesting for having a more mature storyline and game world connected to world shaped by an older psyche. Of course the Chesire Cat would also need to be 320% more machiavellian as well.

  39. Chandrose says:

    “Hmm, if I ever go into game design, I’ll change my name by deed poll to Dulubious Monkfish.”

    I don’t know what to say, other than… awesome!

  40. Monkfish says:

    I swear I just heard someone call my name.

    Anyway, Alice was an odd game – so much effort went into the art direction and soundtrack that you can’t help but feel that the gameplay itself was a bit of an afterthought.

    Kinda get the impression that the next installment will be the same, but I imagine that it’ll still be a refreshing change from Generic Shooter TwentyMillionAndOne or whatever’s out at the same time. Possibly.

  41. Paul Moloney says:

    “The name is especially amusing here, as ‘gee’ is a slang word for a lady’s vagina.”

    The old “Ulick Magee” gag never gets old.

    P.

  42. MrFake says:

    I had a thought, so I checked IMDB for the release date of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010 it says). I was wondering if EA might be trying to do a movie tie-in. I know it’s not exactly their style, but I was worried.

    I found out that there’s supposedly a 2010 date set for an “Alice,” actually based on American McGee’s original. Bizarre! I wonder if this will go through at all. (There’s even a 2009 Alice, an obvious allegorical attempt, but with very weak ties to … anything really)

  43. El_MUERkO says:

    bad day la hurt my brain, i hate him, HATE!

  44. Eamo says:

    I played the original Alice through to the end which is something I rarely do with games. It varied from being very original and creative (the dream levels) to being pretty so so, the queen of hearts levels.

    The main criticism I recall was the camera. Some of the later levels involve some pretty tricky platform jumping and I remember banging my head in frustration at a camera that very often refused to let me see my characters feet. Fighting some of the bosses for example the camera angle became more of an over the shoulder affair so most of your legs were hidden, combine that with some very tricky platform jumping and it ends up pretty annoying.

    Nothing worse than seeing a great game that a lot of time and effort went into let down by something that could have been fixed pretty easily.

  45. Vandelay says:

    Mr Fake Says “I found out that there’s supposedly a 2010 date set for an “Alice,” actually based on American McGee’s original. Bizarre! I wonder if this will go through at all. (There’s even a 2009 Alice, an obvious allegorical attempt, but with very weak ties to … anything really)

    Yep, that Alice is the one mentioned above that SMG owns the rights to. I think Sp4rkr4t was a bit harsh there. I doubt very much much that Joss Whedon told her to “fuck off” as he has only ever had good things to say about her. I would agree with him that when it mattered she was exceptional in Buffy, see the episode ‘The Body’ as a perfect example of this. I hope it works out for her and she gets the recognition she deserves.

    I missed out on the original of this (played a demo ages ago I seem to recall) but like others have said negative comments have always detracted me a bit. The art style looks fantastic and has always made me want to give it a go. Might have a look out for it going cheap.

  46. Jeremy says:

    Why did ID create so many egomaniacs who have never been able to back up their own sense of self worth with a game actually worth playing?

  47. Fumarole says:

    Alice was a great game, although I too quit when stuck at a particularly tough level.

    Methinks you Brits are stilljust upset about that whole war and tea thing and are taking it out on poor Mr. McGee.

  48. steve says:

    As for the “why” when it comes to name-above-the-title treatment, it’s also a trademark thing. You can’t trademark Alice; it would fall under common usage. You can, however, trademark “American McGee’s Alice.” It’s why Microsoft calls Word “Microsoft Word.”

    I’m always amused at people who parrot EA’s “it’s a dark reimagining” bullshit. Anyone who thinks his version was darker than the source is only familiar with the Disney versions. The actual books are seriously crazy and demented and, yes, pretty freakin’ dark.

  49. Andreas says:

    By the way, when Sid Meier’s name appeared on the box of Pirates! for the first time, it also solely happened for marketing reasons. As far as I know they didn’t believe they could sell a game about pirates without telling the world that it’s from the guy who made F-15 and all those other flightsims.

  50. Alaric says:

    Alice was a spectacular game.