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View Full Version : An overlooked gem - Alice: Madness Returns



Revisor
21-01-2012, 11:32 PM
Hello monsieurs and mesdames,
a great game appeared in 2011 and it was shamefully underrated and overlooked - Alice: Madness Returns.

It's a beautiful 3D platformer with an intriguing story woven around the original Alice in Wonderland and masterfully presented with regard to graphics, dialogues as well as voice acting.
On the surface it looks very cute but there are some dark undercurrents beneath the facade - Alice's guilt about her family's death, her abuse in the asylum, a drunk nurse blackmailing Alice.

I've been playing it for quite a few hours now and apart from a bug that was remedied by a direct .INI edit this game is flawless.

There is a similar praising thread on Steam Forums
http://forums.steampowered.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2190851
Where someone compares Alice to Psychonauts.

Highly recommended!

Heliocentric
21-01-2012, 11:37 PM
What of actually playing the game? I heard its very pretty but dumb mechanically/structurally.

aoanla
21-01-2012, 11:51 PM
Given that I bounced off of Psychonauts, due to the poor quality platforming mechanics, I'm not sure this is a poor comparison, Heliocentric. (Psychonauts is lauded by most people, as far as I can tell, because they like the writing, not because it is clever mechanically. People who don't click with its sense of humour tend to notice the mechanics more. Similarly, I guess with Alice, if it's anything like the first Alice game, but with art-design rather than writing.)

Cryptoshrimp
22-01-2012, 12:08 AM
The game is pretty fantastic. It looks amazing, the voice acting isn't terrible and the story is pretty cool. However, it has four hours of platforming stretched out into infinity and adds very little mechanical variation. I found it became quite a chore to play after a quarter of the game, and after what I guess is about three quarters, even the new visuals couldn't persuade me to play any further.

Nalano
22-01-2012, 12:28 AM
What of actually playing the game? I heard its very pretty but dumb mechanically/structurally.

The mechanics are functional, but tend to be repetitive. I concur with Cryptoshrimp: Your desire to continue is directly related to just how much you wanna see the next level's visuals.

Revisor
22-01-2012, 12:33 AM
I don't play many platformers (actually almost none) so I'm hardly an expert on platforming gameplay. I can however say that I'm having fun with it.

Aoanla may be on to something as in Alice as well as in Psychonauts I love the writing and the games draw me in because of their characters and art direction, not so much because of the gameplay (which is good but in this case secondary for me).

There is enough variation in the combat and the platforming puzzles (+ secrets, love that mechanic of shrinking to find hidden paths) so far.

Roufuss
22-01-2012, 12:34 AM
I found the last act in particular a pretty extensive grind -- it wore out its welcome very early on (graphically and mechanically) and just seemed to drag on forever.

I think Cryptoshrimp was right on in what he wrote, because three quarters in it really became a chore to play.

The game is definitely stretched out and far, far longer than it needs to be. It almost feels like the developers just gave up at the end and stretched out that horrid fifth act.

Its worth the $7.50 or so I've seen it on sale just to experience it, but not really beyond that, imo as its a one and done game.. and even then, you might not even finish it.

Ignorant Texan
22-01-2012, 12:49 AM
The several hour-long sessions I've had makes me very happy I paid $2.50 for it. Even if I never play it again, I received my money's worth.

cosmicolor
22-01-2012, 01:58 AM
I bought this through the Steam sale myself, it's... alright. Looks pretty and the platforming is decent enough, but the combat is somewhat stale for how much of it there is, and my GPU doesn't much like the PhysX stuff. Also a pad is necessary since it uses mouse accelleration with no clear way to turn it off.

trjp
22-01-2012, 02:31 AM
I've only played this on the 360 but I consider it one of the best looking video games ever made...

The platforming works OK - the combat is actually decent - if it has a problem, it's that most of the levels tend to outstay their welcome a bit - but you hammer-on because you know more astonishing visuals are coming...

If you hate action platformers - if you think all combat should be done on one button - if you dislike games which have 'lives' (lose them and you're set-back to a more distant checkpoint) then avoid this

If you have any care for the way a game can depict something amazing - take a peek

Sūduruncis
22-01-2012, 11:39 AM
Like a lot of people I bought this game for 2.50$ on Amazon. To my surprise, the game blew me away. I can't think of many games that are more imaginative visually. The platforming and combat parts are solid as well, I can't say they are perfect but they do their job.
And I think we can compare this game to Psychonauts. I know it's a "holy grail" for a lot of people, but I had a chance to play this game for the first time shortly before I played Alice. I terms of gameplay - even with its flaws - Alice is better in my opinion. At least I felt that way.
For me this game turned out to be one of the best '2011 releases. Maybe it's because I picked it up from the bargain bin and didn't have big expectations, maybe I just have a weird taste. Anyway, this turned out to be a delightful surprise.

Rii
22-01-2012, 12:05 PM
I don't think the game was overlooked as such; there was plenty of coverage leading up to release both here and elsewhere.

Stense
22-01-2012, 12:23 PM
I picked this game up over the Christmas break. I've not gotten around to playing it yet as I've been pretty busy with other stuff, but I'm looking forward to giving it a go. I adored the first Alice game all those years ago. Interesting to hear the Psychonauts comparisons too, any game that is favourably compared to that is going to get my attention at least.

Vexing Vision
22-01-2012, 12:31 PM
Got the game, played 2 hours, not going to play again.

Alice feels more linear than Super Mario. Occasionally, it hints at alternative routes, but blocks you with a high frustration ratio and, if necessary to make sure you're going the one path the game wants you, with invisible walls. The jumping mechanics are tedious and sometimes fail to trigger without any feedback of why this is the case. The combat is just tedious.

If the game actually were a combination of Psychonauts and Darksiders, it would be glorious. Now, it's an utterly dull game with an intriguing story, which makes the whole package even more disappointing.

Memph
22-01-2012, 01:23 PM
It's a lot more like Darksiders than Psychonauts. Mostly with the combat style, but those who found Darksiders' combat simplistic will find Alice even more so. It works almost identically, 1 slash button, 1 bash button, 1 shoot and a dodge but with much fewer moves overall, oh and the autotargeting can completely screw you over at times. When there's large groups of enemies, picking out a prime target is tricky business.

I'm about halfway through (i think) and enjoying it, except for some tedious jumping sections involving invisible, moving platforms. Darksiders has much better depth and structure to it tbh, what with all the new mechanics employed as you progress. Each new section had me really wanting to plough onward, but with Alice, although it's still fun, i'm not so hooked.

As for Psychonauts, i bounced right off it. Constantly spawning enemies and having to hoover up so many little collectables scattered absolutely everywhere on each stage I found too tedious to be bothered with.

Flint
22-01-2012, 01:44 PM
But Psychonauts only has constantly spawning enemies on one stage?

I've been replaying Psychonauts once again just now and it's mechanically as solid as it ever was. For all its amazing writing, it's still an excellent game underneath as well.

Memph
22-01-2012, 01:50 PM
But Psychonauts only has constantly spawning enemies on one stage?

Ah, was it? It was long, long ago since I last tried it tbh. The last thing i remember was some boss thing chasing me round and around a cube and me fluffing up on the controls.

nayon
22-01-2012, 02:14 PM
Looking at the trailer, it loos like a really boring game with great art direction.

Flint
22-01-2012, 02:49 PM
Ah, was it? It was long, long ago since I last tried it tbh. The last thing i remember was some boss thing chasing me round and around a cube and me fluffing up on the controls.
Yeah, that's the second level of the game and the only one with constantly respawning enemies. I'd highly recommend giving the game another go.

Rauten
22-01-2012, 02:58 PM
Bought it quite a while ago, shortly after release; Played it till it was bloody damn done; Loved it.

The platforming and combat mechanics both are rather simple and repetitive (only 4 weapons?! gtfo), but the story, the voice acting, the visuals, and those marvellous and beautiful cardboard-style 2D scenes won me over. Wouldn't recommend it to anyone, though.

CuriousOrange
22-01-2012, 07:37 PM
Given that I bounced off of Psychonauts, due to the poor quality platforming mechanics, I'm not sure this is a poor comparison, Heliocentric. (Psychonauts is lauded by most people, as far as I can tell, because they like the writing, not because it is clever mechanically.

Nope, it's plauded for both. By me at least. The mechanics are fantastic. It just takes more than 5 seconds to build up and requires you persist and have patience.

I've played Alice Madness Returns through. Yes, the mechanics are fairly standard, it doesn't try anything original except visually. But considering the vast majority of games out there do nothing new visually or game wise it's worth praise for it imo.

Anyway, it's an all right game that looks amazing. If that's enough for you then get it, it's great. But it's not comparable to Pyschonauts quality wise.

deano2099
22-01-2012, 10:13 PM
If I remember correctly, in Psychonauts you get a certain item in the third level which changes the platforming aspect entirely, really opening it up.

aoanla
22-01-2012, 10:37 PM
Nope, it's plauded for both. By me at least. The mechanics are fantastic. It just takes more than 5 seconds to build up and requires you persist and have patience.

Not to turn this into a thread about Psychonauts, but: really? I found it rather clunky, and never bothered getting beyond the second level because of it. As I mentioned above, I also didn't click with the writing in the early game at all, so I didn't really have any inclination to continue. (Of course, I do acknowledge that I'm something of a minority here...)

LongBlade
22-01-2012, 10:40 PM
Somewhere in the past I thought I heard some good buzz about it but don't remember anything more specific. Thematically it's not a title I would easily gravitate toward, but if it's available for under $5 it would be hard not to buy it just to look at it and see what it's about.

magnolia_fan
23-01-2012, 04:14 PM
I bought it during xmas time but haven't played it yet. I'm finishing the first one instead.

trjp
23-01-2012, 07:00 PM
Got the game, played 2 hours, not going to play again.

Alice feels more linear than Super Mario. Occasionally, it hints at alternative routes, but blocks you with a high frustration ratio and, if necessary to make sure you're going the one path the game wants you, with invisible walls. The jumping mechanics are tedious and sometimes fail to trigger without any feedback of why this is the case. The combat is just tedious.

If the game actually were a combination of Psychonauts and Darksiders, it would be glorious. Now, it's an utterly dull game with an intriguing story, which makes the whole package even more disappointing.

This is a prize example of how not to approach a video game.

You have to play the game which is offered - not the one you had in your head - not the one you'd prefer to have.

Nalano
23-01-2012, 07:11 PM
You have to play the game which is offered - not the one you had in your head - not the one you'd prefer to have.

I concur. Go in with no expectations and you may find that you enjoy it. Come in expecting X and you'll always be disappointed that it isn't X.

Not every game needs to be a sandbox. Not every game needs to have a multiplayer element. Not every game has to be realistic. That goes towards publisher goals as well as consumer expectations.

Vexing Vision
23-01-2012, 07:23 PM
This is a prize example of how not to approach a video game.

You have to play the game which is offered - not the one you had in your head - not the one you'd prefer to have.

I did play the game that's offered. I just saw elements in it that other games (which have been mentioned) have done better.

It was cheap, and I don't regret my purchase, but I'm not going back to Alice any time soon and I'd certainly not recommend it for it's game mechanics.

The story is intriguing, but I would recommend a new player that he's better off watching a longplay of it, if there ever is one.

orcane
23-01-2012, 07:32 PM
The problem of AMR exactly comes from being mechanically similar to, and then falling short of previous games of that genre. You can't view that game in a vacuum, platformers have been done before and it doesn't take a detailed comparison to Psychonauts or Darksiders or even just the previous Alice game to notice that something's amiss. It's disappointing because the game does things wrong that these older games did better, not because it's "not Darksiders" or "not Psychonauts".

I played AMR and gave up during the 2nd 2D platforming section, after boredom already set in during the water level I just couldn't be arsed to repeat the same jump about five million times because the game couldn't decide if it wanted to acknowledge my double jumps or not, and all it took was one to fail to register and I was back at the checkpoint.

Good looking will never replace gameplay and pacing, and the simplistic combat, limited weapons, awful controls (slightly better with controller I assume, but didn't try), idiotic checkpointing all in one insanely repetitive package does not deserve to receive the high marks some people (especially in that Steam thread linked in the OP) claim it should have gotten.

Giaddon
23-01-2012, 08:21 PM
I wouldn't call it a "gem" but it's a fine game. I think the combat gets a bad rap: it's easily my favorite combat of any platformer, and I prefer it to Darksiders (which to be fair I hated).

It is beautiful, but the levels are too long.

Questionable
24-01-2012, 11:28 PM
On the surface it looks very cute but there are some dark undercurrents beneath the facade - Alice's guilt about her family's death, her abuse in the asylum, a drunk nurse blackmailing Alice. . .

. . .I've been playing it for quite a few hours now and apart from a bug that was remedied by a direct .INI edit this game is flawless. . .

. . .Highly recommended!

I think the game is pretty good. Subjectively, I absolutely loved playing it, but I have to admit that for me, the appeal is largely the visual design. I think you can tell if you're going to like the game by looking at screenshots beforehand - the gameplay is functional, but sometimes frustrates and seldom gets really good. Heliocentric is right on the money.

But. . . "Dark undercurrents"? The game gets terribly dark as it progresses.

EDIT: If the game were sold with a trigger warning on the packaging, stores wouldn't be able to display it on shelves :P

lord_strange
26-12-2013, 06:50 AM
Just going through it for the first time. The art style is great but like other people here I feel it is lacking some technical polish. The platforming is often very hit and miss, thanks partly to camera issues but also to what feel like unresponsive controls. Unlike some other platformers which can be unforgiving but where the reasons for failure are obvious, here it's just not always clear why you didn't have a jump lined up correctly. The combat is also problematic: there are some neat ideas like the umbrella defense, but I still feel let down by the controls. I was forced to put it on easy in the end just to get through some of the pitched battles where a stray button press can lock the camera to the wrong target and cost you lots of health in a very short period. But there's still an enjoyable game there.

BadManiac
26-12-2013, 10:48 AM
People complaining about the platforming or camera, I can only assume you're playing with a gamepad? Stop that, play i with real controls instead.

Glad I'm not the only one who loves this, Alice is a brilliant game, it's absolutely beautiful, the gameplay is varied and fun and there's tons of secrets to find. Can't recommend it enough :)

lord_strange
27-12-2013, 05:09 PM
Heh I did actually resort to keyboard and mouse a couple of times and I found it didn't help. I was still having the same problems. A platformer where keyboard and mouse was essential at times because the gamepad was so sucky was Deadlight, another great looking game with some serious control issues that I could only get through with 'real' controls. But Alice seems equally touchy whatever I use!

Heliocentric
27-12-2013, 06:07 PM
Funny to see past me, I've played it now a long time ago, beautiful be repetitive beyond reason. It needs a directors cut.

Eight Rooks
27-12-2013, 08:15 PM
Yeah... I really liked the article, but despite what mister Harris thinks, yes, it struck me as pretty obviously a fairly average "game", for the most part. I use quotes since I can see why some people would really like it - there was some absolutely stunning art design in there, and some enticingly weird narrative moments that hinted at a much more memorable experience. I'd really love to finish it some time - I just got fed up with how much it dragged, and dragged, and dragged, levels filled with repetitive combat and far too much wasted space. Under the astonishing production design all I could see was a pretty average third-person shooter and I've not been able to ignore that yet.

lord_strange
19-01-2014, 05:29 AM
I finally did finish the game. A few things helped. One was getting a Logitech f710 gamepad instead of the Razer Sabertooth that I was using. Made a very noticeable difference to the controllability of the character both in fights and platforming. Much more accurate, in essence. Another was (I am unashamed) sticking the difficulty onto 'easy' so that you don't have to deal insane amounts of damage to enemies before they go down. Some of the fights are tough enough anyway with lots of enemies in a confined space, even on the lowest difficulty. Or they were for me. Salutes to all you uber-gamers who managed to finish it on the highest settings. Finally, as other people have said, just getting used to the rather eccentric control scheme, in particular the target lock system, made a difference. Although it can mess with the camera it also allows you to blind fire, in effect, and quickly take out lots of weaker enemies before dealing with the boss or mini-boss. After making all these tweaks and allowances for my own inadequacy, I was able to get through it. I was compelled to by the look of the game, and although it is indeed too long and repetitive, it is also unique in a non-trivial sense. The story gets more and more unsettling the deeper you get into the game, as indeed do the environments. Because of its quirks, its probably only a 7/10 overall, but for story and art for me it gets an 8 or a 9. If you see it in a steam sale, definitely grab it: just be prepared to be patient with it. Alice is after all a troubled young thing, and needs your understanding.

siegarettes
19-01-2014, 07:35 AM
The combat, especially with it's lock on, feels a lot like the early 3D Zelda's do to me.

hideinlight
19-01-2014, 01:54 PM
The combat, especially with it's lock on, feels a lot like the early 3D Zelda's do to me.

I really wish it was possible to take off the toggle on lock-on. Want to be able just to release the button to get back to normal movement.

Managed to add slowmotion to the dodge though, and I ended up modifying the difficulty settings, so that Nightmare is 2 : 1.25 instead of 3 : 0.75

That's damage taken vs damage done by enemies, artificial difficulty scaling...

Just for interest sake the default damage scaling is:
Easy: 0.75:1.5
Normal: 1 : 1
Hard: 2 : 1
Insanity: 3 : 0.75

hideinlight
20-01-2014, 12:47 AM
Strongest part of the game is still it's visuals. From the Steam community page.

http://cloud-2.steampowered.com/ugc/919026388748981982/D6AD94503700069DD434630429ECD9ECC78D69BE/

unclepauly
20-01-2014, 02:51 AM
People complaining about unresponsive controls may be due to the game locking the fps at 30. You can turn off v-sync or change the framerate to whatever lock you want. I put mine at 60. The game literally becomes twice as responsive.

C:\Users\YourName\Documents\My Games\Alice Madness Returns\AliceGame\Config\AliceEngine.ini

"MaxSmoothedFrameRate" (minus quotations) change it from 31 to whatever your max refresh is or

"InUseVsync" change it from true to false

imo the game is almost unplayable until you do this, although I also turned off mouse smoothing for a little more responsiveness.

If they didnt make the levels so freakin long I'd give this an 8.5 but due to that it's a 7.5. Visually it's a 9 though.

ScandinavianStar
20-01-2014, 10:45 AM
The game looks absolutely amazing I love the entire world. Game play isnt that fun otherwise it would have been my game of the year.

BadManiac
20-01-2014, 11:55 AM
Beautiful world design. Amazing art direction. Great storytelling and very varied gameplay via many mini games. But the main platforming and fighting aspects becomes monotonous, battles are too long and repetitive and each level is way too long.

It's absolutely solid and every piece of the puzzle works perfectly fine. It just draws things out way too much. So close to an amazing game, but it misses the mark. I still love it tho, almost time for another playthrough.