Alice: Madness Returns is a very special action game, a piece of Lewis Carroll fan fiction conceived by an American (named American, naturally) and illustrated largely by the Chinese, a people not known for their absurdism. Unfortunately it’s also a classic victim of checklist game criticism and marketing, not to mention it’s the worst possible thing to reviewers working under deadline: long. Make no mistake, the business of game reviewing is a lot like the business of eating large amounts of Jacob’s Cream Crackers in hot and rowdy East End basements. To put it another way, all games get tiring when you play them past your bedtime.
The sequel to American McGee’s Alice isn’t great (8/10), solid (7/10), flawed (6/10) or average (5/10) – it’s none of that nonsense. It’s a living art book, an Alice novel with the ratio of words to pictures spun around. Inspired by such wild and offbeat things as Burning Man, Dave McKean, Zdzislaw Beksinski, The NeverEnding Story, The Dark Crystal and the Brothers Quay, more than anything it’s a tribute to the mechanical and the handmade. Dolls, miniatures and puppets crowd the dreams and nightmares of its Wonderland, while its ‘real world’ Victorian London would be right at home in Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. Read the rest of this entry »