Review: American McGee’s Alice

  • Version Played: Xbox Series S (inside Alice: Madness Returns)

I’ve been curious about Alice: Madness Returns so I figured that I would check the first game out before playing (which is actually included in its entirety in Madness Returns). The series is about a girl with mental issues, who retreats into Wonderland in her mind.

I’ll be blunt: just start with the sequel. The plot in this is very thin so you won’t be missing out on anything important. It was originally released on Xbox, but it’s so clunky that if someone had told me that it was an early PlayStation game, I wouldn’t have realised it wasn’t.

The biggest issue is jumping: there’s a big wind up animation which makes the jump actually happen on-screen a second after you press the button, and it doesn’t seem to take momentum into account at all. A jump at full speed feels the same as a stationary jump. It makes the platforming segments a nightmare to play – to the point where I was saving after every single jump, due to how unresponsive the game felt.

The other large part of the game is combat, which is also not good: take the parts of the original Doom that feel dated, then ignore the parts that make it fast, smooth and fun. That is the feeling I got from the combat in American McGee’s Alice. You’ll also resort to using only a handful of weapons, as some are a lot more powerful than others. Enemies are also purposefully designed to be annoying, with flying enemies that blow you around with gusts of air, enemies that freeze you, or ones that fly up really high and drop explosives on you.

The level design is also disorientating, not in a whimsical way, but in a “everything looks the same so I’m not sure if I’m going backwards” way. The graphics are just dark (not thematically dark, literally dark) and the different areas don’t feel like part of the same world.

There are some nice ideas in the game, but it’s just not nice to play.

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