I know what you're thinking. What kind of sick twisted individual pits Alice, our beloved girl in Wonderland, against warrior card guards, mutated rabbits and a down right scary cat. Well, I'll tell you – American McGee's the name! In American McGee's Alice, you play, well, Alice who has entered a realm of Wonderland that is all too bizarre from the world we once dreamt of. The horrible Queen of Hearts has taken over Wonderland and corrupted it with menacing evil. Now, the equilibrium of Wonderland has been forever changed and it is up to Alice to set it right again.
The game opens with a beautifully rendered cutscene (a nice change from the ingame graphic openings that are all too the norm nowadays), showing little Alice asleep in her bed when all of a sudden a fire breaks out, engulfing the house, her belongings... and her parents with it. She spends the rest of her somewhat disturbed childhood in a mental institution (yes, seeing something like that would have a negative effect on ones mental and physical stability). Then one day, a proverbial white rabbit gets a hold of Alice and seeks her help down the all too familiar rabbit hole into Wonderland. Thus, our story begins.
Throughout the levels characters, such as Cheshire the Cat and other well-known individuals provide advice and wisdom (even if it is more along the philosophical side of things) – guiding your journey.
Graphics wise, this game is stunning. Quite comparable (if not better) to the splendor that was Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. 2, Alice runs the Quake 3 engine – and does a damn good job of it. Since we're in Wonderland, nothing is meant to be "right", or something that we can relate to – this is where the true beauty of the engine comes into action. Fire burns with an incandescent glow... you feel the heat as you pass by.Blood boils with a stench that is unforgivable... water glimmers and gives off life (what little is left here). Saying the game is graphically stunning just doesn't cut it here. If your video card has it, I highly recommended hitting FSAA 4x, or knocking it down to 2x if your machine isn't as beefy. Taking away those nasty jaggies really does add to the game.
Likewise, sound is great; employing the latest in EAX2, or Aureal for you sissy Diamond card owners
I'm running the Altec Lansing ACS54 surround sound setup and my my, you can hear (and subsequently feel) those mutated card guards sneak up behind you. Sound effects in the game are quite memorable, heh, slice a guard in half and you can hear the gibs splatter to the floor! Add in the ambient sounds and you've got yourself a truly atmospheric environment.
A former NIN drummer, Chris Vrenna, created the soundtrack to the game, adding yet another dimension to the all ready freaky environment. In other games, the music really pumped you up for an upcoming boss, for instance, or really got to you when a friend or comrade died (as is the feeling in the Final Fantasy games). However, here in Alice you don't necessarily feel pumped up, nor do you feel saddened. The background music [soundtrack] really is just that... background music; adding depth to the game, rather than engulfing you in it. Level design is something else. As mentioned before, Wonderland really isn't supposed to have anything, or anywhere that you can relate to. Creating those all too well-known 1st floor, 2nd floor -> new level!... levels just wouldn't fit here. Broken walkways, miniature door entrances, overgrown weeds, ominous platforms and ropes just "hanging there"; you really can get lost in here!
So what about playability and gameplay? Is this game fun to play... or is it just another pretty face? Aye, you can lock away the key to your room because you won't be coming out any time soon. Alice is a helluva lot of fun to play; likewise, it's an enjoyable game to watch too. I mean, who wouldn't enjoy walking around a twisted Wonderland, slaying card guards, talking to the locals and listening to Chesire the Cat spew out philosophical mumbo jumbo (which actually does come in handy in the game)! A lot of this game is jumping puzzles, solving simple tasks for a reward, climbing ropes, etc. and quite a few of you I'm sure will dismay this game right now because of it. DON'T! This is what makes the game so much fun – you can jump in and have a good laugh (or fright) without having to think too much. And, really, isn't that what we all fear the most – thinking?
Numerous games coming out now are well, you really have to be in the "pilot's seat" to enjoy – to get the feel for it. A bystander just isn't fun. Since Alice is a single player game (no multiplayer... yet – I remain hopeful) if your friends are over they'll have a good time watching you play (heh). Having that eerie, "What the hell is going on? And why is that guy staring at me!" feel to it, is something to be remembered.To sum it up, Alice is a terrific game – one that I had personally been looking forward to for quite some time now. The atmosphere is perfect and pays homage to the classic Wonderland movie that scared so many of us [and our children]. Gameplay is great, not having us think too much. Graphics and sound are pushing the envelope and will not let you down. This is a must play game.
Official Alice Website