Alice: Madness Returns is what happens if Tim Burton had made a GOOD interpretation of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland. Madness Returns was developed by American McGee and his development team, Spicy Horse, and published by everybody's favorite publisher, EA. Alice: Madness Returns is a Third Person Action Adventure Platformer that puts a dark spin on Lewis Carrol's original source material. This is actually a sequel to American McGee's Alice originally released in 2000.
The art style is absolutely gorgeous...if you're into darker art styles. When reading Lewis Carrol's original book, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, I always envisioned Wonderland having a nice colorful coat of paint over a much darker world full of insidious intentions. And that seems to be exactly what American McGee and Spicy Horse saw as well.
When Alice arrives back in Wonderland, the world, is bright and colorful, but the deeper she goes into Wonderland the more dark and sinister it gets. On her journey, Alice, is accompanied by the Cheshire Cat whom may or may not be a figment of Alice's imagination. In fact, the entirety of Wonderland may or may not be a figment of Alice's imagination and that is what Alice's story revolves around; her sanity.
The story in Alice: Madness Returns is actually really interesting because there are two stories happening simultaneously.
After Alice's adventure to Wonderland in the first game she had been declared clinically insane and spent a majority of her life in Rutledge Asylum. Madness Returns takes place a year after her release at the age of 19 and she now resides in an orphanage under the care of a psychiatrist named Dr. Angus Bumby. The gameplay begins when Alice relapses into Wonderland.
The second story is Alice returning to Wonderland. Hence "Madness Returns". Wonderland is now falling apart. It is being destroyed by a mysterious train dubbed by the inhabitants as "The Infernal Train". Alice may be the only one able to stop The Infernal Train from completely destroying Wonderland, but is Wonderland as real as she believes it to be? I personally found Alice's story in the real world dealing with her sanity to be far more interesting and meaningful.
The gameplay plays it as safe as possible by video game standards. In combat, Alice can alternate between light, heavy, and ranged attacks to dispose of the enemies that stand in her way. Madness Returns doesn't add anything new to this already stale type of gameplay which is a shame. The redeeming factor to this is that it works near flawlessly in terms of mechanics. Madness Returns may not have added anything to this type of gameplay, but I'd rather have a near flawless execution of a rather stale gameplay style than a horrible execution of a game that tried to add in new mechanics that don't work.
Out of combat, Alice: Madness Returns is a platformer. Again, not much new here, but at least it isn't flawed in anyway. Alice can now jump not once, not twice, but four times whilst in the air. She also will float if the jump button is held down to help guide Alice down onto a platform.
Though, there is one thing everybody seems to agree upon....
Alice: Madness Returns really is an underrated gem because it sets up nicely a sequel, but sales didn't meet their goals so it was cancelled which is a shame. There is hope though. In 2013, American McGee started a Kickstarter to fund a concluding chapter in the Alice series called "Alice: Otherlands". There was a catch though. It wouldn't be a game, but rather an animated mini series. The Kickstarter met it's goal and now Alice: Otherlands will be released some time this year. Again, there is more hope. American McGee still wants to make Alice Otherlands into a game, but it depends on the success of the animated mini series.
Alice: Madness Returns isn't perfect. The gameplay is pretty stale and the middle act has a lot of filler fetch quests, but I'd be lying to you if I said that I didn't like this game. I actuallygenuinely love this game. The art style, the story, the soundtrack, and Alice herself are all so well done that it is sad that this game isn't more well known. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. You won't be disappointed. 8.5/10