American McGee’s Alice
When American McGee first dreamt up the idea of adapting Lewis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland he must have been tripping. In fact, come to think of it he can't have been because, as we discovered way back in 94, he was driving at the time. Anyway, you get what we mean: American McGee's Alice is the craziest, strangest, most perverted piece of nonsense we've ever played - which is no big surprise considering the original was a nonsensical tale in the first place. But this?
American McGee's Alice attempts to cross fantasy and madness by reworking Carroll's Wonderland into something of a cross between Hellraiserand It's A Knockout-car and chess pieces being a popular well as screaming babies, mad kids and tortured animals... Now, before you turn the page in disgust, we have to say that all of this is conducted in an altogether 'colourful' and 'entertaining' manner, and the madness that prevails reveals a rich vein of clever game design that is well worth experiencing.
Alice, the game, kicks off with a meticulously rendered cut sequence of a fire in a little girl's bedroom. As the scene progresses you realise that it's Alice, the character, we're seeing this happen to and, as it concludes, you're left with the eerie image of Alice locked-up in a dark, grey mental asylum, plasters stuck to her waif-thin wrists. It seems she didn't survive the fire completely unscathed...
Then, while you're still trying to work out what the hell is going on, the view changes to a polygonal tunnel of light and Alice falls into Wonderland with a scream. Suddenly the White Rabbit appears dressed in top hat and tails - looking a little zombified with it "You're late!" he yelps. "You're ugly", you think, and the White Rabbit turns and runs off. An equally mangy Cheshire Cat appears out ot nowhere and tells Alice that Wonderland has gone strange. "Follow the White Rabbit," he -- purrs in a wonderfully velvety manner, and - as, at this point, control is relinquished - you head off down a wooden corridor to start your big adventure.
Developer Rogue has gone for a third-person viewpoint in Alice (the success of the Tomb Raider series having something to do with this?), which - in this game's case - works really well. Unlike many 'live' third-person 30 adventures, the floating camera follows the action perfectly and rarely gets in the way of the game. The same could be said of the control system, which also rates as pretty much perfect. As Rogue itself will probably admit, a large chunk of the credit for Alice?s immediacy must go to id's Quake 3 engine, which has been bought in to power this game. And, being Quake-powered, Alice is a doddle to play - the usual Quake mouse and keyboard combinations handling movement, object manipulation, weapons, all quick loading and saving, plus all the other features you take for granted in Quake games these days cealso benefits from the Quake 3 engine's graphical prowess. Whether you're playing at basic 640 x 480, or at much higher resolutions, the game rarely fails to impress visually. Beautiful colouring and subtle, detailed 3D modelling are apparent from the outset, and the visual treats become more sophisticated and awe-inspiring as the game progresses. American McGee's Alice is undoubtedly one of the bestlooking games ever made and later levels are so amazingly designed and wonderfully imaginative that they recompense for your efforts early on. For which you should be thankful, because Alice is quite a tough game overall.
Red Queen's Guards
As Alice explores more of Wonderland, she quickly learns that the Red Queen has gone potty and is trying to take over the world. Hints are dropped of a saviour in town -and suddenly it's you controlling Alice and back in the driving seat.
Your first encounter with the Red Queen's guards comes after receiving the Vorpal Blade This basic weapon is capable of killing most lower-order creatures with a throw or two, but is slow to reload. Other weapons collected later in the game (see box entitled Wonderland Weapons for more details) vary in usefulness and power, and using combinations of weapons becomes important to survival. Thankfully, a 'laser pen' on-screen cross-hair makes killing guards and monsters relatively easy, as long as Alice is pointing in the right direction, and can even 'gib' them into globules of gore if used up-close in their faces. Despite the incredibly detailed look of stupidity on their faces, the Red Queen's guards are not as dumb as they first appear. Hurt them and they run off. Let them gang up on you and you're as good as dead. You might even get involved in a bit of tail-chasing around a pillar if they decide to high tail it, only to have them stop, turn and fire when you least expect it. Some even have rocket-launchers capable of blowing you to bits in seconds. Fortunately for both Alice and yourself, every dead guard (or monster for that matter) leaves behind a glowing crystal, called Meta Essence, that restores part of your health bar (red bar down left hand side of screen) upon collection.
Graphics Versus Gameplay
After an introduction to ropeswinging, an impromptu (but un-dynamic) mine shaft ride, and more words of advice from the ubiquitous Cheshire Cat Alice arrives in a place called, ominously, The Fortress Of Doors. It is here that the game really starts to dazzle, with some fantastically imaginative level design and trippy lighting effects that illuminate the mostly platform-style action. In one room, the whole floor splits apart, revealing a swirling tunnel of light through which the floating island you're standing on passes... In another room, huge doors hurtle down this tunnel, opening and passing by you with a booming jet engine roar. The effect is stunning, but highly disorienting at the same time, and falling into this glowing abyss means instant death. You quickly begin to realise that it's better to keep your eye on the action than the scenery since progress is more or less determined by the accuracy of your leaping.
Later on, other strange creatures come into play: there's the 'Lost Soul', a monster that screams a directional wind to knock you off your ledge; man-eating mushrooms that suck you into their leathery mouths and chew you; thorn-spitting roses; zombie piranha fish; frightening, soul-sucking giant bats; deathdealing steam-powered robots; Lava monsters and hard-as-nails chess pieces among many others. Each creature has his own varying degree of intelligence and attack patterns.
While many of Alice's foes are relatively slow moving, their presence in some levels makes completing the task ahead of you extremely difficult. This is especially the case if precise platform jumping is required to complete the level - which it usually is - even on the easiest of the four skill settings. There's almost always a bottomless pit for Alice to fall into somewhere in the level. And, with the Red Queen's allies blasting you from every angle, sudden death due to falling becomes de rigueurlor most of the game. The final quarter of Alice is a frightening fight for survival as you cling to any ledge available as the blows rein in from your rivals. It's truly hair-raising to experience the first time, but by the 20th attempt you'll be grating your teeth and wishing the level was over. And -if that isn't enough - there are some seriously huge 'bosses' to contend with too - many of whom take a long, long time to wear down and beat.
Rather disappointingly the puzzles in Alice rarely deviate from the pull-the-right-lever-to-open-the-right-door school of gameplay. There are a couple of more interesting conundrums in later levels (one that sees you moving across a chessboard in the manner of a certain chess piece), but the solution is usually glaringly obvious and presents little cerebral challenge.
On the plus side, some levels take on a particular theme or style of gameplay to add variety to the adventure. In one, Alice is trapped underwater and must swim to the exit by following a helpful turtle. Then, she is pursued by a gigantic rolling ball down a corkscrew precipice. And in another, she must ride a leaf down a maze of tributaries without drowning or being eaten by horrible spitting fish, while in yet another she must traverse the inner-workings of a massive ancient clock to reach the top of it. It is this constant variety in the style and design of the levels that saves American McGee's Alice from oblivion.
Erase From Here Using Mind Rubbers
But all this talk has so far been about the game - we've made little or no mention of the story. And, as we've said many times before, the story is all-important. Well, without giving too much of it away: there's a clever twist in the tale that ties up the confusing cut sequence seen in the asylum at the beginning of the game, and the rest of the script is, well, OK. The dialogue and narrative do have their moments, but rarely does the story truly grip you because there's little or no interaction with non-player characters and the voice acting is so patchy. A couple of characters, the turtle in particular, sound like Spitting Image rejects - harking back to darker days when all PC adventures talked like this (Feeble Files anyone?). It's a pity really because some of the voices, particularly the Cheshire Cat, are spot on. It's just that the dodgy ones ruin the atmosphere and make a mockery of the serious and twisted nature of the game.
Without doubt, American McGee's Alice is an epic adventure filled with many wondrous sights. The love and care taken in designing Alice shines through in almost every aspect of the game, bar the repetitive gameplay and the patchy voice-overs.
We can't praise the music composers and sound effects artists enough - even if Alice jumping sounds like Monica Seles serving. We positively endorse the sheer variety in the levels, and the 30 environment modelling is possibly the best we've ever seen. And we kneel in awe at the programming dude who came up with that cool water reflection effect. But, we were expecting a little bit more than a 'darker' Rayman 2, so are slightly disappointed with the end result. Alice could have been a classic. The setting is wondrous but, in gameplay terms, what we have is a formulaic platform romp that is occasionally brilliant and frequently frustrating for all the wrong reasons.
Download American McGee’s Alice
What we thought
"The setting is wondrous but, in gameplay terms, what we have is a formulaic platform romp that is occasionally brilliant and frequently frustrating for all the wrong reasons."
What you said
- I thought you were a tiny bit harsh with your review of Alice- 80 per cent might have been a bit more accurate. Having played it all the way through, the gameplay isn't samey at all. Each section of the game is quite different, and it all fits together with a nice tidy plot. Some of the later levels just amazed me with their detail, in particular the clock tower levels. Your review of the weapons was a bit weak; you didn't explain most of them properly at all. Remember that each weapon has two different fire modes. The Ice Wand is used to freeze enemies, while the Eye Staff - one of the best weapons in the game - fires an intense charged-up beam. The Demon Dice are supposed to be thrown when you see a Pentangle on the ground. When thrown, a portal opens up, allowing a creature from hell out to help you battle some enemies (and he'll even turn on you if you're not careful). Incidentally, the Mallet fires hedgehogs, not bolts, but I guess you have to know the Alice In Wonderland story to understand that. The one thing that lets this game down is the replayability factor, as I don't think it has any. I think it'll be a long time before I play through this game again, as thrilling and exciting as it is.
- Having recently completed American McGee's Alice, I have to say that I thought your review was somewhat harsh. I will admit that I thought the twisted vision of Wonderland was astounding and, being a fan of all things Tim Burtonesque, I may be somewhat biased. However, it did strike me that Paul Mallinson came across a particularly tough game and only gave it a cursory glance. What evidence do I have for that? Well, one of your downers for the game said: "Some weapons are useless." You also dedicated a side panel to the weapons, but I would point out that: 1You missed out the Blunderbuss - the single most devastating weapon in the game. 2Your damning description of the Ice Wand indicated that all it did was produce a wall of ice -actually this is its secondary function. The Ice Wand freezes enemies when used in primary mode, and I used it to defeat the Caterpillar boss. It is, therefore, not "a waste of a weapon slot". 3 You couldn't get the Demon Dice to work? Per-lease. The demon - particularly useful if there are several enemies around - or produce a smoke screen. The demon-summoning works in the room immediately after you find the dice, satisfyingly taking care of several card guards. I admit that the puzzles, as you pointed out, are very much of the 'pull the lever' variety (at least they're not oversized keys), but that is balanced out by the fact that you're constantly fighting very deadly enemies. I didn't find the voice acting as irritating as you seemed to but, yes, playing the same bit of a level 20 times is annoying -however, that is what game saves are for. You compared Alice to The Nomad Soul- a game I also thoroughly enjoyed. Not a single part of the game seemed in the least bit rushed, however, the last section of The Nomad Soul did feel as though the programmers had either a hurry to finish. In my opinion, the game deserved 80 per cent, but as I said earlier, I might be a little biased.
Alice is undoubtedly a game featuring some fantastic ideas. However, as Mallo pointed out in his review, it's very much a dressed-up action/adventure, with often samey gameplay and irritating sections, which you have to replay countless times.
In our defence, the reason the weapons weren't covered in as much detail as they could have been was because on occasions we're forced to review from gold masters, without the aid of a manual. Which is what happened here, so Mallo had to work out the function of each weapon all on his own. As a result it's possible he missed out the odd fact.
Thanks to both Alex and Andy for filling in the blanks, and no doubt Mallo will soon be sending you a share of the money we paid him for the review, for your invaluable contributions.
Have we lost our minds? Voting a game based on the Quake III engine as most original at E3? In a word, no. You see for most people Alice In Wonderland conjures up the Disney animated classic where there's a very strong distinction between good and evil. It's a great film, but it was designed for kids, and the Lewis Carroll original took a very different bent.
It's been well documented that Carroll favoured the company of little girls (sweet ones that looked just like Alice, in fact), and Wonderland was obviously a public manifestation of this. Throughout the book, Alice is subjected to nightmare after nightmare, from the sort of characters you'd hope not to meet after ingesting hallucinogens. Get a copy and check it out for yourself, it makes the perfect setting for a genuinely disturbing and scary PC game.
And that is exactly what American McGee is aiming to do (if you want proof of the dark side of the game then just take a look at these rather disturbing screenshots). Alice was shown behind closed doors at E3 and after witnessing the 15 minute demo we were all utterly convinced that this was going to be one of the best games to come out this year. As long as it meets its release date that is.
Yes, it's built around the Quake 3 engine, but the game is played from a third-person perspective. And, as well as blasting the living bejesus out of living playing cards and the like, there's going to be a big adventure element present.
Moving into one area, built around a gigantic chess board, the game switches into atmospheric black and white. Scattered around are various chess pieces, and in order to progress you're going to need to know the basics of the best strategy game in the world. We're not saying any more.
The game kicks off after the two books, by which time Alice has been driven completely insane. As she receives the call to return to Wonderland she's rocking her head back and forth inside a padded cell of a lunatic asylum. Which is exactly where you'd be if you'd been through the trials she's had to endure. Naturally she's not too keen, but as a particularly twisted white rabbit points out: she hasn't got much choice.
What more do you need? Great graphics, twisted characters and a general underbelly of darkness that would make you run for your life if it wasn't just a game. The rich heritage of the books provides a huge pool of ready-built and recognisable characters (although if you've only seen the Disney version you might wonder what sort of drugs McGee has been on), and already the code is looking superb. We can't wait.
American McGee’s Alice is a game that actually made me want to get into PC gaming when it was first released back in 2000. This 3rd person action game captured many people’s attention and it spawned a sequel as well as a movie that has been stuck in development for quite some time now.
You’ve Gone, Mad Alice
What makes American McGee’s Alice really stand out for me is the setting, story, and presentation. The story is so dark and twisted that I just loved it from the moment that it started. This is set many years after Alice’s first adventures in Wonderland. Now she is older and due to losing her parents in a fire. Alice is in a mental institution.
She is called back into action by her friend, The White Rabbit. Only Wonderland is not as she remembers it. It is dark, twisted and downright scary. I swear, the Cheshire Cat is the stuff of nightmares!
I really cannot praise the setting of the game highly enough. For a game that came out in 2000, it holds up pretty well. It was given a slap of HD paint for a re-release and that in all honesty is the way to experience this game.
Did You Hear That?
Another way that American McGee’s Alice absolutely “nails” it is the sound design. The music is dark and twisted and the voice acting is fantastic. For an older game, it really is quite impressive how good the voice acting is here. The music is actually the work of Chris Verenna of Nine Inch Nails and Jesicka of Jack Off Jill’s fame. For me, the music, sound effects, and the voice acting is a huge reason as to why this twisted version of Wonderland works so well.
Clunky, But Fun
I have found over the years that those of us who like American McGee’s Alice are fully aware that this is not a perfect game. It is a 3rd person action/adventure/platform game. I feel that it kind of plays like the early Tomb Raider games did… for better and for worse.
One thing that does work well is the camera. For a rather early game, it does not get in the way too much. What can get in the way is the rather clunky controls. There is no two ways about it this is a game you have to work really hard at to love. Some of the jumping and fighting that you do can be downright frustrating at times. However, I do feel it is worth sticking with as the overall experience is well worth it.
The locations that you go to in the game are great, but this was released at a time before exploration was common. As a result, you never really travel off the beaten path which is a bit of a shame as I would love to have explored this twisted world at my own pace.
I will fully admit that American McGee’s Alice is a game that is not easy to love due to the clunky controls and less than amazing AI. I will say that as an experience this is a game you have to play. The controls do take a while to get used to, but I would bet that the story will hook you as will the creepy presentation that you will want to stick with it. I know my score is a little high, but that is because I think this is one of the most creative takes on a fairy tale in history!
- Wonderland is twisted and I love it
- Some amazing voice acting
- A truly incredible story
- The music fits the game perfectly
- A very memorable experience
- The controls are extremely clunky
- It does feel like a game from 2000
Wonderland is a place of childish dreams and fanciful memories for Alice. But after failing to save her parents from a fiery death, Alice finds herself in a sanitarium, her already fragile psyche fractured. Lost in her own world, Alice delves back into Wonderland and discovers that due to her ruined state, Wonderland has become a twisted, sick, and dangerous world.
Once there, Alice finds that the Evil Queen is back in power, that some of her former friends are now her enemies and ultimately the only way for her to straighten things out is to find the Queen and basically butcher her. Along the way, the Cheshire Cat assists her with abstract clues, Turtle leads her through the water maze and the Mad Hatter tries to kill her. This is not the Fairy Tale that Walt Disney made into a cartoon so many years ago.
Match wits and weapons with the denizens of Wonderland, finding strange and cruel devices. Slaughter the card guards, send wraiths into the abyss, and stab the hell out of the ant army with weapons that are as twisted as Alice’s mind. In other words, "Be prepared to get a bit messy mum, you’ve got a bit of splatter on your dress."
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Alice is an adventure game viewed in the 3rd person. Alice runs around solving strange puzzles and mini quests; along the way she meets up with some very familiar faces. Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Mad Hatter, March Hare, and others have all been given the once over as Wonderland twists and contorts from its former version. Selecting the level of difficulty, (I picked "Nightmare") allows for your tempo of play. The harder the level, the more enemies and problems you will encounter.
As you begin the game, Alice starts off with the butcher knife, which she wields with deadly accuracy. Slicing and throwing it, she eventually acquires the croquet mallet, the playing cards, the dice, and other strange weapons. Each weapon has a primary and secondary function that you can bind to the controls.
I found it easiest to set up the game similar to my first person shooter controls, using the mouse wheel to scroll through the weapons. The weapons are original and refreshingly wicked. I would have been disappointed to see the same old guns and explosives that are in every other game and fortunately this was not the case. There is something deliciously inviting watching a woman wipe the blood off of 14 inch butcher knife.
As Alice continues her journey, expect to navigate strange areas never found in the original Alice in Wonderland, such as the school, ant tunnels (after being shrunk again), and strange gnome caves. While jumping and running is a must, there are other levels that require swimming and coal cars. As I played, I was giddy with anticipation as to what would happen next in this strange game. Any time I felt a little lost as for what to do, I called the Cheshire Cat, who would promptly appear and give a vague clue as to what should happen next. Personally, I would have liked to see the cat fight along with Alice occasionally, as he has always seemed a bit sinister and now with his mangy punk rock look, I thought he could really tear someone up. Alas, he never did. Mini cut-scenes popped up often and would direct Alice as to what needed to be done next.
The turn as an insect sized human was to be expected, but this reviewer was in awe of the impressive attention to detail and battles one would expect if shrunken down to the size of an ant. With dive bombing bees and angry fire ants, Alice has her hands full -- add in the crumbling ground and the trek down river (which was probably a trickle) and it makes the need to save often even more critical. Luckily, killing most opponents results in a life icon that will give Alice a much needed boost. My personal fave was when Alice first fell into the water without getting out in time -- a large mouthed fish came up and swallowed her whole. What a grisly fate.
As far as actions are concerned, Alice runs around and does the typical jump and attack thing, but must have learned a trick or two from Lara Croft because she can jump up to ledges and hang or shimmy along a ledge lip. Now, since avoiding the enemies is often far wiser then attacking, using this trick will prove most valuable. Another plus of this game is the enemy A.I. Often the guards or other bad guys would gang up on me by backing me into a corner or each other, a move that would result in my death many times. I was impressed. Most of the time I was running, as the bad guys were best picked off at a safe distance.
Finally, the bosses of this game were done very well, all had the appropriate twisted look to them and so as not to ruin any gaming experiences, usually were unexpected. Doing battle involved timing and being fleet of foot, since Alice possesses no sort of armor or magic (set fire to the Duchess and run like hell). Needless to say, Alice’s old friend the Mad Hatter is no longer a good guy looking for a spot of tea.
Alice is a single player game, but in this reviewer's opinion would make one heck of a multiplayer game with its nasty, nasty weapons.
To me, a game like Alice, even with its friendly controls and easy to learn gameplay would be enjoyable even without good graphics. Fortunately, this is not a problem. Alice has tremendous atmosphere, brought on by stylish coloring and rendering. With no lag and sharp edges, the action comes at a brisk pace. And since it’s based on the Wonderland world the fogging effects and shimmering water all look excellent. A fine job done by the EA team. My only real disappointment was the disappearing/reappearing obstacles in the distance. Frankly I was surprised there were any in such a graphically superior game.
With the screech of Wraiths and the almost melancholy English accent of Alice I was grinning ear to ear. When the Cheshire cat spoke in an almost hushed, sinister voice I smirked with delight. And with the incessant ramblings of the obviously insane Duchess I nodded my head approvingly. The character voices were done by actors who obviously knew their material. An excellent job. The slice of air as my playing cards stuck into my enemies, the evil laugh of the tortured school children. Man, it just doesn’t fit any more perfectly. My hat is off.
Minimum: Windows 95/98/ME, PII 400 or AMD K6-2, 64 MB RAM, 4x CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drive, 580 MB free hard disk space plus space for saved games (additional space required for Windows swap-file and DirectX installation), 16 MB OpenGL capable video card with DirectX 7.0 compatible driver, DirectX 7.0 compatible sound card, and a mouse.
Recommended: 500 MHz or faster AMD Athlon or Intel Pentium III processor, 128 MB RAM, 8x or faster CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drive, 620 MB free hard disk space plus space for saved games, and a 32 MB or greater OpenGL capable video card with DirectX 7.0 compatible driver.
Alice is a game designed for the mature gamer. Not only because of its violent action but because most younger gamers won’t know the story of Alice and her two previous adventures into Wonderland, thus not appreciating the change unto which all the inhabitants of Wonderland have gone.
Additionally, with its themes of a psychiatric nature, many younger players might not understand the relation of Wonderland and Alice’s psyche. But for the rest of us, it is an excellent game with plenty of character and story development, engaging plot and rich graphics. This game will undoubtedly appeal to the gamer of a more disturbed taste. I liked it.
- Manufacturer: VIRGIN MASTERTRONIC
- Machine: Amiga, Atari ST, IBM PC
Take on the role of Alice in Wonderland as she attempts to dream her way through Lewis Carroll's bizarre imagination. This latest electronic adventure based on the venerable classic features excellent graphics, interesting puzzles and one of the finest user interfaces I've ever seen to enhance play.
In fact, the user interface is the first thing to catch your eye. It consists of multiple windows for compass, inventory, graphics, map, text and "what's in the room". Any or all of these windows can be opened at any time. Players will probably opt to use only one or two at a time, since having them all visible simultaneously provides lots of information but makes for a crowded screen. The easiest way to manipulate the windows is with a mouse, although the keyboard can be used.
The graphics window provides a first-person view of the current environment as seen through Alice's eyes, and a click produces descriptions of each item. The compass window is especially usable, since only valid exits from the current room can be selected. It's also a quick-travel asset, since clicking on a compass point moves Alice in that direction.
The map window shows the rooms already visited, relieving the chore of mapping Alice's travels. A nice touch lets the gamer, return to any spot by clicking on that room.
Windowed icons make object manipulation very easy. Just click on an object in the "what's in the room" window, and drag it to the inventory window - Alice will carry that object. Pull-down menus of verbs and nouns limit the selections to what is possible, eliminating the guesswork. The noun menu provides a list of objects, then a submenu for each object provides the valid choices of verbs.
Roland MT-32, Ad Lib and Sound Blaster sound boards are supported, and my Game Blaster worked fine. Wonderland boasts superb graphics and a musical sound track of remarkable clarity. The parser is quite advanced, making text entry less of a chore. It understands compound commands (get the jewel and put it in the bag) and can ask questions for clarification. Unlike other games of this genre, however, answers can be limited to the minimum information necessary.
The puzzles may prove too much for a novice, but they are not particularly hard for an experienced adventurer. Fortunately, a well-defined help function provides increasing levels of hints. There is quite a lot of humor built into Wonderland's responses - the designers anticipated some pretty outrageous requests.
Wonderland is an enjoyable, imaginative visit to Carroll's world and definitely the most successful game to date based on the book. The designers brought new life to Alice's adventure in this electronic media, and in so doing, they advanced the state of gaming art by a significant degree. No one who loved the original should miss this lively reenactment.