by / July 21st, 2011 /

Alice: Madness Returns – PS3, X360, PC (EA)

The sequel to an 11-year-old PC game, Alice: Madness Returns is a visually delicious, dark fairytale adventure, based loosely around the writings of Lewis Carroll, albeit with a decidedly Tim Burton-esque sense of the grotesque.

You play the part of Alice Liddell, a disturbed orphan, undergoing years of therapy since her family were killed in a fire, for which she may or may not bear some responsibility. Imprisoned by an array of decidedly nasty memories, Alice spends her time either in the suitably grim alleys of Victorian Whitechapel or in the even danker recesses of her imagination, which is anything but a Wonderland, a gothic nightmare filled with weird and wacky creatures, from shipwreck sharks to Machiavellian rodents.

The game is a typical action adventure, with a fine mixture of exploration, combat, platforming and puzzle-solving (although a little more of the latter would have been welcome), as our heroine makes her way through the game’s labyrinthine levels – one particularly enjoyable scene involves a good old-fashioned side-scrolling shooter.

Graphically stunning, the various areas of this not-so-wonderland are brought to life with beautiful visuals, while the character models too are exquisite, including characters familiar to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the books. The voice-acting too is top notch, and the sound effects suitably creepy. All of this would count for nought if the gameplay weren’t up to scratchy, but thankfully it is, with some tough platforming to get your head around (involving switching between normal and miniature Alice ), while the combat is up there with the finest examples of the genre, as our heroine gets to grips with a hobby horse (for bashing through doors and enemies), the Vorpal Blade (for slicing and dicing) and, State’s favourite, a pepper grinder which works as a ranged weapon like a culinary Gatling gun. It looks great, sounds amazing and will hook you in to its great big gothic embrace. God Of War for girls, anyone?