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Review Alice Madness Returns (PS3 / 2011): Is it worth revisiting Wonderland?

genre: adventure, hack and slash, action

Alice Madness Returns is the sequel to American McGee's Alice a game that I have not played before and probably never will. It came included on the version I had but after trying to play it I found it to be very dated and did not have the patience to keep at it. So I went straight into this sequel that requires little to no knowledge of having played the first since the most essential gets recapped in the cut scenes. And you are probably wondering what I thought of this game. Let's find out shall we?

And I have some mixed feelings about this game. When I started to play this I really enjoyed the atmosphere and the game mechanics. A whole lot of platforming and a decent amount of action where you have to defeat each type of enemy you encounter in a specific way. Which is quite easy in the beginning. But of course gradually they become much harder to beat although in a very cheap way since most of the difficulty consists of overwhelming you with multiple enemies at the same time where you are forced to ignore one type of enemy and beat the smaller ones first before you can focus on the bigger ones. Which in itself is fun but soon you will see that after you beat that one bigger type another respawns two or three times. That is just repetitive and tedious. The weapons you gain during the course of the game can be upgraded and it was nice to have that option if not for the fact that it actually did not matter that much. The effects of the upgrades are negligible. Most useful was collecting Rose paint jars that increase Alice's life bar. Only to collect them you had to do a lot of awkward platforming plus it was never quite clear which direction to go. Sometimes when you appeared at the end of a level it automatically started a cut scene preventing you the option to go back. If you missed to explore for collectibles then you were out of luck. You can replay the chapters to go back to the places you skipped however why would I put myself through that torture.

Torture? Maybe I am exaggerating just a little. Let me explain. There are six chapters in this game. And these chapters are quite long. I don't mind extensive levels if they offer you diversity and very fun gameplay. Only Alice Madness Returns is plagued by one very annoying element. Repetition. You are constantly forced to repeat yourself throughout the game. Did you just managed to retrieve Mad Hatter's arms you still have to collect his legs doing literally the same actions as before. How is that fun? It's pure laziness and only serves as to extend a level artificially. But it gets worse. In chapter 2 some of the platforming puzzles become really frustrating. It does make you jump for joy when you managed to get past them but that joy diminishes when the game makes you do these constantly from that moment on. Again, how is that fun? 

Basically the game consists of two gameplay mechanics. Platforming and combat. The combat requires some thought and the platforming is not that punishing since falling off from one puts you back unharmed. Only it's hard to motivate yourself to keep playing and therefore I often took breaks. Still I did feel the need to get back and advance the game since I was hoping for better gameplay and a nice pay off in the end. Sadly this never happens since the platforming in chapter 5 for example is exceptionally tedious. Seriously it felt like it would never end. The boss fight looked interesting but also suffers from lack of imagination and has the audacity to add difficulty in the cheapest way possible. The ending was short and incredibly underwhelming.  After having finished this game I did not feel the level of accomplishment I normally would. 

I thought that Alice Madness Returns had a lot of potential. It reminded me a lot of a Japanese hack and slash only where essential game mechanics were stripped off. The story showed promise but wasn't compelling at all. If the developers had done their best to add more variation to the gameplay and would have eliminated the repetitiveness the game would have been much more fun to play. The visuals are nice though. Wonderland was beautifully animated (maybe a little inconsistent here and there but not bothersome). AMR overall is a game that deserves to be played but it's a game that will be hard to finish because it's quite tasking to advance without any real pay off. 

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