Alice: Madness Returns

1328394394 (1)
Developer: Spicy Horse
Publisher: EA
Platform: PC, PS3, Xbox360
Release Date: 16, June 2011
RPVP: 49.99€ (Steam)
Size: ~ 7.9 GB (PC)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Platform, Hack-n'-Slash


Alice: Madness Returns continues the story of the PC game American McGee’s Alice out in 2000. Like its predecessor, it was developed by the Chinese studio Spicy Horse. The PS3 and Xbox360 Versions of the game include a code you can use to download a console port of American McGee’s Alice, but even without the code, console players can purchase the game using Microsoft Points on XBL or with regular cash on PSN.


Madness Returns goes back to Alice Liddell, who lost her sanity after surviving the fire that destroyed her home and killed her whole family. Years later, she is released from Rutledge Asylum and began living in London, where along with Dr.
Bumby, she attempts to forget her traumatic memories of the death of her family in hopes of getting rid of her mad nightmares. Unfortunately, Alice’s subconscious ends up puling her back to Wonderland. Upon arriving, though, Alice soon discovers that this Wonderland is infected with destruction and it’s being ravaged by an infernal gigantic train of origins unknown. Thus, Alice begins her quest to find out about who runs the train and what purpose does it serve, regaining lost memories along the way. Memories of her past and her family and the fire that took place years before, in an attempt to regain her sanity and save Wonderland from destruction. While there, she is always accompanied by the cynical Cheshire Cat, who watches over her, providing advice, often in the form of more or less philosophical sentences.


Like its predecessor, this game consists mainly in progressing trough the ever-changing Wonderland, by platforming, solving puzzles and killing enemies along the way. There is a good variety of enemies, with many being exclusive to each chapter of the game. From dark slime enemies with a doll face to giant slime enemies with several faces, ghosts, samurai, maniac baby dolls, walking piranhas and of course card guards, there sure is a lot of stuff to kill. For this you have the aid of five different weapons, acquired throughout the game. These are: The Vorpal Blade, a runed dagger used to strike repetitively in rapid succession, the Pepper Grinder that can be used as a rifle using pepper for ammunition, the Hobby Horse, a bigger, slower weapon that works pretty much like a two-handed mace and that can be used to break certain walls or breaking through enemy defenses and shields, the Teapot Canon, that you can use to shoot balls of boiling tea to kill enemies at range and the Clockwork Bomb, a funny looking bomb resembling the always late Rabbit from the original story that you can detonate from afar. This last one is often used to apply weight on buttons so you can progress through the game.

Each weapon can be upgraded three times (with the exception of the Clockwork Bomb), each upgrade increasing the speed and/or damage and changing the way the weapon looks (the dagger gets a shine to it, the hobby horse gets a unicorn horn, etc.). This can be done by collecting “Hollow Ivory” (teeth) scattered everywhere in the game. Each enemy throughout the game has weak spots, and even though increasing the difficulty makes them sturdier and stronger, once you figure out the right way to kill each one of them it makes little difference, except when facing larger groups of enemies, which requires just a bit more of attention and reflexes. Your health bar is represented by a string of roses, each one divided into 4 parts. If you die in combat you are often taken a bit back in the game, to the last save point. However, if you die by platforming (falling, hitting spikes, etc) you will be taken to the last platform you were standing in. When close to death you can activate Hysteria Mode, making Alice invulnerable and increasing her damage for a while. This also makes everything go black and white (and blood-red) for the duration.

You can also increase the number of roses by completing the “Radula Rooms”, hidden bonus levels that may contain challenges such as, surviving in a sea of enemies for a set amount of time, killing a group of enemies or just answering a riddle from the Cheshire Cat. There are also some occasions in the game where you will be presented with some kind of mini-game, which is good to keep things interesting, as the game is considerably long and may get tiring or repetitive if you play it for a while. In addition, each chapter of the game has its designated dress for Alice to use, and upon completing the game you may then choose which dress you want Alice to be in, regardless of the chapter. Each dress adds a bonus effect to Alice, like getting more teeth from enemies, more roses or getting health regeneration abilities. Along the way, there will be tons of collectibles to gather, in case you want to completely unlock the character list, which contains some data about each character in the game, some text telling you more about Alice’s history, and all the cut-scenes. As you get closer to the end of the game, Alice will find out the truth about her past and will begin to comprehend what the train represents. The last chapter will happen inside the very own train where the final battle will happen.

Alice, being “part frog”, as described by her little sister, has a great jumping ability which is aided by the fact that she can use her dress to glide and double, triple and quadruple jump, allowing her to travel considerable distances without touching the ground. She can also shrink from a certain point up in the game, which must be done either to just progress trough the game, to collect hidden items or to activate the Shrink Vision, revealing invisible platforms and marks on the wall, that may act as a guide, telling you which direction to follow or as a clue, indicating hidden collectibles that may be close by.


Well, first off, I should say that one of the first things I had to do after trying this game for the first time was to find out why my framerate was locked at 30. Turns out, the graphical engine is limited to 30 fps since that’s how the consoles run it. That’s all fine but why the heck would you limit it on the PC version? So, I went looking for the responsible file andchange the fps cap to 60. The graphics are pretty good and fluid when you do this, and the ambience of the game, at least the initial ambience is beautiful. Everything is so shiny and colorful, the artists and designers did an excellent job on that part.

 However, pretty as it might seem, this is definitely not a game for children. Unlike the animated movie, here we have a cruel reality where Alice’s condition gets pretty serious at some point in time, getting her sent to an asylum where gruesome things are done to her, the “treatment” so to speak (as you see later in the game). There is a considerable maturity level to this game, there’s swearing, dark secrets and dark and twisted zones that can frighten you a bit. There is even child molesting in the story.

The game is actually pretty big, I didn’t expect it to take me so long to finish being a relatively simple platforming game. The first playthrough on Hard difficulty took me 14 hours, plus I din an extra play-through on Nightmare difficulty to get all of the collectibles. In fact, although I really liked the game when I started playing it, about 8 hours in it began to feel a little repetitive. Not that much though, as the chapters changed, and so changed the scenery and the characters (most of them at least). There are various mini games along the way that help getting a bit of variety in the game (some are pretty fun). Also, as you advance trough the game, the story continues to develop, and you start to find out what really happened in Alice’s past that created such an internal conflict (initially, Alice is convinced that she somehow started the fired that killed her family, even though she can't remember it clearly) and you feel increasingly curious and eager to find out what really happened, keeping you glued to your controller (or keyboard). Speaking of keyboard, this is where the greatest flaw of the game resides. Even though it's a kind of console port, aside from the 30 fps lock detail (which can by easily dealt with) I saw no graphical issues at all, as expected of Unreal Engine 3 I guess. What I DID see was a disastrous keyboard support. The boat mini-game can become unplayable with the keyboard as the assigned keys for firing the canon or dropping mines may or may not work (re-assigning keys apparently only makes it worse, eliminating what little functionality you might have) and after about 10 hours in I was forced to change to a controller as an action key needed to progress wouldn’t work at all. I don’t really mind using a controller, in fact I have an Xbox360 controller for windows and I love it, but to play in Hard difficulty in a way you’re not used to at all (keyboard to controller) makes it a lot harder for you to progress, as you’re not used to the new key settings. As such, if you are going to play it on PC, I recommend using a gamepad from the start.

 As for the characters, they are bizarre to say the least, the Hatter seems to care with nothing but having tea, and that’s not everything. One of the first major objectives is to retrieve his arms and legs, stolen by the Dormouse and the March Hare to use as additional work force in their factories. Them too, seem completely fixed on getting stuff done (whatever it is), maniacal about their work. The Cheshire Cat is somewhat creepy with his skeletal appearance and mischievous aura, although maybe due to his soothing voice or apparent wisdom, is the kind of character I’d like to keep close.All the characters in the game are somehow weird and funny at the same time, some more than others, as you will find out if you ever play it. As an additional curiosity, the voice actor is the same one that did the voice for Mojo Jojo (The Powerpuff Girls) and The Eye of Sauron (Lord of the Rings).

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

The Good
The Bad
  • Four different levels of difficulty, none of them unreasonably hard (I actually finished the game on nightmare!);
  • Engaging story, keeps you glued to the game;
  • Mature setting, it’s a darker game than what you might think.
  •  Bad keyboard support;
  • On the PC version the game engine is stupidly capped at 30fps. Even if this is fixable….what the heck, it’s Unreal Engine 3 we’re talking about;


Just like Alice Liddel, one experiences a variety of emotions throughout the game, either by the bizarre errands the main character has to do or the strange events Alice uncovers little by little, in the real world, as she finally solves the mystery of her past, the death of her family but also the trauma she suffered which might have been the reason of Wonderland's existence. A strange, yet captivating game. I picked it up for a bit over 10€ in Steam's Christmas sale and I didn’t regret it.

My Final Gameplay Stats

Time Played: 37 Hours
Achievements Unlocked: Not available in the PC version.
Difficulty played the most: Nightmare
Overall Game Progress: 100%