Platforms: Windows, PS3, XBox 360
Alice: Madness Returns is the second game which made me regret I hadn’t spent more time on platforming games in the past (the first being the incomparable Psychonauts). It seems like the older I get, the more my twitch reflexes fail me, and the lack of practice with the genre makes these games immensely frustrating to attempt to complete. I even re-purchased the game for the XBox 360, despite already having it for the PC, because I hoped a controller would make it more manageable. It’s a game I desperately want to be able to finish someday.
And yet, there’s so many reasons I shouldn’t recommend it to others. Graphically, it hasn’t held up nearly as well as some of its contemporaries. It’s an Electronic Arts title, which forces you to go through Origin, even if you bought it through another DRM platform, such as Steam. The PC version offers zero controller compatibility. It’s almost criminally overpriced for a five year old game, and it’s almost impossible to get ahold of a legal copy these days (as of the time of this writing, it’s been removed from both the Steam Store and the Origin Store). Lastly, it’s the second game in a trilogy that is unlikely to never be finished, and the first game is even harder to acquire than this one (although, of note, it is included in the linked Amazon product).
With that many strikes against it, you may wonder why I bother with it at all. I fully admit to being a sucker for all things Wonderland, but it’s more than that. It’s how gloriously dark the game is. It’s the hundreds of collectibles and the fact you get to shoot flying pig snouts with a pepper grinder. It’s the fact that you turn into butterflies when you die (which if you’re me happens often). It’s the fact that I took more than 30 screenshots in a 30 minute play session because there’s so much gothic beauty I want to share. It’s the myriad of details that come together and make you want to press forward.
Mostly, I love it because once you’re inside the game, once you’re in this terrible awful version of Wonderland, you will forget all about the tedium and the annoyance it took to get to this point, and just get lost in it.
If you’re the type to want to explore everywhere you can, to touch everything, to try to break things just to see what happens, you can easily get 30 hours out of a single playthrough of Alice: Madness Returns, and those hours will stick with you. If you have a last gen console hanging around still, I’d recommend picking it up for that platform – you’ll save $10, and you won’t have to deal with Origin at all. This game truly is a hidden gem, and absolutely still worth the price and the time if you enjoy 3D platformers (or even if you don’t but can muddle through while enjoying the art and the dialogue).