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Alice: Madness Returns Review

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The Wonderland Years...

★★★★★

It’s fortunate that Alice: Madness Returns omits any mention of Wonderland from its title, otherwise you could accuse the sequel of false advertising. American McGee’s second exploration into the tattered psyche of Alice isn’t lacking in ideas, or style, but both are lost in a hodgepodge of nonsensical storytelling and stretched gameplay.

The grotesque caricatures that inhabit Wonderland are as vibrant and deliciously vile as they were back in the 2000 predecessor, but the series hasn’t evolved in the decade since its debut. The visuals are choppy, the animation lacking and the gameplay at times sags under the weight of its own ambitions. There are large stretches of tiresome platforming, leading to run-of-the-mill puzzles so mundane they could have easily ambled in from one of our own skewed nightmares.

Thank goodness then for the eccentric blend of thumping action. Demented teapots and tar-like sludge monsters come up against a deranged armory boasting the likes of a powerful Pepper Pot gatling gun and deadly teapot bombs, among other equally inventive battlefield accompaniments. It’s a surprisingly skilful blend mainly reliant on using the right weapon against the right enemy, but feels consistently rewarding with each burst of ferocious violence.

It’s a scattershot return for poor Alice whose mental state looks less inspiring with age. A bunch of great ideas spread thinly across some outdated gameplay exercises fail to really get the synapses firing. Frankly, it’s just not mad enough for our tastes.

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