Alice: Madness Returns Exclusive Preview

We venture into the Mad Hatter's domain to get a glimpse of Alice's distorted Wonderland.

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It wasn't too long ago that we paid a visit to Wonderland and spent some time getting to know some of the twisted creatures that reside in that fantastical world. Creative director American McGee and executive producer RJ Berg once again team up in this sequel to the cult classic American McGee's Alice, which is being developed by McGee's studio Spicy Horse in Shanghai and published by EA. During the week of the Game Developers Conference we jumped ahead and took a tour of a later level, Queensland. For more information, you can read our preview here. EA recently came by our office to show us a new level, this time from Chapter 1, where we can see the beginnings of Alice's dark descent into madness.

The Hatter's domain is one of the first areas you'll visit after the tutorial stage. Here, judging by the color palette and decor, there's a distinct steam punk vibe to the area that has been carefully crafted in Alice's troubled mind. And that's where Wonderland exists, in the mind of the young girl who lost her family 10 years ago. The game's story follows Alice between Victorian London and Wonderland as she tries to piece together lost memories and dig deeper into her repressed ones. As you explore Wonderland, you can pick up two types of memories: the smaller audio snippets are suppressed voices from her past, and when you come across a larger memory, Alice will have an epiphany regarding the events from that devastating night.

In the beginning you won't have access to all the weapons. However, we were able to mess around with Alice's full repertoire to see how it works in combat. For the most part, we preferred using Alice's vorpal blade, which deals quick melee strikes. But each enemy type has a weakness, so it's almost impossible to get through by just mashing one button. The long-range weapons, such as the fast-firing pepper grinder and the explosive teapot cannon, are great for getting enemies out of the way before you get too close. The auto-lock-on feature is helpful, but there is a free aim mode as well if you prefer to maneuver on your own. The first enemies we faced were the Mad Caps. These gremlin-like creatures were relatively easy to dispose of, except some came armed with a shield that would deflect our repeated blows. By watching how they move, however, you'll soon learn that they'll come at you fully with their fork, and if you dodge out of the way, it'll leave them wide open to your attacks. Another enemy type included flying creatures known as bolterflies (basically bolts with wings), which spawn from a nest repeatedly and do nothing but get in your way. Taking out the hive will clear them for good, but you have to watch for these things and think carefully about how to proceed.

On top of being able to wield a variety of deadly kitchenware, Alice can dodge quickly and jump multiple times, leaving a flurry of pretty blue butterflies in her wake. Once she comes across the shrink flower, she can shrink on command and explore areas for collectibles and other goodies. The insane children have left clues on the walls, so it pays to look around to see what has been scrawled. Like the drawings, certain platforms are visible only in this shrunken state. You'll find that enemies will leave behind teeth, which is the currency in the game that will let you upgrade your weapons--up to four times each. It's worth taking the extra time to explore, since there are "drink me" bottles to collect that will unlock concept art and additional bios in the main menu, giving you more character backstory.

Real world themes will make their way into the twisted Wonderland.

As you progress through this murder mystery, you'll venture through beautifully painted worlds, each with its own unique style and art direction. Alice's outfit and hobbyhorse change as you go, to match with the overall aesthetic. Even the enemies themselves match the surroundings, and as twisted as they are, the detail and creativity behind them is worth noting. There are four difficulty settings in the game, and while we played the game on normal, it provided a decent challenge, especially when we spent a good amount of time figuring out which weapon to use against what enemy. It's much more tactical than a straight-up button masher because if you treat it as such, you won't get very far. The platforming portions aren't too tough once you get used to how Alice jumps and glides around. To really get an idea of how the game plays and looks, be sure to watch the video preview embedded above.

Alice: Madness Returns looks to make quite a comeback with its stunning visuals and varied gameplay. We are eager to spend more time in Wonderland and uncover all of its secrets when it is released on June 14 for the PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.

Discussion

135 comments
dangerdoom73
dangerdoom73

Damn,sweet littleAlice has turned into a Bad-Azz!! :)

slabber44
slabber44

Loved the first game and this one looks just as promising. Definitely getting. The twisted style of American McGee has always interested me.

bakagami
bakagami

Sorry but if those are the only weapons you get in the game I'm going to be disappointed. essentially these are just fancied up versions of a shotgun, machine gun, & club

Smokescreened84
Smokescreened84

This game sounds and looks promising, and with the first game being offered with new copies of the game then that's a good deal, two games for the price of one and it should give more people the chance to play the first game. My pre-order is made, now just to wait. Good to see a platform like game appea ron the 360, there are so few of those and it's a breath of fresh air from all the FPS games that clog the market.

alchael
alchael

Alice is still insanely attractive as ever in a twisted lolita kind of way.

maic
maic

this is shaping up real nice :) it´s on my "to buy" list as of now...

rpgisforme
rpgisforme

the original Alice is to this day still one of my top favorite PC games of all time and I am dying to get my hands on this game. Itiseven more awesome that it comes out the day beforemy birthday so I'm sure it will be among my gifts :)

kekejefferis
kekejefferis

I have paid no attention to this game that is until now. It looks very promising and i'm certainly going to keep an eye on this and if it all turns out well i'll buy it. Looks good.

TRBO_RAD
TRBO_RAD

I only played parts on the first Alice bc when it came out i was too young to even really know what it was but i remember playing it some and it was pretty awesome i will definitely be checking this out...

gormo4
gormo4

Looks dark and interesting, bring it ;)

TheOriginalTjM
TheOriginalTjM

Good job EA Now just hire a dev to make another Undying and I'll be happy

Antillio
Antillio

Not a Alice fan by any means but... This looks to be 1 of the more interesting and most promesing looking 3d platform game in a while now. The art desgin is creepy good. Now i just hope the game will be lenghty & story good, the gameplay already looks solid.

ilidiandemon
ilidiandemon

Must.. play.. last scene... now... :Q___________

termadoyle
termadoyle

sounds really nice. This generation is extremely lacking in the horror department. Let's hope this will saturate horror fans like me to some extent.

capthappy8p
capthappy8p

wow im excited for this, the first one was so great! brings back so many good memories

puppeteer
puppeteer

Lol I can see there are some young gamers:) Seeing this as a gore fairytale quick sell. In late 1999-2000 Alice was released on PC only and was exactly like this twisted wonderland of an older more mature Alice. This is the sequel to the late 1999-2000 Alice that was made on the Quake 3 engine.

jscapo
jscapo

This makes me very happy.

shadow-crow
shadow-crow

@Kos1c this is actually a sequel to another game that did well and this looks a lot less gory than the first you should look up American Mcgee's Alice this only has the names and places in common with the books and movies

Kos1c
Kos1c

I've not played any Alice in wonderland games, nor really seen any of the movies. I know the movie is meant to be a fairytale thing, but this just looks like their trying to sell of a gore in a fairytale game, in high hopes it does well. I could honestly be wrong about my claims, but that's what i am seeing. From the review video above, it doesn't look too appealing to me, so this is a skip.

mAnIk800
mAnIk800

cant say i played the 1st one either...but looks different so im keen to give it a go :)

ThaLootDog
ThaLootDog

Never played the first one, but it reminds me of a really dark psychonauts. When it comes out if I hear it lives up to that expectation I'll be sold.

Andreazz
Andreazz

I loved the first game and have high hopes for this one, but before buying I'll read the reviews for warning signs of consolitus.

RhysHayes
RhysHayes

This is simply the worst implementation of a game idea I've ever seen.

kaem79
kaem79

@shanethewolf yeah, you're right. outdated and cliched and childish. there you all have alice madness returns in a nutshell...

kaem79
kaem79

@dyurth stop your bull****. flashes of colors when you hit a enemy, wtf is that!? the game is a mature game and then they use a cartoonish fighting style. it can destroy the whole game you know. I'm for one will not buy this ******* game...

dexter_graves
dexter_graves

It's too bad McGee's game "Bad Day L.A." ended up being so notoriously awful. It was an AWESOME idea. Remember the premise? An African-American homeless veteran struggles to survive Los Angeles as it copes with giant Earthquakes, rioting citizens, an invasion by the Mexican Army and the first day of a large scale alien invasion. Had the gameplay matched the premise it could have been a classic in video game subversion to rival anything Rockstar has ever done. I never actually played it but I've never, ever read anything good about it. If I could get American McGee funding to further develop the title into something playable and fun, I totally would. Being a lifelong California resident. I understand how the cultural influence of L.A. makes you want to get a gun.

palmakoy
palmakoy

wow the ending was messed up

palmakoy
palmakoy

i remeber the first time i saw that freaky excuse for a cat and that methed out alice in 2002.the image will never leave my head.

Coolyfett
Coolyfett

Whoa this game looks really twisted

im-a-roustabout
im-a-roustabout

Game looks pretty cool! Idk about the gameplay mind you.

dyurth
dyurth

@shane & kaem: Believe me when I say this game will be anything but childish. If it's just blood you want, play Mortal Kombat or something...

ArticRecon
ArticRecon

I LOVED the first one.. glad to see it is coming back. Hope the gameplay is as good as the first one. Also a polished update with modern console controls and graphics.

Decon87
Decon87

This is a buy for me just because the world looks so amazing to explore. If there's one thing that I love in video games, it's the exploration, and this looks like it offers plenty of it in a bunch of different environments.

shanethewolf
shanethewolf

@kaem79 I totally agree. All this flashing and fireworks looks chilish and pretty silly, not to mention how outdated and cliched it is.

shanethewolf
shanethewolf

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Draxargh
Draxargh

I'm going to name my son "American"

Yams1980
Yams1980

framerate looks bad whenever you use attacks, hope its just the video thats making it look like this

killer690
killer690

Nice, one of the games I want to play this year.

BoredBuffalo
BoredBuffalo

I love the first game,the atmosphere was just awesome,this game looks so sick,great graphics,fantastic effects and looks really fun to play ^^ I must buy it!

ahmadsnake
ahmadsnake

The only thing missing is co-op from this game, to be able to play this game with a friend would be icing on top of the cake!

Talk2Luke
Talk2Luke

As soon as I saw this game was coming out, nostalgia kicked in. I played through the original Alice once or twice and loved every moment of it. The atmosphere, story and gameplay were all amazing. I tried to speak about it at work but just got a blank face, out of the hundreds of people I've met only ONE person has played the first game. If this game is half as good as the first one, it'll be amazing.

kaem79
kaem79

flashes in different colors when alice hits enemies is a complete failure, and for what? theres supposed to be blood not flashes when you hit the enemies u tard's. is blood to brutal for you? then you're developing the wrong game...

irwin888
irwin888

Oh Lord let there be 60 extra dollars magically laying in my wallet this June...

CammiTac
CammiTac

The first game is one of my favorites. I really, really hope that this one turns out to be great.

minordprincess
minordprincess

I remember I bought the first game as a gift for a friend. Then I felt so jealous I bought another one for myself the very next day. The store clerk looked at me so strangely...