The brief teaser trailer from EA's studio showcase a few months ago left us eager to see more of Alice: Madness Returns, the sequel to American McGee's take on Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. At EA's Tokyo showcase in Shinjuku, Japan, American McGee revealed another tantalizing trailer, and we were able to get a first look at the game. While it was strictly a hands-off demo, we did see our heroine, Alice, in her signature blue and white dress slash her way through all kinds of demented creatures.
The trailer showed Alice in Victorian London, pale and gaunt, shivering as she walks down the deserted street. She is drawn toward a display of marionettes where she sees some familiar characters having tea. Her dead parents suddenly appear in the reflection, standing solemnly in front of a fountain that is now spilling blood. Before we know it, the display bursts into flames, and she's yanked into the inferno by a swarm of tentacles. This sets us up for the demo, which places Alice in the Vale of Tears, a beautiful landscape with floating islands, discarded dominoes, and extra-large mushrooms to jump across. This area highlighted the platforming aspect of the game, and we see that Alice can leap as well as double jump to higher ground.
In the next area, Alice comes across a hovering purple potion labeled "drink me" that pours an endless amount of fluid into a lake. She drinks this, of course, which then causes her to shrink, giving her access to new areas as well as the ability to see messages scrawled on the walls. During EA's presentation, McGee said that in this world, Alice is an idealized version of herself. A more beautiful, stronger, and more confident woman who is able to defend herself physically and mentally. As distorted as everything is already, she brings her own madness into the world, so as her surroundings begin to degenerate, her sanity starts to go as well.
Alice is given some new weapons to help her on her journey into madness. Other than brandishing her deadly vorpal blade, she can now wield a pepper grinder like a machine gun. This allows her to fire a stream of deadly bullets of some kind, while keeping a safe distance. McGee mentioned that each enemy is like a puzzle, and the only way to destroy them is to find their weakness and exploit it. You're also given a hobby horse and a teapot at some point, but it looks like we're going to have to wait to see how they work in battle.
Like in the previous game, there is a mix of exploration and platforming along with the combat, where you may need to hit switches to reveal a path to the next area. The game is linear, so there's no chance of getting lost, but you will need to wander off the beaten path of hidden objects and collectibles.
What made the first Alice so appealing was the gorgeous, dark art style, and that has continued in Madness Returns. Familiar creatures return, like the china-doll-faced nightmare spiders as well as the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter. New characters will make their way in this bizarre world, so it'll be interesting to see who we'll run into. We're looking forward to being able to play the game, as this demo was for our eyes only, and the build was still in pre-alpha. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more information as soon as it becomes available. Alice: Madness Returns is set to come out in 2011 on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.