Old Game Review: Alice

Zubon sent out a call to the blogosphere to shake the dust off the ancient tomes of code and review old games.  It was a toss up between two of my favorite oldies: Sacrifice and Alice, and since mpb did a good job old-reviewing Sacrifice that leaves me with…

American McGee’s Alice

Alice was the nodal point between the flurry of id Tech 3 (Quake3) engine licenses and Lewis Carroll’s works residing for all to pluck in the public domain.  Add in the estranged imagination of an ex-id Software employee and an old Nine Inch Nails musician and strip away any Disney taint and what remains is a Grimm-like fairy tale with the perfect mélange of horror and angst.

The game came out of practically nowhere with one of my favorite game trailers of all time.  Actually, the game trailer (and rendered cinematics) get their own separate paragraph they are so good.  The opening cinematic is a perfect vignette that tells the story of how Alice became mentally broken.  …I guess I’ll go on.

The game itself is an FPS that plays in third-person view because they added in a few simple platform-type waylays to a game that is largely about throwing your huge-ass knife into things.  For better or worse, Alice plays more like an MMO where you worry about agro than an FPS where you go in guns blazing and survive by pure “Boom, Headshot!” skill.  This is particularly annoying in the forest with the mushrooms that try and draw Alice into their teeth-flaps as you have to agro each one separately in order to manage their gravitational pull.  However, the pacing is usually good, and the boss fights have none of the above problem.

The graphics are still decent by today’s standards, and the great level and character design is one of the main reasons for the tight graphics presentation.  The sound polishes the experience to a shine with the ambient, semi-industrial music and good sound effects. The voice acting and lines are actually quite good, and Roger Jackson’s voicing of the Cheshire Cat gives me shivers it’s so perfect.

The best part, though, is the story.  The game plays in a very cinematic style, but it somehow gets it right.  One doesn’t merely press X through a million lines of dialogue or do crosswords during super long cut scenes.  The cut scenes are short and to the point (usually), and not in the middle of an adrenaline rush of action.  The story itself is a girl’s journey through her imagination, which has been broken due to her parent’s death.  Metaphor is heavy, but by using the world of Alice’s Wonderland, it does not come off as overly angsty or pretentious.

I’ve seen the game for $10 at Wal-Mart, but surprisingly I cannot find the game via (legal) online distribution.  Regardless, I highly recommend this gem if you passed it by.  You can play it before the long awaited movie is released (or possibly before the script is written).

We’re all mad here.