“I’ve not come back here looking for a fight,” says Alice as she examines the edge of the Vorpal Blade with her fingertip.

“That’s a pity,” replies the Cheshire Cat, “one’s certainly looking for you.” 

Once there was a fantastical story about a young girl, bored of her everyday proper life of tea parties and outings, who found herself stumbling down an abysmal rabbit hole. The world she awoke to was immense and something of her wildest dreams.  This was a place that made the impossible, possible.  Talking rabbits, insane tea parties, dragons, shrinking and growing, riddling cats, and all in all, everyone around was truly quite mad. Lewis Carroll first introduced audiences to Wonderland in 1865 (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) and since then many adaptions have come about, the most well known probably  being the works of Disney both in animation and a more current release in 2010.

A few years back (well, if a few equals 11) a video game by the name of American McGee’s Alice found its way to computers everywhere. The magical and illogical realm so well known and loved was finally able to be explored by eager audiences.  However, the Wonderland people received was a Wonderland gone horribly wrong. The game takes place following Alice’s adventures in Through the Looking Glass; as her house is burned to the ground leaving her entire family killed save for her, the only survivor.  The cause and reason unknown, Alice quickly loses herself and is placed in Rutledge Insane Asylum.  Ten years after the fire, Alice is summoned back to Wonderland by the white rabbit but finds her once joyful escape reminiscent of her current state of mind: chaos and terror.  She begins to fight her way battle by bloody battle in order to save Wonderland from the Queen’s morbid reign all the while hoping that by saving the twisted Wonderland her mind has made, she will be able to save herself before it is too late.

Now we arrive at a time that fans of the genre and previous game have awaited for years: a sequel.  Alice: Madness Returns  picks up directly after the events of American McGee’s Alice.  After Alice’s release from the penitentiary, she now resides in an orphanage under the careful observation of Doctor Bumby.  She is still horribly traumatized by the fire that mercilessly stole her home and parent’s lives but continues to go about life in Victorian London.  On orders from the doctor Alice makes her way to the town’s chemist to pick up her medication.  Along the way, a small white cat catches her attention and she begins to follow it (with a small remark on how following small white creatures tends to lead her straight into trouble).  Another turn down the ally and Alice find herself surrounded.  Horrifying visions of unimaginable creatures begin to close in from all sides.  Just as panic completely takes over it comes to a screeching halt.  Before her stands an small elderly woman,  a nurse from the insane asylum. Whether she be her savior or tormentor is left to be decided as events soon rage out of control. It isn’t long before the insanity overwhelms Alice, and she soon awakens to a place she had thought left long behind her: Wonderland.

This Wonderland is not how she left it though.  The Red Queen’s previous terror seemed a walk through the park compared to what Wonderland faces now.  The Cheshire Cat appears here and there offering cryptic advice as you soon discover invaluable weapons such as the Vorpal Blade and the Pepper Grinder amongst various others that will aid in your survival. You quickly meet the Mad Hatter, torn limb from limb by the now evilly mechanized Dormouse and March Hare, and soon learn of an infernal train that is set to destroy Wonderland leaving nothing left in its wake.

Alice spirals in and out of Wonderland throughout the game.  The majority of each chapter takes place within Wonderland with brief glimpses of her deranged, dismal, and psychotic life on the streets of London interluding in between.  The changing settings only emphasize the striking resemblance between the realms for Alice.  Her insanity taking over, saving Wonderland is the only way she will be able to emerge from within herself intact.   As each striking moment unravels the peril of just how lost her mind has become, the depth of the situation truly comes to light.

I am only nearing the halfway point of the game but from the moment it began to play I was entranced.  The story is dark, surreal, and almost humorous at times and the over all game play and battles are rapid and smooth once you fully understand the extent of your arsenal.  A slew of puzzles, exploration, maneuvering, and fighting keep things from becoming too monotonous and the various difficulties, in-game items, and trophies to acquire will ensure replay value.  Once finished there will be more of a review, however for the moment, Wonderland is still in peril.  So ask yourself one question:

Are you brave enough to let insanity take reign? Wonderland awaits…

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