American McGee's Alice Review
developer: Rogue Entertainment
PII-400, 64MB RAM, 3D accelerator
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Dec 05, 00
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Alice is back in Wonderland, although this time it's not really that much of a place for an autistic little girl who lost her parents, as it is a world of a manically depressive Goth teenager with razorblade attitude and a dark inward personality. Follow the white rabbit and listen to the Cheshire Cat all over again, as Alice once again slips through the hole and travels deep into her overworked mind...
I've been following the progress of this game ever since the first announcements started appearing on the net, but I never gave it my full attention. Instead of telling you how I was immediately taken by the concept of playing a twisted action game with Alice as the protagonist, I'll go out on a limb here and admit that I simply hated the idea (I thought Counter-Strike players and goddamn Alice just don't mix). I thought the whole idea was - well, stupid... Why would a teenage or an adult male gamer feel the need to play Alice for hours? And in Wonderland of all places?! I thought that the hardcore shooter audience (id's Doom-converted generation), which is predominantly male, and is looking for hooters and flashiness first, subtle personality traits later (at least I do -- shows how much character I got) wouldn't feel like identifying with a Goth teenage girl. I also thought that the author, American McGee was acting more like a "gaming god," than a 'serious' developer, and that the Rogue Entertainment team was relying more on the marketing value of a well-know license than their ability to create a kick ass PC game (even though the screenshots didn't sway my opinion). All these factors combined suggested that Alice is going to be just another Indy 3D, or Phantom Menace ("great license, mediocre game" routine). The fact that American used to work for id didn't really help either. With all due respect to John Carmack, id dev. team was never renowned for their in-depth single player concepts, which made me a little weary about American McGee's ability to deliver a kick ass single player experience. Especially with titles like: Outcast, NOLF, and Half Life delivering incredibly complex and immersive gaming worlds and changing the face of single player action games as we know it.
OK, so I really didn't like the whole "gaming god" hype over American McGee simply because the guy's talents were excessively praised without any of us getting a taste of Rogue Entertainment's handiwork. Yeah, I presumed EA knew what they were doing, but still... Well, that changed now. My whole outtake on the man's ability to deliver, Goth Alice, and Rogue Entertainment has changed drastically. I didn't even want to admit this to myself, but the more I ventured into the world of American McGee's Alice, the more I felt like going through another scene and just reaching that next level before I take a coffee break. American McGee's Alice is very much different from some of the recent action adventures I've reviewed, like: FAKK2 and Rune in a sense that it is more of a hardcore 'old school' game. What do I mean by this. It's hard to explain accurately... Both FAKK2 and Rune are trying hard to incorporate the storyline, the characters and the plot twists into the action by including as much as adventure (narrative style) elements as possible, therefore linking different action sequences into a cohesive action adventure mix. Alice is different, as it doesn't rely as much on the narrative side, introduction or the cinematic approach to game design. Alice puts players in medias res with very little explanation as to why we're here and what is our task. Instead of starting off with a comprehensive narrative introduction, you jump into Wonderland, and just start your journey with bits and pieces of the puzzle falling into place as the game goes on. And this is why Alice reminds me of the "old school," but in a very positive way. Although it is still fairly story-driven, it is more of a game-game that aims to captivate with gameplay rather than making you feel like you're in an interactive movie. I started out playing Alice thinking I'm in for a rigid licensing deal which attempts to imitate a movie experience, but what I got was a "true and pure game" 3D action platformer, action title with blistering and addictive gameplay, nearly to the point of comparing it to Rayman 2: The Great Escape and Mario. And the ironic thing is that the game starts with a lot of scripted action sequences, which don't really promise a whole lot in terms of gameplay depth or storyline (throw you off track), but it all falls into place as the game progresses. For a game that promises so little gameplay in the beginning, Alice sure slaps you in the face with a big, fat hunk of gameplay later.
Outstanding design, addictive gameplay. The game's got style.
Too linear, could've use more logical puzzles.