Alice: Madness Returns is a twisted nightmare mash-up of platforming, action, and mini-games that's sure to put a creepy Cheshire smile on your face.
From the opening sequence, you'll see your fairy tale version of Wonderland decapitated, set on fire, and flayed alive. And that's just the first chapter. Keep in mind that it gets much, much worse. But in this case, worse is better.
Madness Returns is a continuation of the original American McGee's Alice, released in 2000. Don't fret if you didn't play the original, because new copies of Madness Returns contain a code to download the original Alice. Free content is nice, huh?
As you progress through the game, you'll visit a steampunk version of the Mad Hatter's domain, the crumbling ruins of the Red Queen's castle, and plenty of other strangely familiar locales. Armed with the Vorpal Blade (in this case, a blood-stained butcher knife), a pepper grinder, and other strange armaments, you fight corrupted creatures with baby doll faces on your quest to save both Wonderland and your own fading sanity.
The story is as perverse and eerie as the rest of the game. You spend most of Madness Returns trying to piece together what actually happened at the end of the first game. In Madness Returns, though, the story is backdrop for the artwork, instead of the other way around.
Artistically, Madness Returns is phenomenal. Each location, enemy, puzzle, and tiny aspect of the game has been masterfully designed and brought to haunting life. The styles range from steampunk to autopsy to Japanese samurai, and clocking in at about 20 hours, there's plenty to keep your mind teetering on the edge of hysteria.
Refusing to simply make an excellent and fun action/platformer, developer Spicy Horse has sprinkled mini-games throughout the game to mix up gameplay. There are side-scrolling shooter sections, puzzles, riddles, and 2D platforming areas to keep things interesting from beginning to end.
Alice: Madness Returns does everything right. The art, gameplay, and overall mood combine for an enjoyable descent into insanity and carnage. Add upgradable weapons, cheap extra content, and a free copy of the original Alice game, and Madness Returns is disturbingly exceptional.