Chasing small furry animals down alley ways and rabbit holes remains a vice for poor Alice, her mind yearning for an escape from reality. What creatures can she dream up this time? – nothing too pleasant it seems. Join us as we review Alice: Madness Returns on the PC and see what dark depravities Spicy Horse came up with in this sequel.
Alice: Madness Returns is a mixed bag. It’s beautiful, stylistic, random, twisted, corrupt and just plain weird in places, and for that, Spicy Horse should be pleased with themselves. Its style and conjuration of a very dark and deranged Wonderland is both commendable and unique. The gameplay could do with some work though.
Repetitive double and triple tapping the space bar with cramp-inducing Tab, Shift and assorted key work for 12-15 hours really brings a downer on the situation.
This is a console game through and through. Rendering is hard capped at 30 frames per second but taking regular dips to 15 FPS for no reason (PhysX related perhaps?). When frames are hard capped at 30 with motion blur on camera movement, it can certainly become distracting when you’re used to something closer to 60 FPS.
It becomes even more distracting when mouse acceleration is forced upon you, making the mouse behave more like a joystick with finer movements. The game is playable with a mouse and keyboard, don’t get me wrong – at times it can even be fun. But when you have to frantically mash your hand on the left side of the keyboard to get Alice to ‘perform’, it wears you out… wait – that came out wrong.
Both PhysX and 3D stereoscopic rendering are available should you have the relevant hardware. Increasing PhysX levels just increases the amount of debris from things being hit and can be played on high without a dedicated NVIDIA GPU – should you have powerful enough CPU. I could not test the stereoscopic effect at this time due to a lack of the correct hardware.
So where does that leave us? For those that love to explore, there is plenty on offer, but the combat may get in your way. There isn’t much of a story either to be honest, but the game is full of amusing moments, such as eating a piece of cake, gaining a few feet in height, and then leaving you to run around on a stomping kill spree.
As a platformer, it can become dull pretty quickly after the novelty wears off. There are still bugs too; landing on the very edge of a platform, walking backwards slightly to get back on and falling off the edge; during a level change while still holding the run key can sometimes result in the run being stuck, with the only way to stop is to jump.
As a piece of art, Alice: Madness Returns is exotic, twisted and beautiful – as a game, it’s a bit of a bore. Whether you are after one or the other is up to you. Madness is within the picking and not just the playing.
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