Game: "American McGee's Alice"
System: PC
Genre: Action
Published by: Electronic Arts

Reviewer: Protoclown
Posted: 2/20/2008

Review: American McGee's Alice is set years after Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. After her second adventure in Wonderland, Alice's parents died in a fire and she spent several years after that in a catatonic state at a mental asylum. Eventually the White Rabbit appears to Alice, begging for her aid and summoning her back to a severely troubled Wonderland under the rule of the Queen of Hearts.

Alice is a third-person shooter that differs from most other shooters from the same era: instead of playing a beefy, muscle-bound gun-toting maniac, you play a scrawny, mentally disturbed young woman who wields unconventional weapons such as playing cards, a mallet, jacks, dice, and yes, even a vorpal blade and blunderbuss. There've been many other shooters that have bucked the trend in years since, but for it's time this was a game that really stood apart from the crowd.

This may well be the most visually stimulating and imaginative game I have ever played in terms of level design. For it's day back in 2000, the graphics were absolutely breathtaking, and I'd wager they'd still be pretty to look at now, even if somewhat dated at this point. The various locals and locales of Wonderland look as, well, wondrous as you might expect, but everything has taken on a dark, twisted, sinister edge that gives the whole game a creepy surreal vibe that completely sucked me in. This is the kind of game you'll find yourself playing over and over again just to grab another look at the pretty environments.

Most of the characters from Carroll's books make appearances here, in the guise of helpful NPCs or level bosses, and they're all a fair deal more fucked up than you remember from the original work. American McGee did a fantastic job of taking the original source material and staying mostly true to it while at the same time expanding on it and making this version his own.

But the absolute best thing about this game is the music, hands down. Composed by former Nine Inch Nails band member Chris Vrenna, Alice's score is the creepiest, most bizarre, most haunting music I have ever heard in a game. I may love my Mega Man music for how insanely catchy it is, but this shit gets in your head, man. And I don't mean in a "catchy tune" kind of way, I'm talking a "run around and break stuff in there" kind of way. Nothing else even comes close. Vrenna used broken toy instruments, clocks, sampled voices screaming, singing, laughing, and crying to create a discordant, unholy sound that brilliantly suggests a former innocence that has become something dark and sinister. "Beautifully broken" is probably the best way I can describe it. This is probably what the inside of an insane person's head sounds like.

There's a soundtrack cd available but it doesn't include all the tracks. Fortunately my roommate and I figured out how to rip all the music tracks from the game long before the score was released anyway.

Rumor has it there's a movie adaptation in the works, and a possible game re-make to tie in with the film's release. And I'm all for it, IF they don't go mucking around and changing everything to match up with the movie. Update the pretty graphics to make them even prettier? Yes, please. Update the engine to make it all run smoother? Hell yeah! But don't you FUCK with the level design and most importantly the sound.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeWholeHalf
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Forum Virgin
Feb 21st, 2008, 06:42 AM
This is one of those games that I always meant to get around to playing, but never did.
I may just have to hunt down a copy.
James Brown in hiding
Feb 21st, 2008, 08:20 AM
I dunno. This looked like some gizm wipe Goth fantasy crap. I avoid that shit like the plague for fear of bad poetry. The visuals were alright but, I dunno.
From the Home of MST3K
Feb 21st, 2008, 08:43 AM
There was a used game store that had that on the front shelf. I always wanted a decent review before buying it, cus I was afraid it would be yet another goth game going after that niche market, but now I regret not buying it.

What would be cool would be if they put the original version on the Xbox Live Arcade. Lotsa good classics appearing on there these days.
40 pound box of rape?
Feb 21st, 2008, 08:54 AM
It's such a good game. The chess level is superbly done
Fookin' up planets!
Feb 21st, 2008, 09:50 AM
You mentioned Nine Inch Nails in some form... D-Mon Now hates this game.
Does this game "really" make you wanna go Goth and write poetry? Because I know some english teachers that could benefit getting their kids to write... let alone read.
The stealer of Pies
Feb 21st, 2008, 11:23 AM
I'm a big Alice in Wonderland fan and I absolutely loved the little attention to details they put to the entire game. The waterfall for example comes from a pond with a statue of Alice crying and her tears are where the water comes from. The duchess attacks you with pepper. And yes, especially the chess level where you have to move like a chess piece to get across.
<me|yourmom> = you
Feb 21st, 2008, 11:38 AM
They did a great job on this game. I loved it. I've heard rumors of a movie based on it, but have yet to hear anything concrete.
Forum Virgin
Feb 21st, 2008, 02:26 PM
glad to see a review on alyce here.. i own the game and i think it kick ass...i remember nine inch nails doing a song on the 2 cd (the one with the best music) and the jabberwock was great :P
is hopped up on goofballs
Feb 21st, 2008, 03:01 PM
I really enjoyed the look and feel of the first level of this game. Unfortunately, the controls were shit and all I ever saw was the first level of it.
Suicidal Chipmunk
Feb 21st, 2008, 04:57 PM
i personally loved this game, my favorite weapons were the jacks, the freeze rod, and the jack-in-the-box. I enjoyed the power-up that turned you all red and grow horns.
Forum Virgin
Feb 21st, 2008, 05:07 PM
I LOVED this game, it was so wonderfully sinister and ... well big. Never found out how to kill the queen though, but I didn't care since I got so far anyways, if I'm ever insanely bored I could try and do this again
Crazed Techno-Biologist
Feb 21st, 2008, 10:09 PM
I ALMOST bought this game but was afraid my old timey pc wasnt up to it. now that i have a newer pc i regret not buying it.
Is a thin donkey
Feb 21st, 2008, 11:31 PM
Marilyn Manson was actually involved in the game. He said in an interview I read that some of his designs are in the game, but he's not credited at all. He didn't mind that, though, because he reckoned that the game could be a lot better than what it is.
Feb 22nd, 2008, 02:18 AM
Man, a movie and remake would be awesome. I just hope American McGee is with it every step to make sure they don't mess it up.
Feb 22nd, 2008, 02:28 AM
thats he doesn't mess it up

American McGee is the dude's name
Feb 22nd, 2008, 03:33 AM
Wayback when, I passed on this game because, well, I don't do creepy very well, but I do have the soundtrack and love it. I'm a little disappointed to learn that not everything is included, but not having played it, I guess I don't have to worry about what I'm missing.

Dunno about the movie, but there's an American McGee's "Oz" that's due out sometime in the future, too. Why do I have a feeling that things going to be more messed up than the "Return to Oz" movie?
Forum Virgin
Feb 22nd, 2008, 03:09 PM
arrrgh! I've always wanted a copy, but it's impossible to find! Especially in Canada...
Suicidal Chipmunk
Feb 22nd, 2008, 04:28 PM
lol canada (just kidding)
Feb 22nd, 2008, 04:42 PM
i just played this game and its really good, its such a shame that they don't make games like this anymore. Thought the gameplay could be a bit better
Ordinary Blogger
Feb 22nd, 2008, 08:13 PM
Check out out American mcgee's mew game GRIMM out March 7th 2008
Feb 22nd, 2008, 08:47 PM
After reading this, I went to a site that has Video game music, and I found it...
Creepist thing...
The end of the URL is 666....
I'm going to have a listen to this tunes now, they sound awesome! ^^
Feb 22nd, 2008, 11:14 PM
executioneer: I was referring to the people in charge of the movie and remake, not American Mcgee, ya jerk. I'm fairly certain American Mcgee would fix something that's not broken.
<me|yourmom> = you
Feb 22nd, 2008, 11:44 PM
Thanks for the link Count Mek. There's a lot of good stuff there.
Forum Virgin
Feb 23rd, 2008, 07:43 AM
@Count Mek

thanks for the link! My lookage for the soundtrack didn't pay off. =)
Can't even THINK straight
Feb 24th, 2008, 12:16 PM
Awesome soundtrack. Simple as.
What? Me worry?
Feb 25th, 2008, 02:34 PM
This game is ok by today's standards. I never got around to beating the entire thing because quite frankly, the damned thing bored me after a while. But the graphics are fun and when used with a high end card, everything flows super smooth.
I support Domo-Kun
Mar 9th, 2008, 12:52 AM
I remember seeing this game at a Wal-Mart loooooong time ago. Now I wish I'd gotten it. Damn you tight wallet!