Game: "American McGee's Alice"
Published by: Electronic Arts
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.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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