Game Over Online ~ American McGee's Alice

GameOver Game Reviews - American McGee's Alice (c) Electronic Arts, Reviewed by - DaxX / Prolix /

Game & Publisher American McGee's Alice (c) Electronic Arts
System Requirements Windows, Pentium III-400, 64 MB Ram, 580MB HDD, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 90%
Date Published Friday, December 15th, 2000 at 01:25 PM

Divider Left By: DaxX Divider Right

I'm sure a lot of you loyal readers out there are wondering, "Who is American McGee? Is his first name really American?" To answer those questions, American McGee is an ex-id Software member who left to start this project in 1998 after mapping levels for Doom2, Quake, and Quake2. His first name is really American. Another question you might ask is "Why did he attach his name to a game, who the hell does he think he is?" Now I don't know the answer to that question, but I can say that he picked a pretty great game to attach his name to.

Wow. Ooo. Very nice. The engine powering Alice is none other than the Quake3 engine, arguably the most visually pleasing engine to date. Hell, it's not really even very arguable. This game is beautiful. The levels are lush and detailed. Every single level is simply stunning to look at. You can tell a lot of time and effort went into crafting each level. You won't see rehashed textures. You won't see reused houses, crates or rocks. Everything is fine-tuned. The colours (I'm Canadian I spell it that way, OK??) are rich and varied. The characters are well animated and stylized.

Great pains were taken to convert the Alice world into a dark and twisted place. They've done a perfect job of creating a world that remains true to the original story, yet twisted it just enough to make it interesting. The main characters are really well stylized, they all retain a look we recognize, yet are eerily evil. Weapon effects are great, especially fire effects.

Some handy features are a blue dot, which shows you where you're aiming (sometimes a problem in 3rd person games) and little feet that show where you'd jump to if you just press the jump button (jumping almost ALWAYS a problem in 3rd person games). There is almost no clipping issues, which is wonderful, and even small details like how Alice holds weapons as she climbs up ropes and ledges are virtually free of clipping problems.

The sound is probably some of the best I've heard in a game. The music, for starters, is almost perfect. It's simple, ambient, and blends into the background well and it sounds fantastic. Most of the tunes are very creepy, they really give the sense of a twisted and evil Wonderland. I hear the music was done by an ex-NIN member, which would explain how well the music comes across as creepy, but it's not fast or heavy.

Ambient sounds are worked in wonderfully as well. There are enough to add variety to the levels, but they aren't constant. This is good because it lets you listen to the background music and also gives you that creepy "alone" feeling. Some of the creepiest you'll hear are the little psychotic kids cackling and crying. Steam vents burst into action, rivers murmur, gears grind, electricity crackles. It's very immersive.

Weapon sounds are pretty good. Small details like the croquet mallet "squeaks" when you hit something (if you remember, the croquet mallet is actually a bird) and the jack-in-the-box plays a little music before it opens make a big difference. Overall they are nothing to write home about. Alice has 3 types of gibbing - slice in 2, slice off the head, and explosive gib. The slicing ones sound fantastic, you hear a satisfying sound and hear the blood splatter on the ground. The voice acting in this game is exceptional too. Congrats are in order for the voice of the Cheshire Cat, he sounds amazing. Other developers take heed - voice acting should be done by PROFESSIONALS, not by some jackass off the street. Hitman developers, do you hear me? "Excuse me I have to go to the bathroom"...ugh.

The gameplay is addictive but frustrating. I REALLY like this game but I REALLY don't like jumping puzzles and I REALLY don't like dying every 5 minutes because I fall into space or I fall into lava, or I fall into acid, etc. There is a lot of jumping puzzles in this game. They've done a good job with the little feet icon to help you figure out how to jump, but I still don't think that jumping puzzles = good gameplay. It's the single biggest problem I have with this game, and it IS quite a big problem.

That aside, however, the game is great. The enemies are difficult but not impossible. Every enemy you kill leaves behind a certain amount of health and mana (magic, consumed by most weapons) so it's pretty easy to keep maxed out. The level variety is fantastic, the thing that will keep people playing will be the need to see every single level in the game, not the challenge.

The enemy variety, sadly, leaves a bit to be desired. By the end I was pretty sick of the screaming skulls flying around and the card players get old fast. However, the variety isn't lacking that much and I'm glad they spent their time perfecting a few enemies rather than creating a ton.

AI wise, the enemies are decently smart. They will follow you around although they occasionally get stuck behind walls. They have a realistic field of view but they don't work together at all. For instance, a lot of the time you'll have an enemy that shoots explosive things, and in front of them will be a short-range fighting creature. The one behind will just keep firing explosive things and they'll keep hitting the enemy in front. I'm not sure if enemies can damage each other though, I usually kill them all before I could find out.

Certain other frustrations - some of the levels are too maze-like. The mirror maze and the queen hedge maze are both examples. They're not terribly confusing but I never like running around not knowing where I'm going or if I'm going around in circles. I think they could have been cut down to be less maze-like.

This game is fun because of the beautiful levels, graphics, and sound. This game is not fun because of the constant jumping puzzles and the dying that results from them. Overall, though, this game is quite addictive. The jumping puzzles aren't THAT frequent and they aren't THAT bad, but they've always annoyed me as a gameplay mechanism so I'm mentioning them a lot. Overall the game is a great experience and has kept me entranced for a long time.

In terms of the controls, there's not much to say, standard control set up. You can control things like the distance between Alice and the camera but the default is pretty good. The camera is very well done, it never gets stuck in awkward spots and follows Alice fluidly. I normally don't like 3rd person games because of camera and control problems but this game showed me that 3rd person can be done well, the Quake 3 engine is good at 3rd person, and that I am capable of enjoying a 3rd person game.

American McGee's Alice is simply a very good game. It's a good addition to your video game library. Buy it for a loved one for Chrismas or be your own early Santa and buy it for yourself.

[ 42/50 ] Gameplay
[ 10/10 ] Graphics
[ 10/10 ] Sound
[ 09/10 ] Storyline
[ 10/10 ] Controls
[ 07/10 ] Fun Factor


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Divider Left By: Prolix Divider Right

With the creation of Lewis Carroll's novel Alice in Wonderland, the world became unwittingly exposed to a psychedelic subculture promoting alternate views on reality by means of acid and mushroom trips. The world of Wonderland depicted in the novel and Disney's movie was twisted and surreal. Perhaps it was this haunting view that allured me to American McGee's Alice. One of the first games to utilize the Quake 3 engine, Alice brings forth Carroll's demented view of Wonderland via 3rd person perspective.

The main character of the game is Alice herself, however, she is much more gothic and demented this time around. It seems as though when Alice left Wonderland, things started to crumble and guess who has to save it? With the help of a decrepit Cheshire cat, Alice must battle the undead and the queen's guards in order to save Wonderland from a horrible fate. The entire game is done via 3rd person, which is superbly done without any camera angle flaws.

One word sums up the eye candy in Alice, stunning. Throughout the entire game I felt as though I was really in Wonderland. Perhaps the best aspect of the game is the amazing environments the designers behind Alice created. Most of the levels are absolutely breathtaking and twisted at the same time. It is absolutely incredible to see what the Quake 3 engine is capable of. A few of the levels just have to be seen to be believed. The entire cast of characters has all been redone to fit American Mcgee's gothic vision of Wonderland and is first-rate. My favorite character would have to be Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dee, who are about as evil as they come in this rendition of Wonderland. Be forewarned, my 600mhz Pentium 3 struggled at times pumping out the beautiful world of Wonderland, so those of you with lower end machines might want to pass this one up. Alice's graphics are sure not to disappoint even the most cynical gamer.

The sound and control are flawless as well in Alice. The music is fantastic and sets the mood for each section of Wonderland perfectly. The voice effects are one of my favorite aspects of the game. As the Cheshire cat spoke to me, I really felt a sense of his wisdom and understanding of Wonderland. As for controlling, each key is configurable and I was able to get away with using my Quake 3 configuration.

Gameplay in Alice consists of moving from one linear location to the next. Conceivably, the only downside to the game is the fact that you can't stray from the path the designers want you to take. However, the level design and visual splendor more than make up for this minor inconvenience. Each level is designed to perfection and gives a genuine feel for the twisted imagery of Wonderland. The weapons at Alice's disposal range from a knife to deadly jacks, each weapon draws from the fantasy of Wonderland. The enemies are also true to the novel and movie, each being more gothic and disturbed than their original counterparts, my favorite being the card guards. As you progress through the game, the story behind your return to Wonderland becomes clearer. Despite the great fantasy behind Wonderland, a lot of it fails to return in American McGee's Alice. The story falls a little thin and in the end, it is insignificant.

The worst part of American McGee's Alice is knowing it is eventually going to end. Throughout the entire game, I felt so captivated and a part of this twisted world and I had a hard time quitting the game. Despite my personal love of the game, Alice isn't for everyone. A lot of people might be put off by this disturbing view of Wonderland, or just never cared for Wonderland in the first place. Unfortunately, Alice brings nothing innovative to 3rd person gaming, but relies on artistic talent instead. If you find yourself intrigued by Wonderland, I would defiantly suggest giving Alice a try, one of the best games this year.


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