A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that despite starring a familiar children’s literature character, Alice: Madness Returns is absolutely not intended for kids. The game’s heroine is an adult version of the classic Alice who is struggling with her sanity, and the Wonderland she visits is infested with creatures and hazards looking to kill her. She defends herself using a knife, a machine gun-like pepper grinder, and other weapons that create bloody carnage. Parents should also note that while in the dismal real world, Alice encounters prostitutes (though there is no sex in the game) and characters who use severe language.
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What's it about?
The sequel to a nearly decade-old game for grown-ups that imagined Lewis Carroll’s famous Alice character as a young woman in an asylum dealing with the death of her parents, ALICE: MADNESS RETURNS sees our heroine continuing to struggle with her sanity. She journeys from the real world -- a gray, dismal place filled with foul-mouthed, shifty-looking characters -- back to Wonderland, which is brighter and more colorful but filled with malevolent fantasy creatures looking to kill her. With guidance from the Cheshire Cat, she equips herself with weapons to defend against the things attacking her and sets out to explore the now-perilous make-believe realm.
Is it any good?
It’s tempting to simply write off this continuation of Alice’s tale as a gory exploitation of a beloved children’s character, but there are some interesting ideas at play. As a girl, Alice’s extraordinary imagination takes her to a scary but ultimately safe place. But what will that same imagination do when she gets older and suffers a terrible loss? This game, like its predecessor, puts forth the notion that her capacity to dream will take her to much more terrifying -- indeed, even lethal -- locales.
Unfortunately, the storytelling never moves much beyond this intriguing idea. Worse, the actual gameplay, though well-tuned and intuitive, is rote and repetitive. It’s a shame that there should be such a lack of creativity in a game inspired by a story that celebrates the imagination. Grown-up fans of the classic tale with a taste for dark fantasy may find enough of interest to make the journey worthwhile, but everyone else can leave this one safely on the store shelf.
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