A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
This fantasy action game places a children's literature character in a decidedly adult tale of insanity sprinkled with blood, sexual themes, and profanity.
Positive Role Models
Alice appears to be nearly the only good person in both the real world and Wonderland. However, even though she clearly states that she’s “not looking for a fight,” she is nonetheless forced to defend herself, killing hundreds of fantasy creatures in bloody combat in the process.
Ease of Play
Both the combat as well as the platforming and adventuring elements are relatively simple and employ controls that should prove intuitive for most players. Difficulty ramps up gradually, and players can choose between four skill levels.
Violence & Scariness
Alice defends herself from fantastical creatures, including trolls and flying insect-like enemies, using a large knife and a pepper grinder that functions much like an automatic weapon. Some foes bleed when struck, their blood splashing onto the ground and Alice’s dress. Enemies grunt in pain, and some explode or lose their heads.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Outside of Wonderland, Alice walks past harlots who expose deep cleavage. Players overhear conversations that suggest prostitution. The word “whore” is used several times.
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Infrequent use of very strong language, including the words “f--k” and “c--t.”
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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.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.