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Alice Madness Returns

Classic literary work meet emo teenager...

Any man that puts his own name in the moniker for a game has got to have a measure of self-confidence; doubly so if you're called 'American McGee'.

After working on Doom and Quake at id, he moved to EA and, in 2000, released American McGee's Alice, a dark and twisted PC-based platformer/combat combo that's probably what Goths think Lewis Carroll's imagination might look like in real life.

It certainly showed that, long before Tim Burton spectacularly missed the point, Alice's world is one wide open to interpretation.

And here comes a sequel, which presumably someone, somewhere must have asked for. Details are scarce at the moment but Alice: Madness Returns (Mr McGee presumably having a bout of humility and letting the name speak for itself) is set eleven years after the original, paralleling the passage of time in reality.


Alice has been in an asylum for a decade, devastated by the death of her parents, and retreats once again to Wonderland to make sense of her tattered psyche.

The world she visits is again warped, dangerous and bristling with evil, and what follows is a similar blend of jumping and combat to its predecessor.

The first game stood out mainly because of its glorious (for the time) visuals. It's hard to imagine now, with consoles leading the way in brain-battering graphics, but even ten years ago the PC was the platform that broke new ground, and Alice was chock-full of gorgeous design.

Madness Returns continues that trend; certainly the first shots showcase a vibrant world that's at once both beautiful and sinister.

Of course, American McGee's Alice, for all its lustre and critical approbation (it was generally very well received), was a little on the light side in terms of gameplay, being largely - in its latter half, especially - about repetitive jumping and hacking, with little in the way of inspiring puzzles.

The big question is whether Alice: Madness Returns can capitalise on past glories. But without question, it's a unique proposition for the Xbox 360 so we're cautiously optimistic about next year's trip down the rabbit hole.

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