AMERICAN MCGEE'S ALICE
By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on September 12, 2020
To survive a war, you gotta become war. Truer words have never been spoken by anyone, dear readers. That is why I, together with my trusty machete and the mechanical right arm of that robot imposter who calls, or should I say called, himself Jeeves, will survive this war. I will fight for our Big Red Timemachine to my very last breath... Or at least until lunch is served, which ever may occur first...
I struck a decisive blow in the now already legendary battle of the Big Red HQ. When Dennis was away on his trip through time, I confronted Jeeves and a mighty battle ensued. We thrashed about the place in a delicately balanced dance of death and destruction, during which I inadvertently broke Dennis' brand new drinks cabinet. Distraught by this waste of good booze, I didn't see Jeeves coming at me with a mean left hook and caught it full on the chin. I somehow managed to get clear of his deadly robot grasp and made a tactical retreat back into the shadowy halls of our HQ, where I managed to lose my pursuer.
I stalked the dark paths through the ventilation ducts until I caught sight of my nemesis. I managed to creep up behind Dennis' so-called butler and decapitated him -it- with one strike of my mighty machete. Alas, before I could pierce his robot head with my blade and finish the damn thing once and for all, the Timemachine returned from its trip to 1987 and I had to get to safety before Dennis got out and saw the messy result of the battle that took place there.
Which reminds me; I am supposed to take you guys on a trip today. Well, actually; I was supposed to take you on a trip last Friday, but I couldn't access the Big Red Timemachine because of the current state of affairs at our HQ. Luckily, I managed to get my hands on our Tiny Red Timepod, so let's all gather round so we can be safely transported to the year 2000. This particular year caused a lot of upheaval before it even arrived, because of the dreaded millennium bug. After a lot of meetings, programming, more meetings, more programming and lots and lots of breaking down crying, the end result was less than spectacular, as anything life-threatening failed to occur. Another thing that happened in this year, was the release of American McGee's Alice; a grim take on the classic Alice in Wonderland tale. It's this game we've set our sights on for today, so let's go!
American McGee's Alice takes the Alice in Wonderland tale and covers it under a dark blanket of cruelty an violence. Alice wakes one night to find her parents' house on fire. She manages to escape, but her parents die in the flames. Alice goes into a catatonic state and is transported to Rutledge Asylum, where she subsequently resides for quite a few years. Then one night, Alice's toy rabbit calls for her help, so Alice goes back into Wonderland. Now, this once so colorful and cheerful land has seen better days and is now the perfect example of an unhospitable environment. It is overrun by warped, twisted and even disfigured creatures that seem to derive pleasure from torturing others. It's Alice's task to restore Wonderland to its previous splendor and free it of the evil that permeates the entire land.
To accomplish this, Alice will have to overcome numerous enemies and bosses. Luckily, she can collect a whole range of dangerous weapons, or "toys" as they are called in the game, which she can use to cut, smash, shoot or even blow up enemies. During her trip through this twisted world, Alice is accompanied by a rather tatty version of the Cheshire Cat, who offers her advice )as well as snide remarks) from time to time. The game is presented as a 3D action platform adventure, in which we'll have to make our way across dangerous chasms and through the enemy infested remains of what used to be Wonderland. Along the way, we'll collect various items that help us on our way in the form of elixirs.
The game screen features two gauges: a red Sanity gauge, which functions as Alice's health indicator and a blue Willpower gauge, which shows the amount of stamina Alice has got left. When the red gauge depletes, Alice dies and you'll have to reload the game from a previous save game. When the blue gauge depletes, nothing that serious happens, but it does mean Alice has no more stamina left. Therefore, her weapons will be much less effective against enemies which, I'm sure you'd agree, is never a good thing. This is where the so-called Meta-essence crystals come in. These magical gems replenish either Alice's health or her stamina. There are also Meta-substance crystals which replenish both at the same time.
Being an action adventure platform game, you will be dividing your time between either defeating enemies, overcoming platforming obstacles or solving puzzles. This variety makes for a really fun game that features the much needed diversity some other games in the genre seemed to lack. Along with its distinct style and grim narrative, American McGee's Alice was in a league all of its own. I remember playing it for the very first time on my PC and thinking; "What the hell did I just buy?!" But, sure enough, a mere thirty minutes of playing assured me that I made the right choice and I have been happily playing through the game from time to time since that moment. For me to be playing a game once every now and then, one can only surmise that the game in question is a good one, right?
And it is. Sure, the graphics don't look like much nowadays, and the controls clearly originated from a bygone era, but the rest is still up to par. The feel, story and characters of the game always felt well-written and engaging, just what a game of this type needs to keep being interesting. The game was eventually ported to PS3 and Xbox 360 a good six months later, so it can always be played nowadays if you just happen to have one of these systems. I still have my PC copy but tend to play it more on my PS3. I honestly don't know if I could even get the thing to run on my PC nowadays.
So, all in all; should you be sad (and, if you're my age, a bit ashamed) that you haven't played this game yet? Yes, you should! It's one of those games that made my youth a bit more interesting. The grim art style and gloomy setting are a perfect match for the game and the enemies are weird and menacing. The game presents a more than decent challenge, especially on the higher difficulty levels. If you still own a PS3 or Xbox 360, do yourself a favor and get your hands on a copy of American McGee's Alice. Just sit back and let this dark and dangerous world take you away on a grand adventure!
And with that, ladies and gentlemen, we have come to the end of our own adventure and have safely returned to our Big Red HQ. Hmmm, the place is cleaned up pretty nicely. Maybe Dennis has seen the folly of his ways and decided to make a peace offering of sorts. But wait, what is that? There's a solitary bottle of my favorite beer in the center of our main hall, beads of condensation dripping slowly down its curvaceous neck. Could this be a trap? No, I must resist; I will not go for it...
...But I'm so damn thirsty from living in our ventilation ducts for quite a few weeks now. Plus, it would be a bloody shame to let the beer go warm, wouldn't you agree? Okay, very carefully now, let's get a bit closer. Well, there's no one around, so maybe this is truly the beginning of a new truce in my and Dennis' turbulent history. Oh, seductive golden libation, come here and be mine forever!
* Sadhonker picks up the beer bottle, upon which an really, REALLY loud alarm starts blaring and a reinforced steel cage drops down from the ceiling, trapping Sadhonker inside *
Hey! What the hell is going on?!
* A previously concealed figure steps out of the shadows *
Dennis?? What the hell are you doing and why am I in this cage?! I thought you were my friend... well, friend might be a bit too strong a word, so let's keep it at partially esteemed colleague. I mean, come on; We traveled through time together! Is this because I broke your robot toy? I'll just build you a new one... a better one at that! What do you mean, "it's for my own good"? A what?! A full-frontal lobotomy? No thank you, I like my prefrontal cortex right where it is. I've got no choice in the matter? Oh, we'll see about that. I didn't want it to come to this, but now I am forced to show you my true form.
* starts groaning and starts growing to enormous size. The steel cage breaks like it was made out of match-sticks and dust and steam fill the room. When the sound of falling debris stops, a booming voice tears through the Big Red HQ *
I... AM... SADHONKER PRIME!!!
AMERICAN MCGEE'S ALICE
Rogue Entertainment & Electronic Arts