Adventure & RPG
Computer and video games have drawn their inspirations from many sources, from board and card games to fantasy fiction to Viking lore. Yet often the inspiration is just another excuse to make a genre game, rather than a starting point to move in a new direction. American McGee’s Alice attempts to break the mold by taking classical literature (in this case the books of Lewis Caroll) to its logical conclusion, and producing a mix of horror, fantasy and logical problem-solving. In the process they have bent many of the rules of typical 3D gaming, blending hack-and-slash action with MYST-like puzzles and a setting so unusual it stretches the limit of “walls, ceiling, floor” often imposed on 3D titles in the name of “realism.”
If anything, the goal of Alice’s creators seems to be surrealism, not realism. As with the topsy-turvy world found ‘behind the looking glass’ in Lewis Caroll’s two famous novels, the worlds of Alice are distorted in scale, dimension and continuity. The dark, sinister note lurking behind the worlds of Lewis Caroll has been taken to the extreme, introducing elements of horror clearly drawn from more contemporary masters of the genre, such as Wes Craven. Using the power of id Software’s flexible Quake 3 Arena engine to its fullest, the team at Rouge Entertainment have crafted a spooky, chilling world full of nightmares come to life and logic puzzles that would have pleased Caroll himself.
Under The Top HatLewis Caroll became famous in his own time for his two novels, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the sequel Through the Looking-Glass; he also created some much-praised minor works including the poems The Hunting of the Snark and Jabberwocky. Born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in 1832, he was a mathematician by trade, and was a lecturer in the subject at Oxford University for almost fifty-five years. He had a taste for brainteasers of all sorts, from geometric ‘tangram’ puzzles to word games, acrostics and logic problems. These hobbies deeply influenced his fiction (which he never considered a serious pursuit) and, as many literature fans are “rediscovering” long after his death, he used his unorthodox way of thinking to write books that were far more than mere children’s tales. While doing some research for this piece I stumbled across a paper written by an Oxford fellow which theorized the use of mathematical puzzles and logic problems as part of the structure of the two Wonderland novels, and the evidence seemed to support his conclusions well.
Why is any of this significant to the game itself? While by no means is Alice an attempt to re-create the world or adventures of the novels, Rogue does seem to have done their homework and read up on Caroll while designing the game. Thus you will find puzzles based on logic and intuition as well as twitch reflex, and Caroll’s non-linear approach to logic (and taste for the absurd) shows up in the convoluted, sometimes bizarre levels in the game – not to mention in the many odd allies and enemies she will meet along the way.
The game itself takes place some time after the adventures of the first two novels, as is illustrated in a startling opening cinematic. Alice’s parents have died in a fire, and the trauma of the incident has left her catatonic in an asylum with the scars of an attempted suicide on each wrist. If you’ve read any of the books, you know what a critical role Mr. Rabbit plays in these tales – once again the introduction of the white rabbit in the hat who is always in a hurry sets in motion a new journey for Alice, this one taking place only in her mind’s eye.