August 21, 2018
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Publisher: Aspyr Media    Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: Any Version    CPU: G3 @ 400 MHz    RAM: 128 MB    Hard Disk: 600 MB    4x CD-ROM    Graphics: 640x480 @ 16-bit

American McGee's Alice
August 21, 2001 | Kit Pierce

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In a bright turn in the history of Victorian literature, Lewis Caroll produced a young heroine, threw her into a magical world, and allowed the innocence of the young Alice's perception to shine through. American McGee's Alice takes place after the original Caroll novels end. A terrible accident has taken the lives of Alice's family, forcing the young girl into a state of catatonia. Alice is institutionalized for years, and here is where the game picks up. It is Alice's psychological battle to reclaim her sanity and innocence that drives her through the dark Wonderland that is a bizarre and horrid vision of its former lustrous self. In order to set things right, Alice must face off against the Red Queen who is the corrupting force behind the current Wonderland. To this end, American McGee's Alice attempts to be many things, and to best dissect its value one must determine what the game is and what it is not.

What Alice Is
Alice is exquisitely atmospheric and dripping with thoughtful design considerations. Rogue deserves high marks for the obvious care that went into developing the story and the world with which the player interacts. Everything about Alice attempts to build the atmosphere in which the game lives. Even the packaging of the game opens to not only reveal the CD case containing the game, but a "Psychological Casebook" used to record Alice's progress while she has been a guest at the mental institution. This book is worth a read, as it not only tangibly sets up the arena for the game, it reveals several hints for the successful completion of the game.

The depth and detail of Wonderland allows for great immersion into the surrealism of the locales; and those locales are genuinely creepy at times. Easily getting lost in the worlds of the game and playing for hours on end, I was able to become so engrossed in Wonderland that creatures appearing from around corners would make me jump in my seat. I haven't been that drawn into any adventure game since the original Marathon. I often found myself drinking in every little detail of a level long after all of the baddies were dispatched and the objectives of the level were cleared.

If the story wasn't enough to compel one to move forward, the simple need to see what came next -- where the game would lead -- kept pushing me onward. In addition to fantastic locales, the character design is wonderful. From the Red Queen's loyal and ferocious Card Guards, to the lanky and sinister Mad Hatter, to the emaciated Cheshire Cat, it becomes clear very quickly that this isn't Disney's Alice. Technically, the animation cycles and voice acting for the characterization of the denizens of Wonderland are excellent. This excellence extends into the overall sound design with the sound effects and soundtrack itself (composed and arranged by Chris Vrenna, award winning artist and founding member of Nine Inch Nails) building half the atmosphere alone. Whether it was because of the timorous strains of music boxes or the ghostly taunting of children's voices floating through the air, or any number of other nuances, the soundtrack was dead on.


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