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By Spencer . March 8, 2011 . 9:02am
I played through the entire Alice: Madness Returns demo, which began with Alice in the ruins of the Queensland, the last area from the original game. Picking up where American McGee’s Alice left off, Alice is placed in a mental institution after her entire family dies in a mysterious fire. Traumatized, Alice sublimates into a dark fantasy version of Wonderland.
Alice was fully armed holding the Vorpal Blade, her basic weapon, in one hand, and the Hobby Horse, a child’s toy horse which Alice wields like a heavy hammer. Since each weapon is assigned to a different button its possible to catch an enemy in a combo with the Vorpal Blade and end with the slow, but strong Hobby Horse. Alice had two long range weapons, the Pepper Grinder acted like a machine gun, and Alice’s teapot was like her take on a grenade launcher.
The first part of the demo didn’t have any combat. As if he was the tutorial guide, the Cheshire Cat popped up informing Alice she could shrink by pressing the left bumper. This ability will probably let Alice access hidden areas, but in the demo it had another purpose. Shrinking made invisible platforms visible. Glittering numbers told Alice where she could jump to collect teeth, twisted currency that allows Alice to upgrade her arsenal of weapons. One of the invisible platforms moved back and forth, which meant players had to jump on ground they couldn’t see. That platform took me to a breakable wall I shattered using the teapot. Eager to help Alice, the kids from the mental institution left her a present behind the wall. I continued to follow the platforms to the ground, but there was another route.
Instead of shrinking and scanning, I could have crossed the chasm by just… jumping. Alice is gifted with a triple jump and she can float if you hold down the jump button. I was quite surprised how far Alice could jump, but there was little time to ponder that. As soon as I landed, the Queen of Heart’s card guards attacked Alice. I tried a couple different attack techniques – escaping in a burst of butterflies (that’s her standard dodge move) and firing the Pepper Grinder, rushing enemies with the Vorpal Blade, and tossing an explosive doll to distract enemies while I ran behind them with the Hobby Horse.
Soon the card guards brought a new enemy called the Ruin. This black blob with faces on its back tried to tackle Alice and shot fireballs. With a well-timed button press, Alice can pull out a tattered umbrella to reflect the attack. This stunned the Ruin, which gave me enough time to smash it with the hobby horse. I fought through a few more enemies and recovered a memory on the floor of an ivy crusted gazebo. Finding memories, a Spicy Horse designer explained, is one of the goals in the game. Players will learn what truly happened to Alice’s family, a truth Alice locked away inside her mind.
I walked through a hedge maze and suddenly the Executioner, a grim reaper with the Queen of Heart’s fashion sense, emerged spinning his scythe. The camera switched and I ran towards the screen filling the screen with butterflies since the dodge made Alice move faster. The game switched to a cutscene where Alice saw a cake with "eat me" written on it. Never one to worry about poisoned liquids, Alice ate the cake and grew into a giant. With the tables turned, Alice crushed the Executioner with her foot.
The demo ended there, but discussion with Spicy Horse just started. Here are some details about Alice: Madness Returned that were not seen in the demo.