With Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) Lewis Carroll created a world that would later inspire many artists. Indeed, we can no longer count how many books, novels, comics, manga, films, cartoons, songs, plays were created that were influenced by his work, and video games are no exception.
American McGee’s Alice is a third-person action-adventure video game developed by Rogue Entertainment, directed by American McGee and published by EA (Electronic Arts) in 2000. From the base materials of Lewis Carroll American McGee’s Alice is telling us another story about Alice. They offer their own interpretation of what happened after the books, but while keeping the necessary reference points that allow us to feel on familiar ground. The story in a nutshell, Alice’s parents died in a fire. Traumatized by this event she is committed to an asylum where she will plunge into madness and travel back to Wonderland to escape her reality. However the world she used to know is quite different now.
In American McGee’s Alice you play a teenage Alice in her traditional blue dress and white apron. However, her apron is covered with blood, when stationary Alice swing softly on tiptoes, while hiding a large knife in her back. It quickly gives you a taste of the overall atmosphere. She is accompanied in her journey by an emaciated Cheschire Cat and along the way she will encounter several well-known characters such as the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar or the Queen of Hearts.
The game structure of American McGee’s Alice is quite traditional. The progression through levels is linear and often follow the same pattern. You talk to a NPC (Non-Player Character) to learn more about your story and goals. You fight enemies, solve puzzles, pass through platforms phases and at the end of the level face a boss. Once completed you will be able to go to the next level.
The work that has been done on the creation of the universe is outstanding. The game count a total of nine levels: Village of the Doomed, Fortress of Doors, Vale of Tears, Wonderland Woods, Looking Glass Land, Behind the Looking Glass, Land of Fire and Brimstone, Queen of Hearts Land and Queensland. Each of them take place in a specific environment with its own visual identity. From time to time you will even find yourself contemplating what surrounds you and notice all the small details.
As you go along you unlock new weapons or “toys” such as Vorpal Blade, Playing Cards, Croquet Mallet, Jackbomb, Ice Wand, Demon Dice, Jacks, Blunderbuss and Jabberwock’s Eye Staff. They are quite fun to use. Special mention for the Rage Box spraying Alice with a painful red smoke that makes her grow horns and inject her with rage.
We can also point out the amazing work done on the personality of the characters, such as the cynicism of the Cheshire Cat or the arrogance of Alice, which is strengthen by the dubbing. The music composed by Chris Vrenna, former drummer of Nine Inch Nails, and the vocals performed by Jessika Adams (Jack Off Jill, Scarling) is incredible. It perfectly supports the dark atmosphere of the game.
American McGee’s Alice’s game mechanics are not very innovative. There is also a lack of variety in the basic enemies that you will encounter. Indeed, it can be quite redundant to regularly fight the same Boojun, Card Guard or Automaton. However, and even if the game has aged it deserves to be played. Discovering the story, explore this creative world, notice the attention to details and dive into this amazingly weird world is definitely worth it!