Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Return to American McGee's Wonderland

I've always enjoyed video games. I've saved the world with Missle Command on my Atari system, twisted Greek mythology with Altered Beast on my brother's Sega, helped Mario jump through Super Mario Brothers on the Gameboy, screamed through Resident Evil on my brother's Playstation, stayed up until 3 AM playing Diablo with friends at a LAN party, laughed with Toe Jam & Earl III: Mission to Earth, shivered through Half Life, survived the quests in Fable and helped Ash save the world again in Evil Dead: A Fistful of Boomstick on our X-Box. Even now, I am addicted to the simple puzzle game Zombie Pizza on my iPhone. As much fun as all those games were, and as varied as they were in their technology, styles and challenges, I've never, ever, played anything like American McGee's Alice.

I'm a big fan of all things Alice in Wonderland, so of course I was already hooked by the idea of the game and I couldn't wait to get it home and try it out. I was pleasantly surprised at the terrific playability of the game and was immediately sucked in. It wasn't just a mindless shoot-'em-up. It Incorporated all the best parts of all the different game styles and all of these aspects were executed with superb quality. The story was rich, the puzzles were challenging and suspenseful, the first-person action was intense, and all of it was laced together with dark humor, gorgeous art direction and some of the most beautifully haunting music (scored by Chris Vrenna, former drummer for Nine Inch Nails). This game had it all. And the individual challenges, levels, puzzles, etc. all contributed to the story and led to an ultimate and satisfying goal. Game designer, American McGee, certainly knew what he was doing. He created a world that I thoroughly enjoyed visiting.

The game takes place shortly after Alice's "Through the Looking Glass" adventure. Alice's house is burned down in an accidental fire, killing her family, and leaving her as the only survivor. Because of her survivor's guilt, she tries to commit suicide and is institutionalized in Rutledge Asylum. Now a troubled teenager, Alice is summoned one night by the White Rabbit, who asks her to help save a radically altered Wonderland, which has become a twisted version of itself under the rule of the evil Red Queen. Since Wonderland is actually a dreamworld created by Alice's mind, it follows that it has been corrupted and turned macabre by her insanity. If Alice manages to save Wonderland, she will save her sanity as well. A sarcastic Cheshire Cat is Alice's companion throughout the game, frequently appearing to guide her (and the player) with cryptic comments. Here's the trailer for the original game:

Since my time with Alice, I've been disenchanted with most of the current games and have drifted away from playing anything. I've tried out Rock Band and laughed at my terrible faux guitar playing skills. However, most of the games nowdays seem very testosterone-centric and very violent, with a lack of story or character development. I figured my video game playing days were over, and I was okay with that. (In case you didn't know, video games are very time consuming!)

Then, my dear friend Raven, (also a fan of all things Alice), pointed me to a link online - an announcement that sent my little Wonderland heart aflutter - American McGee is currently in production on a sequel to Alice! We both proceeded to jump around the room in utter excitement. Below are two conceptual art images from the new game. It looks like the next couple of years will be the year of Alice, with Tim Burton's film, and now this video game. I simply cannot wait! To read my other posts about Alice, just click here. (I'm surprised, for as much as I am obsessed with these stories, that I haven't written more about them!)

Please leave me a comment about your favorite video game when you were growing up, or that you're playing right now. Know of any good iPhone games?


hyacinthinemoon said...

American McGee's Alice is the best game I have played and I adored it as well. I did manage to get stuck going down a river on a leaf however. Sometime I will have to figure out how to get past that point. I was pretty far into the game. I loved the puzzels and story also. It's just the best.

D.L. White said...

I know!!! Writing about it made me want to go play it all over again! What did you think of the concept art?

hyacinthinemoon said...

The Monster snail looks terrifying and I have no idea how Alice will get out of that one with only her knife....