Monday, September 12, 2011

American McGee's Alice PS3 review

So yes I picked up Alice:Madness Returns cheaply with the code to get me the first game American McGee's Alice; the question is - for those who wouldn't get it free is it worth £6.99? The answer is "um!".

Alice is in an asylum being the only survivor of a fire which killed her parents and for which she blames herself. A reunion with her old stuffed rabbit returns her to Wonderland - but a Wonderland warped by her own guilt and madness.

Atmospherically it's great; there's a story there too, but it's a little weak. The gameplay however is showing its age and is a little creaky in places. Upscaling is fine and everything is sharp; except for the two pre-rendered movies that bracket the game - those are murky as hell and barely distinguishable.

Mechanically it may seem an odd comparison, but the closest in type is Rayman - an action platformer with the odd minor puzzle. This is where the game shows its age the most with jumping being a main part of the action while at the same time being less precise. Oh there's a special jump mechanic wherein if you stand still a pair of feet can be directed to the point at which you want to jump; but half the time it doesn't appear.

So why the "um"? Well it's the Save/Load screen. Not the screen itself per se; although it does break concentration having to ensure you're saving not loading or vice versa and the fact that the save game slots aren't dated or timed can leave one straining to recall which slot to load or save too doesn't help. It's the fact that most of the game will be spent looking at this screen. It's not because the auto-saves are scarce, which they are; it's not because the game has a tendency to place the player in instant jeopardy without warning, which it also does; it's because the game is buggy.

At times one of the controls will jam and the character is left stabbing at nothing; or twirling on the spot; or, worse, running forward. Hitting Start or the PS3 button will occasionally interrupt this and return things to normal. Otherwise it's a case of letting it work itself out. However at other times one control will jam and none of the others will work; at other times nothing will jam and the controller will simply not respond requiring a power off of the console (or at least in on case pulling the plug on it).

This is the major problem with the game - I didn't play a single session in which either control wasn't snatched away from me or I had to reset the console. Because I couldn't trust the game not to kill me by running the character off a ledge or simply locking up I ended up saving every few minutes; which just became a chore with the lack of a quick save and the mental interrupt of the Save/Load menu.

One other minor bug is that occasionally after loading the sound effects will be muted; music is still there, just nothing else. A re-load does cure it, but still one wonders why.

If the bugs get fixed this is a fine game - not perfect; not brilliant and perhaps a little over-priced at the moment, but still a fine game.


Johnny G. said...

I agree with everything you said. At the time of its conception, it was great. But as it aged, you begin to notice these little problem becoming big problems. I wanted to like the game, but it didn't give much in experience, only in overall design. Madness Returns is way, way better--I can say this because I have no sentimental value to the first one.