Alice in Wonderland
There are a lot of things in the videogame industry that are hard to come by it seems these days. An international football tournament year where EA don’t release a themed version of FIFA to pray on the hopeless partisanship of the general public. Downloadable content where the pricing feels fair and well pitched. Even just a game on Xbox Live where you aren’t verbally molested by a pre-teen who by rights shouldn’t even own the game in the first place. Indeed, these are all rare nuggets of gold to be found as a gamer; perhaps none quite as perpetual though as a movie-based videogame that’s quality matches the inevitably high sales figures.
Encouragingly, Alice in Wonderland is very much an amalgamation of Ico and Braid, although it isn’t ever as proficient as either; not that it’s anything to be ashamed of. From the former, Alice in Wonderland takes that same escort-style gameplay by having the player look after Alice who is arguably even more socially challenged than Yorda, sans the constant hand holding which is so last decade. She’ll need you to lift her up on to platforms, catch her as she jumps across gaps and pull her out of trouble (literally) when fending off enemies. Protecting her from the bad guys can be tough as combat is an ungainly experience at times; almost every attack is done with the touch screen stylus (as well as movement) and the game has trouble registering actions in tight scuffles. It is, however, a flaw that is for the most part, counter balanced by the near non-existent difficulty level.
The puzzle solving aspect of the game is the much stronger component of Alice in Wonderland. They’re seldom very taxing on the brain, but are generally solid and for children (of which will no doubt make up the vast majority of the game’s audience), they never feel broken or unfair. The puzzle solving will require the use of all your characters from McTwisp’s ability to manipulate time; speeding up a worm’s eating of an apple that is blocking a path. To Absolem who can reverse the effects of gravity launching yourself and Alice to previously unreachable parts of a stage. Or the way the Chessur can make objects appear and disappear, to the Mad Hatter (“mad” being the operative word) and his penchant for flipping the world upside down. Thankfully, the number of characters you can control never feels overbearing thanks largely to how the game spoon-feeds the player a new character one at a time.
And it’s all presented beautifully through the game’s visual approach, which resembles a cartoon conversion of German expressionist cinema from the early 20th century. The environments are sharp, garish and look like the crayon works of a troubled child with an attraction to burning things. McTwisp and Alice et al are all well realised and move with a fluidity and detail you almost feel is beyond the call of duty for a movie tie-in – one of the better examples being the way Alice will skip gleefully behind whatever character you are in control of at the time as long as it’s done at walking pace. It’s endearing, subtle and just a microcosm of Alice in Wonderland – ever complemented by the musical score that plods along in a dreamlike capacity.
Alice in Wonderland succeeds in a number of ways. It caters to the older audience, offering a mature looking and playing puzzle adventure of consistent quality. It, save for the odd instance of poor sign-posting, panders to the younger demographic with endearing characters, a tongue-in-cheek script as well as a forgiving difficulty curve. And lastly – to come back to the opening musing – it is a movie tie-in done right. It takes the idiosyncrasies of its source material and crafts a videogame around it, working just as viably as a completely independent property with its own sense of identity and adventure.