|American McGee's Alice|
PC, Mac, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
|Image gallery (327)|
Designed by American McGee, hence the game's title, and featuring music produced and composed by Chris Vrenna, Alice acts as a macabre sequel to Lewis Carroll's best-known novels, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and features elements from the shooter, platforming, and horror game genres. It was originally released with a casebook detailing backstory of Alice's stay at Rutledge.
A sequel, Alice: Madness Returns, was released in June 2011 for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was bundled with an enhanced port of American McGee's Alice, featuring widescreen resolution and slightly updated character texture models. The console versions of Madness Returns were bundled with a free port of American McGee's Alice via Xbox Live and the PlayStation Store.
The PC remastered version of American McGee's Alice includes support for newer operating systems and controller support. This updated PC version of the game, however, is not currently available in Steam for unknown reasons. It is only possible to obtain the updated PC release through a Madness Returns bundle called "Alice: Madness Returns - The Complete Collection" on non-Steam digital distribution sites, or unofficial means.
Shortly after Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, at the age of seven, Alice Liddell witnessed the death of her family in a fire that broke out in her home, which was destroyed in the blaze. Suffering from survivor's guilt and post-traumatic stress disorder, Alice began to lose her grasp on reality and was ultimately sent to Rutledge Asylum in London for her insanity and catatonia. Her doctor, Heironymous "Harry" Q. Wilson, was unable to cure her, even after nearly ten years after being committed. In 1874, Alice slowly began showing signs of recovery.
In August 1874, Alice was brought back into Wonderland, now a twisted and deadly version of itself, due to the horrible rule of the Queen of Hearts and additionally, Alice's own insanity. With the Cheshire Cat as her guide and the help of other creatures from her past adventures, it was Alice's task to kill the Queen, in order to save Wonderland and herself from the corruption. The residents of Wonderland saw Alice as their only chance to get rid of the Queen, due to the stories White Rabbit told of a champion, so she was placed into the role of their savior and began her journey to face the Queen. Alice followed Rabbit but quickly lost him as he shrunk into a tiny hole and ran off without her. Along her search to find him, the Torch Gnomes of the Village of the Doomed told her that the Fortress of Doors held the secret to becoming smaller, and she should seek the Mayor Elder.
Mayor Elder offered to take Alice to the Fortress of Doors if she could return with a key to open doors. She managed to retrieve the object, killing several Card Guards in the process, and the two of them traveled to the Fortress. Inside the Skool within the Fortress, Alice and the Mayor retrieved ingredients and made a shrinking elixir. After drinking the elixir about becoming small, Alice jumped into a portal which took her to the Vale of Tears.
Traveling through the valley looking for Rabbit again, Alice came across the Mock Turtle, unshelled and sobbing his eyes out. Although Turtle had not seen Rabbit, he said he would take Alice to the Caterpillar who knew everything, but first she had to retrieve his shell from the Duchess, who had tried to turn Turtle into soup. Downstream, Alice found Bill McGill, who had been kicked out of his own home by the Duchess, who was hiding out from the Queen.
After defeating the now-murderous Duchess in combat, and giving Turtle his shell back, he led her through the underground water tunnels to the Wonderland Woods. Alice finally found Rabbit in this area and the two went together to find Caterpillar. Unfortunately for them, the Mad Hatter was traveling through the woods and stomped on Rabbit, killing him.
Blaming herself and her bad luck, Alice broke down into tears briefly but quickly got control of herself again when Cat reminded her of her task. When she found Caterpillar, he told her that it was her own guilt and insanity that had turned Wonderland into a dark and twisted version of itself, and she was brought back to kill the Queen to save the land and herself. He then created a portal for her, which took her to the Fungiferous Forest. At the forest, Alice killed the Voracious Centipede and took a bite from the Mushroom of Life to return to her normal size.
Traveling on, Alice came across an oracle who told her she had to defeat the Queen's main defense, the Jabberwock with the Jabberwock's Eye Staff. Having already obtained one piece of the staff, Alice set off to the Pale Realm to get another from the White Chess Pieces. The White King asked Alice for her help to save his queen from the red side and gave her a pawn to help her. Storming the Red Castle, Alice arrived too late and witnessed the White Queen's beheading. However, after defeating the Red King, Alice used her pawn to revive the White Queen. As the White Queen went to battle the red pieces, Hatter appeared and knocked Alice out cold.
When Alice came around, she found herself in Hatter's Domain, and she set off to find him. After getting rid of Hatter's goons, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Hatter arrived and commented on that Alice feared the truth, and returning to Rutledge Asylum, but all of that could be avoided. Although Alice asked for an answer from him, she did not get one and the ground crumbled below her.
Alice quickly got to her feet, and moving further in, she encountered the Dormouse and March Hare, imprisoned and being experimented upon by the insane Hatter. As she could do nothing for them. Alice went deeper into Hatter's lair, and found Gryphon trapped in one of the cages. After learning from him that Hatter arrived at six o'clock everyday to check his experiments, Alice used this information to change the clocks to read six o'clock, which drew him out to her.
After killing Hatter and gaining the second piece of the Eye Staff, Alice allied with Gryphon and they flew together to the Land of Fire and Brimstone. Alice found out that the oracle was actually Caterpillar, and he explained that when Alice answered Rabbit's call, she had began to recover from her madness, and only she can save herself and in turn Wonderland. Soon after, she faced the Jabberwock in battle, and although she did not manage to kill him, she did gain one of his eyes to complete the Eye Staff.
With Gryphon and some rebel troops, Alice stormed Queensland and the Queen's castle. During the battle, Alice witnessed Gryphon take on the Jabberwock alone, and die in the process. In revenge, Alice killed the Jabberwock herself, and continued with her mission. Just as she was about to finally face the Queen, the Cheshire Cat tried to tell her that she and the Queen were one and the same, but was killed doing so.
After a long and deadly battle with the Queen, Alice came out as the winner, and Wonderland became a peaceful world once again, with many of her old friends revived from death. In the real world, as part of the aftermath of her victory, Alice's mental state had improved greatly, and in November 1874, Alice was deemed sane enough to be released from Rutledge. Although she was depressed, Alice was committed to the struggle for her sanity. Alice leaves Rutledge with a mysterious black cat. After being released from Rutledge Asylum, one of Alice's former carers, Nurse Pris Witless found Alice a home and a job at the Houndsditch Home for Wayward Youth in London, leading to the events of Madness Returns.
As Alice goes along her journey through Wonderland, various enemies and beasts will try to attack her, to stop her from reaching the Queen as they see her as a threat. The types of enemies that appear depend on which area of Wonderland Alice is currently visiting. As well as generic enemies, Alice has to face large, more deadly foes in the form of boss battles, which plays a large part into the story.
During the course of the game, Alice collects ten different weapons to fight with, most of which can be found in obvious places where they will be easy to find. Each weapon has two different attacks:
- Croquet Mallet
- Deadtime Watch
- Demon Dice
- Ice Wand
- Jabberwock's Eye Staff
- Playing Cards
- Vorpal Blade
Sanity and Will
There are two meters that represent Alice's vital statistics:
- The left red bar called "Sanity" is Alice's (mental) health bar. When Alice suffers damage, she loses her sanity. When the bar is empty, Alice loses all of her sanity and collapses, resulting in "game over."
- The right blue bar called "Strength of Will" represents the ammunition or fuel for the weapons. Weapons use up Strength of Will to perform attacks, and when the bar is empty or the player attempts to use a weapon that requires more Will than the bar contains, Alice will automatically switch to the Vorpal Blade, the weakest and only weapon that does not consume Will (aside from the Croquet Mallet's primary attack).
Meta-Essence can restore Alice's Sanity and Will when collected.
Throughout the game, Alice can find various items that will change her form and grant her special strength and abilities. However, while powerful, they last for a limited amount of time after touching them:
- Grasshopper Tea – Allows Alice to run faster and jump higher.
- Looking Glass – Turns Alice invisible so she can bypass enemies or pull sneak attacks.
- Rage Box – Alice becomes stronger and can deal more damage.
- Main article: American McGee's Alice Original Soundtrack
The soundtrack to Alice was released on October 16, 2001 by Six Degrees Records, titled American McGee's Alice Original Music Score. It features all twenty original compositions by Chris Vrenna, including a previously unreleased theme and a remix of Flying on the Wings of Steam.
In December 2000, director Wes Craven signed on to develop a film adaptation of Alice, and screenwriter John August was hired to adapt the game for the big screen. American McGee had begun negotiations with Dimension Films 10 months before, with the studio committing to the project before Craven's signing.
In September 2001, August explained that he had turned in a script treatment for Alice and was not attached to develop fuller drafts for the film adaptation. In February 2002, Dimension Films signed screenwriters Jon and Erich Hoeber to write the screenplay for Alice. In July 2003, the brothers announced that they had completed the script for the film adaptation.
In 2004, the project moved from Dimension Films to 20th Century Fox, but then in 2005 Universal Pictures acquired the rights. As of June 2008, producer Scott Faye indicated the film was in "turnaround" from Universal. He admitted that the script needed development, but would be used to attract the attention of a new studio. At one point, the film rights were reported to have been owned by Sarah Michelle Gellar, who at one point was rumored to play Alice in the film. She noted in 2008 that she's "not giving up" on the film, but a few months later she was reported to have left the project.
The current state of the film project is unknown, but McGee maintains credited as creator and producer of the project.
American McGee's Alice received mostly positive reviews from critics, and the graphics and music were well-praised for its time. Some of the positive reviews were Metacritic's 85/100 review score, GameSpot's 7.3/10, and IGN's 9.4/10. The game was a success and is considered a cult classic.
Common criticism included clunky, awkward, and slippery controls. Alice has little "weight" to her and if she is attacked by a monster while jumping, it is common for her to be flung off the level and into pits, leading to lots of deaths.
Some players also felt the combat was loose, unsatisfying, frustrating, and tedious at times.
Portrayal of mental health and illness
American McGee's Alice, as a video game, is notable for its representation on mental health issues, and possibly is one of the first (or first) video game to respectfully portray victims of poor mental health without portraying them as "psychopathic crazy murderers who want to kill everyone and eat their faces just because they're insane." American McGee's Alice paved the way for games such as Silent Hill 2, Ether One, Nevermind, and Hellblade which focus on mental health. American McGee's Alice allows players to walk in the shoes and explore the demented mind of a fragile and vulnerable catatonia victim and sufferer.
Alice is portrayed as sad, miserable, depressed, damaged, traumatized, tortured, emotionally and mentally unstable and suicidal protagonist. Despite this, Alice is also treated with sympathy, dignity, and respect. Alice is constantly haunted by the memories of the fire that claimed the lives of her parents and her sister, causing her to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and survivor's guilt as a result, which can manifest into extreme self-loathing and suicidal tendencies. Alice has stated she is not afraid of death because she has wished for it at times, and questions the point in living if she is only going to hurt others. It is implied Alice cut her wrists in an attempt at suicide.
- Main article: Beta Content
While Alice: Madness Returns has a trailer purely for Beta content, American McGee's Alice does not. Beta material is found through old screenshots before release.
There is also a trailer which shows the final trailer before release, along with beta music and uncompleted scenes that are simply story boards. These were also released on the original site.
- A port for the PlayStation 2 was also in development but was later cancelled, which caused Rogue Entertainment to shut down, another decision which angered American McGee and resulted him leaving EA "in frustration." This was back when dedicated video game consoles were more powerful than PCs.
- American McGee believes that if Lewis Carroll ever saw American McGee's Alice, he would "probably freak and run out of the room." Then when someone explained to him that computers "weren't the work of Satan... imagine he might be pleased."
- The game uses a modified build of the id Tech 3 engine; Ritual Entertainment's version, which was used for Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K.2. American McGee had worked on many id Tech-based games prior to Alice, such as the Doom and Quake series.
- In some regions, the cover of the game that shows Alice holding the Vorpal Blade with blood splattered on her dress was deemed too violent on store shelves. Alternate versions of the cover include her holding the Playing Cards or Ice Wand instead, with the blood removed.
- In the White Castle located in the Pale Realm, there is a portrait of Lewis Carroll.
- There are over ten different versions of the game cover which vary from censorship reasons to language barriers.
- American stated on his forum that Alice cost over $3,000,000 USD to produce.
- American McGee stated he "wouldn't mind" if Alice received a graphical update on-par with Madness Returns.
- In the Beta trailer for Alice, the background music is actually a reprise of several songs spliced together from Sleepy Hollow and Edward Scissorhands, both composed by Danny Elfman.
- American McGee's Alice on PCGamingWiki
- American McGee's Alice on Xbox 360 (Xbox Live)
- American McGee's Alice on PlayStation 3 (PlayStation Store)
- Movie version