Nostalgia Game of the Month – Alice: Madness Returns

In the annals of video game history, certain titles carve a unique niche for themselves, leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of players. One such gem that took players on a mesmerizing and twisted journey through the whimsical world of Wonderland is “Alice: Madness Returns.” As a recovering ’emo kid’ who spent her formative years feeling every emotion she could at 110% intensity this game found itself etched into my personality, and I find myself tumbling down the rabbit hole once more.

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Developer: Spicy Horse

Platorm/s: Windows, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Release year: 2011

Genre: Action/Adventure

Game Modes: Single Player

Released during the iconic console war era between Xbox and PlayStation, as the sequel to the cult classic “American McGee’s Alice,” Madness Returns maintained the dark and haunting atmosphere of its predecessor while introducing an even more intricate and visually stunning Wonderland. The narrative, an extension of Lewis Carroll’s fantastical tales, unfolds like a macabre fairy tale, pulling players into the fractured psyche of the titular heroine, Alice Liddell.

From the moment the eerie music began to play and the hauntingly beautiful graphics rendered the twisted Wonderland, I was transported to a realm that was as mesmerizing as it was unnerving. The juxtaposition of the familiar Wonderland characters with the grotesque and nightmarish elements created an atmosphere that was both nostalgic and chilling. It was a rollercoaster ride of emotions, and I couldn’t help but marvel at the creativity poured into every pixel.

The narrative itself, though at times dark and twisted, was a gripping exploration of Alice’s tormented mind. The unravelling mystery of her past, intertwined with the whimsical characters of Wonderland, kept me hooked till the very end.

The art design, a nightmarish tapestry woven with beauty and horror, was a visual feast. Each level felt like a handcrafted piece of art, a testament to the dedication of the design team. The haunting melodies, served as the perfect backdrop to Wonderland’s twisted landscapes, evoking a sense of melancholy that lingered long after I put the controller down.

As I dived back into the game to see how it had held up to the tests of time, I found myself conflicted. Superficially, the nostalgia itch in my brain was satisfied with the dark, creeping intensity of the characters and the sense of ‘madness’ that was carefully woven to match the original author’s style. What I hadn’t expected was how gameplay and mechanics, which at the time had felt dynamic and revolutionary would now just feel sometimes cumbersome and often unreliable. My frustration at the the nostalgia vs reality of the age of the game beginning to show often affected my ability to truly enjoy the game as much as I should.

The game’s creativity and gameplay has stood the test of time well and it remains a fun delve into a damaged psyche, and for those without nostalgia goggles on the gameplay and mechanics almost certainly still seem fresh. For me, though the frustration got the better of me and I am ashamed to admit… I did not finish my play through. I will most likely go back once my frustration wanes and complete the game again, if only because of the compelling aesthetic that made me fall in love with the game in the first place.

If you want to try the game yourself, you can find it on steam.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments