Alice: Madness Returns – A Beautiful Story With Flaws

I finished Alice: Madness Returns after I finally had time to sit down and complete it. It tells a beautiful story about overcoming trauma. The issues with I have with this game are mainly bugs and it feeling like a rushed game.

Story

In the last game Alice manages to wake herself from her coma by reconciling her guilt over her parents fire. But the trauma still remains. Her brain can’t let go of the fire even thought her psychiatrist, Dr. Bumby, encourages her to forget everything. The story takes place in both London where Alice tries to figure out what exactly happened the night of the fire and in Wonderland which is being ruined by an evil train.

Level Design of Wonderland

The game is separated into stages each with it’s own separate theme. You start out in Wonderland with Alice’s standard dress. You also get a steampunk dress for the Mad hatter, a Siren dress for an underwater level, a dress inspired by China for a China level, a hearts dress for The Queen of Hearts, and a patchwork dress for Dollhouse. The dresses were really fun and had lots of variety.

The levels were mostly fun. There was a ton of platforming that got more complex as the game progressed. Later on there are timed puzzles that were the hardest part where there would be two platforms that would change height based on the weight put on one of them like a scale. So you had to put a little clockwork bunny bomb down and race to the other platform before the timer went off. My other favorite levels were the little slides you could go down because it reminded me of a Harry Potter game I played, I think The Prison of Azkaban, where there were ice slides you could go down.

There are also collectibles in the level like bottles and extra dialogue that reveal more of the story. Collecting all of these will reward you with bonus content like artwork. You can use Shrink Mode during the game to find paths for these collectibles. There will be drawing of a bottle or perhaps a drawing of a memory. You can shoot pepper at pig’s noses to reveal hidden paths. Sometimes there are invisible walkways only revealed through Shrink Mode. My favorite was finding an Easter Egg where Spicy Horse’s logo could be seen by Shrinking down near a large teapot in the China world.

The levels did sometimes feel like they were dragging on especially since the environments looked similar. Besides the slides, there was nothing to really break up the levels. There are puzzles but these puzzles repeat like a sliding puzzle or a rhythm puzzle that lags. This game has no boss fights besides a final boss. There were mentions of a boss during Hatter’s stage but the boss defeats itself. I’m thinking that there was not enough time to design boss fights which is why they are not there.

Best Level

This goes to the Queen of Hearts level. There were occasional chase scenes with an Executioner. It also had a fun mini game section where you became a giant Alice and got to smash your enemies.

London Level Design

These levels were very small sections which did have some fun little parts. Basically each section of London would hint to the next area. So you go to a mermaid bar you enter an underwater level later. You got to a man obsessed with China you go to a level that is Chinese influenced.

The most intriguing part was when it wasn’t real at all. There’s one part where Alice gets eaten by The Red Queen. She wakes up in an insane asylum. The game then demonstrates techniques used in Alice’s era like leeches or drilling holes in the head. It then would show disturbing imagery such as a room with bloody drills in the ceiling or leeches falling down from the ceiling. Towards the end you could see insane people with disturbed faces.

Bugs

This game could be a bit buggy although it never crashed on me. The rythym puzzles felt like they were lagging as it was hard to time the notes correctly. I would think I was pressing at the right time and I wasn’t. There was also a weird bug where any time Alice entered a level she would automatically start running forward unless you hit a wall to stop here. It was a minor problem until I had to follow a corridor of lights and she kept running in the oppoesite direction until I paused the game.

There were also odd glitches. When the screen was supposed to black out I could still see things happening which caused some funny moments like seeing The Mad Hatter being taken and the scene blacking out and he’s just hanging out waiting for the next scene to load. The final bonus level area where you can collect paint for hearts there were missing textures. It wasn’t my computer as I looked up other playthrough’s to check and no there were just black textures in some places. This also led me to believe that this was rushed as it should have been caught.

Major Theme: Trigger Warning of Sexual Assault

The game’s plot twist is the fire was not an accident. The psychiatrist, Dr. Bumby, raped Alice’s sister and then burnt the house down to hide the evidence. The game hints at this very early on until it is very much obvious in the Dollhouse level. How the game handles this is a mix of really well done and odd.

To start, I’m going to talk about the enemies. Your very first enemies are black sludge babies. This could be the earliest hint of abuse and if it is; the impact is lost. At first it is creepy and disturbing but various types of this enemy will keep reappearing so it feels like it gets turned into a generic battle. But, there is an effective enemy in Dollhouse. There are these dolls and when you hit them their clothes will fall off and then their beating heart is exposed. That was genuinely disturbing and I felt extremely uncomfortable with those battles.

There are subtle hints throughout the story and that’s’ when I think the game is at it’s strongest. If you’re paying attention at the beginning, there are kids with numbers hanging around confused around Dr. Bumby’s orphanage. Later on, the game shows this kids as dolls who are being groomed for further abuse by adults and Alice was being conditioned to be like them. That was very effective to show you something small and then do a major reveal at the end.

Dollhouse was a bit over the top. I think it was effective but it could be potentially too disturbing and triggering. In two parts of the level there are dolls with doors. One you have to enter in through a hole in the front of the doll where there’s a big hole below the chest and the doll looks like it’s screaming and the other door you enter in through a hole of the rear and the doll looks very upset. That made me extremly uncomfortable and didn’t want to proceed but it was the only way to get through the game. I feel that was a bit too strong of an image even though it was highly effective.

Final Boss

After Alice figures out that she was mentally blocking out Dr. Bumby grooming kids and that he was attempting to do the same as her via this train she becomes enraged. Bumby insists that she can’t win because she’s considered insane. This starts the final fight.

The boss fight is also very disturbing. He grabs Alice and you have to defeat him by hitting his tongue covered in the black sludge and doll faces from the first monsters you see in the game. It is very clear that Alice was probably assaulted by him as well. It was the toughest fight in the game and I did die in this section due to a hand move that could wipe out a few of Alice’s rose health icons.

This leads to an ending that’s probably the happiest Alice could have. She pushes Bumby into an oncoming train full of new children he intends to groom then she walks off into a London that is now like Wonderland in her Alice dress finally free of her abuse and with a full restored Wonderland.

Final Thoughts

While this game isn’t perfect, I still would recommend it. The fighting was fun even with the repetitive enemies. The platforming and slide sections were fun. It also was overall a powerful story of a women overcoming child abuse and also fighting to protect others. It’s also a tale of Alice finding herself again even and coming to terms with what happened to her and her family now that she knows everything. While it does have bugs they were pretty minor and the game was still very enjoyable. I would reccomend getting the version I got on Humble Bundle which is The Complete Edition so you could both this game and American Mcgee’s Alice.

What did you think of this game?

Super Mario 3D All Stars

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Super Mario 3D All Stars on the Switch allowed me to play Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy for the first time! I pre-ordered the game as soon as I heard about it and finally got to play it this weekend. I wanted to play Super Mario 64 so I could experience Mario’s first 3D game. I’ve seen little bits of it like the biting piano. Super Mario Sunshine looked so much fun with it’s beach setting, I thought it would be really relaxing to play! I love the moon and stars so the idea of visiting galaxies had me really excited for Super Mario Galaxy.

Presentation

The game begins with a cute opening cinematic of Mario catching stars from all three games before transitioning to the main menu. On the main menu a random track will play from the games and the name of the track and the game it comes from is shown in the top right corner. The three games each have a little information blurb on when they were created and a bit of history. After the three games, the three soundtracks are listed with information on the game soundtracks such as Super Mario Galaxy being the first game that included an orchestra. When playing the games you can press the – button to close the game, view the controls, view special moves which is super helpful, or activate 2 player mode in Super Mario Galaxy.

Super Mario 64

Peach tells Mario she baked him a cake so he should visit the castle, but when he arrives Bowser has taken over. Because this game introduced a 3D camera, the camera becomes a cameraman turtle called Lakitu. I played through the third course. I first explored the outside land and the interior of the castle as best as I could since most of it is locked.

It was really fun seeing the old graphics. I loved Lakitu on the cloud and Mario looks so cute with his little blocky body. I loved exploring the first level. It was fun running around the mountain to climb up until the top. The first boss was King Bob-omb who I had to throw three times. I got a little overzealous and threw him off the cliff which I was not supposed to do and he scolded me for it. I also had my first race with Koopa the Quick which was a bit tricky because I had to run up the mountain with bombs rolling down it and lava pits I had to jump. I was able to beat him in two tries. I also loved learning how the canons worked and launching Mario to collect all the red coins and getting another star. My other favorite thing about the beginning courses is how you’re taught mechanics like the red coins in that level taught me about more complicated platforming because I had to jump on an odd shaped moving block and then jump on several islands to get the rest of the red coins.

The one thing I was not the biggest fan on was the resolution. I would have liked the game to have widescreen so It could fit my TV, but it didn’t hamper me enjoying the game. I still really enjoy playing it! The camera controls also take getting used to but that was my problems across all three games. For this one, you can’t do a full 3D circle. You have to move the camera in increments and it tends to want to center behind Mario. It does take getting used to and may cause problems in harder stages.

Super Mario Sunshine

I definitely find this game to be very relaxing although it can be a little stressful when things get tricky. So Mario wants to go on an island vacation but there’s an ink Mario wreaking havoc and Mario is getting blamed for his messes and must clean up the island.

Exploring the hub world is really fun. I love the harbor! I love how pretty the water looks and the residents are adorable! The voice acting is hilarious especially when the toads talk! They have the oddest voices like very pitchy but also scratchy at the same time.

F.L.U.D.D. is a fun mechanic to switch things up. It takes a bit of time to get used to, but I am enjoying the water mechanics! I also love that the machine has a little personality like Cappy.

I explored Bianco Hills. I collected the stars up to finding all the red coins which was a lot of platforming, but I’m glad that it threw that in there because I can learn about how platforming works in the game. I also had a challenge where I had to collect a star without F.L.U.D.D. which involved getting used to platforming without F.L.U.D.D.’s help.

The first boss was Petey Piranha. I had to climb up to the top of a windmill which broke and then I fell inside the windmill and had to fill Petey up with water and then jump on his stomach three times. So far all the enemies have been really adorable with little flowers monsters and octopuses! The most annoying one is this little whirlwind that keeps respawning and knocks me off platforms if I don’t stun him with water.

Camera wise this also has a flaw. The full 3D camera and close up are very nice, but the camera can get “stuck” like when I was doing a puzzle where I had to shoot water at an X to pop out a coin from another X on the other side of the wall. The camera kept getting stuck because I had to zoom in to shoot the X and when it showed the cinematic where the coin was it would put the camera far away from Mario on the other side of the wall and it would take a bit of work to bring it back. Luckily it appear that pressing close up Mario camera mode resets the camera when it gets too far away.

The blue coins are interesting as it appears like they unlock things like stars. When I brought 10 coins to a shop at the harbor, I got a star! Red coins in a level do not transfer outside the level and are only for getting another star.

Super Mario Galaxy

Peach asks Mario to meet her for the Star festival. When he arrives Bowser kidnaps her and her castle. Mario gets thrown into space and lands on an island where little stars called Luma help him find Rosalina’s ship which needs powered up with Stars to catch Bowser.

I love the little mini islands I travel to on each level. The little Luma are so cute! I love that there’s ones I have to feed Star Bits too. Collecting star bits was fun using a controller! It took a little bit of time to get used to, but as long as I press R to center, I can easily collect Star bits. I’m loving how creative the little worlds are. Each galaxy level is composed of several planets which Mario must travel to by pressing Y or shaking the controller. You can also use the pointer and press A on little blue stars to drag Mario over the blue stars.

The first boss was also a little baby Piranha plant. It would chase me and I would have to run behind it and spin attack it’s tail so it would hit the Piranha on the head. My favorite was the last star on the first level where I had to go into this clear island and navigate the inside of the island which had arrows that would change the direction of the gravity.

The camera here was also a bit limited. You can only move it so far. But, there’s a first person mode that makes up for the camera limitations. The camera does try to be as responsive as possible following Mario around as quickly as it can so it doesn’t feel like Mario is running away from the camera. I’d say out of the three game I think this has the most responsive camera.

Final Thoughts

I think this game is perfect for a target audience like me who has never played these games! If you’re someone that has played them, you aren’t really getting anything new here besides them being in HD. It was also disappointing that the first game was not put into widescreen and the cameras have quirks for each game. But, I still love playing this game and do think they are very fun! I would say if you’re new or really want to play these games again or on the go, then it’s definitely worth it!

Have you played Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, or Super Mario Galaxy? What did you think of them? Are you going to play Super Mario 3D All Stars?

The Emperor’s New Groove and Childhood Games

assorted plastic toy on yellow surface
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I had the The Emperor’s New Groove game when I was a kid on my PC. I do not remember when I got it but I guess it must have been around when the movie came out. It was my favorite game as a kid, but I gave it away when I got a little older. I was so happy that I was able to replay it on my Vita.

The game is all about collecting Kuzco idols so you can reach the end of the level. The game is split up into little worlds that are split up into levels so it is not an open world game. The story follows the movie where Kuzco is turned into a llama by Yzma and Pacha decided to help Kuzco be a human again.

First World: Village

The game starts off with a tutorial. It introduced how to play the game and what the game was going to be like. The game immediately shows that it is funny and likes to break the fourth wall.

The game’s humor comes from Kuzco’s sass because he is sarcastic to everything that the game does. He will even sass the tutorial. The fourth wall is broken in different ways such as characters will tell you that this is a game or tell you how to use the camera and then comment that they do not know what a camera is.

It also introduced recurring characters. An example was a kid on a llama bike. You had to break his bike so he would give you an idol to progress through the level. All of the game’s main boss fights were with Yzma since she is the main villain.

First Favorite World: Catacombs

This was my favorite area as a kid and still as an adult because some parts of this area are roller coaster levels. I loved them as a kid because I could ride a roller coaster on my computer.

The roller coaster levels are actually tricky as an adult. They tend to go very fast and requires quick reflexes. Sometimes the game will reverse the controls so I have to control a fast roller coaster while the controls are reversed.

I struggled with the areas that were not roller coaster levels in this world. They were challenging because they involved platforming that was precise. I did not lose all of my lives, but I did decide not to 100% levels just because of how hard the platforming was.

Second Favorite World: River

This entire area is just a water level. You control Kuzco and Pacha who are tied to a log. I loved this area as a kid because it was fun to go down waterfalls and imagine myself on a water ride.

My favorite section of this area was a level where I raced the bike kid except for this time he was on a floatie. The level was fast paced and it was fun trying to beat the kid in a race.

Final Thoughts

This game was fun as a kid and it is still fun to play today. I love the soundtrack in this game. There were a lot of songs that I would just pause and listen to before I continued playing. I would describe the music as jazz because of the quick piano and the horns.

I also loved the humor in this game. My favorite character and funny part in this game was a man called Condorman. He believed he could fly. He was part of a puzzle where you had to aim him at a button so he would fly into the button. If you missed he would hit the wall, get dizzy, and climb back up while flapping his fake wings. He would make me laugh so hard as a kid and I still found him funny now. Clearly my humor has really developed as I grew older!

The boss fights with Yzma are simple, but they are still fun. My favorite boss fight was in the River world where you had to defend yourself against exploding balloon animals.

What was one of your favorite childhood games and what was your favorite part about that game?

 

Super Mario Odyssey and Childlike Wonder

black camera on white poster
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

E3 was this week and Nintendo’s showcase reminded me of the first game I beat on my Nintendo Switch, Super Mario Odyssey.  The game was fun because it encouraged me to explore. It is a game for all ages and encourages you to let out your inner child and explore the world with a childlike wonder. I decided to talk about exploring the world by examining my top three favorite worlds in the game.

Cascade Kingdom

This is the first kingdom the game takes you to after finishing the introduction. The world was breathtaking to look at with the waterfalls and the sleeping dinosaur. You stay in this world for a little bit while you collect enough moons to move on to the next world.

As soon as I could, I took control of the dinosaur with Cappy, the hat that helps you transform into creatures. I felt like a kid playing with dinosaurs again while I explored the world as a dinosaur and broke open areas that I could not initially explore due to them being blocked by breakable rocks.

This section of the game also introduced the first retro sections of the game You have to go to other areas of the game by entering a pipe and playing Mario in a 2D landscape. It was fun because it felt like playing an old Mario game with the retro looking Mario and retro music and sound effects.

Seaside Kingdom

Seaside Kingdom was fun to explore because it was like going to the beach as a kid and it lets your imagination run wild. The beach area allows you to play a game of volleyball for a moon and it was like playing games in the pool as a kid.

The underwater area is really where the game gives you a sense of childlike wonder. Mario only has a little bit of time to hold his breath underwater so you must capture a fish. So, you basically get to explore the entire underwater section as a fish. It lets you imagine what it is like to swim as a fish and explore the world as a fish with all the little caverns to explore. It is like swimming around as a kid and pretending that you are a fish when you swim around at the beach.

Metro Kingdom

The Metro Kingdom is New Donk City which is basically modeled after New York. I was able to explore New York on my TV and on the go through the Nintendo Switch. I had been to New York twice before the game came out so it allowed me to revisit the excited feelings of seeing a big city for the first time. The game encouraged me to jump on all the skyscrapers and climb the highest skyscraper. It was fun for me as a kid to imagine flying around the skyscrapers and seeing what the top of a skyscraper would be like and I was able to do that in Super Mario Odyssey.

The game also features a festival where the game’s theme, “Jump Up, Super Star”, plays. You have to go through a retro 2D side scroller and beat Donkey Kong just like in the very first arcade game. I am too young to know the original arcade game, but it would have brought older gamers back to their childhood of beating Donkey Kong in the arcade.

It’s Not Over Yet

While I did beat the game and saw the credits, the game does not end there. Super Mario Odyssey still encourages exploration with post world content. The game wants you to continue feeling that childlike wonder as you explore more of the worlds you have seen and new worlds that unlock as you collect more moons.

My question for this week is what game worlds do you like to explore the most?