Sunday, 1 April 2012

Happy April Ghouls Day!

I bring you guys a "gift." It might actually be more of a practical joke, considering how dry he tends to write sometimes.  His humor is pretty much like powdered milk. But at least you don't have to live with him.

Today in honor of April Ghouls Day and a game I love to pieces, My Husband Bear writes you a review (which will come in two parts) of American McGee's Alice games. I thought since he was the one who played them through for me (Because the controls make me rage quit faster than Speedy Gonzalez on meth. For real. I tried several times to play them.The games are kinda borked that way, which is a shame, considering how awesome the story is.)

Are you ready? Sriracha Bear Incoming...

For more awesome artwork check out

Ghost Pepper Bear Reviews The Alice Games 

So hello readers of the Macabre, I am Kweeny's aforementioned bear. Yes, I'm a bear. You have no idea how difficult it is to type with these claws, but for her, my murderously dual-souled love, I'll do it. Recently at her behest, as I somehow get suckered into being her gaming bear, (NO DANCING), I played American McGee's Alice and Alice: Madness Returns for her. Today I will be discussing the first title in the series.

First, I will say to you dear reader, what I will not be talking about. No gameplay gripes shall pass my muzzle. I will speak on how the art is used as a tool for other things in the games, but about graphic fidelity I shall utter not a further word. The same goes for how these games play. Where the mechanics support or detract from the horrific themes I shall speak on, but as to how the first game's platforming is like slipping on a hot steaming turd covered floor while wearing banana peel slippers, I shall say no more.

While I first started playing these games as straight up games, diversions to entertain and challenge, a strange thing happened. I realized I was playing that most rare of genres, the horror game. The further I went in each game the more horrific it became, and that's saying something when your game starts with such personal tragedy. The stage is set when we take Alice (a girl of no more than nine) and turn her Wonderland upside down with a fire that consumes her home, her family, and even as she lay in the asylum bed, her sanity.

She is comatose looking up at nothing, seeing nothing, and feeling nothing. She has essentially become a hollow shell clutching a hand stitched rabbit loosely. Then a stirring happens, and the psychological torment one can put themselves through begins to shine. She pulls the rabbit in close, and it begins to speak, rapidly, urging her to save Wonderland. And through this save herself.
Alice is a game that has more than the trappings of horror. We all know the type. Sure the recent Resident Evil games have zombies, but do you ever truly feel despair, loss, or revulsion any more? Alice has all these things in spades, well let's say hearts if you prefer. It's worth talking about them individually, and how the game builds these horror themes up and into the player's mind.

First up is despair. From the start the denizens of Wonderland are shackled, enslaved and working for a faceless, unseen Queen of Hearts. The bright colors of our Wonderland are dulled browns, dingy greys, and radioactive greens. Her very imagination is polluted and forced to serve others. The setting does wonders to show how enmeshed in loss Alice is without hamfisting it. At one point she can only flow down a river of her own tears to move forward, and it's plainly shown, but not hammered down your throat so hard you have to gag it back up.

Quickly you become attached to your companions. Seeking mental solace in the familiarity of friends to replace the family that is gone. Every step forward is greeted with new loss though, as your guides, friends, and comrades are killed. I found myself going out of my way to help save the minor characters I could, not out of any in game benefit, but because after losing the people who are so important. I was latching onto literal voiceless pawns to bulwark against the pain. If that doesn't speak to loss I don't know what does.

Then there is revulsion. This doesn't come in immediately, and is only built upon once you are shaken through the tragic senselessness of so many deaths. Slowly things become more and more off, and the fantastic Wonderland takes on more sinister tones. Children laughing madly, stupidly, as they're set up like Alex from A Clockwork Orange, clamped down and eyes opened up. This intensifies until you're going through Alice's own hellish version of the asylum, and eventually her very own hell with lava, brimstone and imps included. Finally there is the Queen's chambers: a cthonic chamber of pulsing red tendrils, bone and flowing pools of what is obviously blood. The score here does great duty with a sound that is just ever so slightly discordant, like a child's xylophone set that is somehow out of tune.

The most horrific part of this game is that it throughout it hints that all Alice deals with is a denial of the truth, an artful self-delusion. This turns out to be the truth, the hard painful, wicked and nasty truth. In the end you can only delude yourself with childlike wonder for so long. Eventually the pain must out, and that dear readers is where the next game of the series begins...


  1. Hi, I think you were following my Necrotic Cinema blog. Or at least I seem to following yours :) I had to change the URL for a couple reasons. Things will improve for me but the drawback is I lost all my followers. If you like the sick site can you refollow me at:




  2. Thanks for the heads up! Already added your new address . :)

  3. I'm late to the party, but it's been taking me a while to get around to everyone, and some of the links were missing/not working. So first of all, a belated Happy April Ghoul's Day! I'm not into video games (I know, I know, BAD Emma!), but your Bear is a very entertaining writer!!!

  4. Happy April Ghouls Day! I started to play this game & adored it..I remember I was waiting for it be released. :P


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