GHOST PEPPER BEAR REVIEWS THE ALICE GAMES
*drops a dead camper off and politely dabs his blood stained muzzle with a red handkerchief*
Ahem, I do apologize for the delay in this. It seems I am a terrible procrastinator and needed a bit of... prodding... to get me out of my cave.
*nudges the camper's stick back under the gory mess*
Anyways, the last time we spoke oh gentle reader, was when I went over what is most correctly a horror prequel for our current topic of discussion. We spoke then of American McGee's Alice. Today we speak of the more truly terrifying of the two, Alice: The Madness Returns. A more apt appellation I could not aspire to ascribe to this absolutely artful portrayal of atrocity.
Regardless, where to begin? I suppose at the end is the best place to start. When we last left our loopy lady, she had recovered something very precious, her own agency in the world. The problem is she bought it at the price of her memory, leaving her able to act, but adrift without the anchor of a past. Now she seeks to build bridges, and better herself through the act of consciously crushing her subconscious mind. A damnable repression ripping apart her internal reality, to accept that of the mundane. A terrible choice which cannot last for very long.
But this is a discussion of how horror can live in games. We talked of the bare bones of creepy with our previous discussion. Now we lay the meat on the skeleton.
*picks a splinter of bone, marrow still dribbling down and picks a piece of person from his toothy grin*
Alice: The Madness Returns tells the tale in layers, peeling back bit by bit to get to the rotten ghastly core. This is its genius. To start simple and straightforward, then through learning, the player begins unblinding oneself and the more nuanced and grim aspects of the tale becomes apparent. The tale is dark dear reader, of that you can be assured. Betrayal, perhaps the most profound betrayal one can commit: of the strong preying up on the weak. I shan't ruin the whole of the story, for like most truly delicious tales of the depths of fear, not knowing makes the understanding more potent in the end.
The whole game is a puzzle box shaken end over end and only by playing can you turn the pieces over, place the corners, and watch the whole horrifying picture emerge. Yet the genius is that some of the pieces are missing, and while you can fill them in with your mind, the certainty is gone, and that uneasy feeling will never leave. In the end our heroine is broken, yet unbowed, standing tall, though tilted curiously to the left, if you take my meaning.
All too often the horror in games its superficial at best. Zombies, monsters, and the thing you cannot kill. Body horror can only go so far, as anyone who has played Left 4 Dead can tell you. Eventually, no matter how gruesome, a thing is just a thing, no matter what it may have once been. Alice mines deeper things, real things, real horror, and grabs hold of that piece of your mind that rests uncomfortably between sleep and waking.
Are you sane? If you said yes, how do you know? If you're not, then you've examined the issue and no matter how battered your brain, you're ahead of those lost in their madness. This is what ultimately Alice must confront. She must deal with reality, but cannot without the tools she learned in a place unreal, and it is through the use of lies she finds the truth. A truth with which she then acts, and it allows her to blend reality and fiction together. A state the user, if self aware, knows they live in themselves.
There are disturbing images, creepy if you will. But these deeper questions, those are what truly haunt. And on subsequent play, you see the clues were there all along. It was ignorance, willful or not, that would not let her see.
I may have rambled here, and I have a dinner awaiting me. But if you enjoy a horrific theater of the mind, and gaming, I recommend this one. Not for the gameplay, which is decent if tedious at times, but for the underlying uncomfortable questions this experience poses. That dear reader is where your Kween's Bear love of horror comes from.
Ta Ta for now.
*bends down to have a bite*