American McGee’s Alice

A few years ago, due to some epic shortsightedness, I managed to move into a new house that had all the amenities: power and water. What was missing was cable, phone service, and Internet access. This was before I had a cell phone and before unsecured wireless networks were in every home, so I was essentially cut off from the world. The earliest I could get hooked up was over 10 days away, and as I was pondering what I could do to pass the time a friend helpfully suggested that I could read a book. I ended up not taking his suggestion and instead used the time in isolation to play through one of the more peculiar games that I’ve ever played.

American McGee’s Alice is a game set some time after the Alice in Wonderland books. Somehow Alice’s house burns to the ground and her family dies within, leaving her the sole survivor. She ends up at an insane asylum, clearly off her nut. As it seems, Wonderland exists within Alice’s head and since she’s so traumatized the world is warped, twisted, and barely resembles the Carroll tales.

So you have to guide Alice through the landscape and attempt to restore the order of things by brute force… brute force and a kitchen knife (named the ‘Vorpal Blade’). It’s a bit intense.

The game manages to be equal parts creepy, intriguing, and oddly compelling. I’m really glad that I took the time to plow through this game in a couple of days, because I just didn’t want to stop. The only problem? The ending! The intro to the game was well done, the backstory was fleshed out very well, and the game took me a good amount of time to complete. The ending? A 30-second clip where everything’s OK again. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it was more than what I got. It was a huge letdown for such a well crafted experience to completely fall apart at the end.

I would still recommend this game to those interested in the subject matter, just don’t let the ending taint your experience.

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