Alice Madness Returns

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Alice, a character by Lewis Carroll in his book Alice in Wonderland have generated into
many categories from movies, plays, and even games. While most of them will show her in a
bright and colorful world, McGee on the other hand, takes that and turns it upside down
in his latest game, Alice Madness Returns.

Alice Madness Returns, designed by American McGee, developed by Spicy Horse is the 2nd
installment to the original American McGee's Alice. It features a dark and twisted version of Wonderland
and continues where the original left off as Alice is now at a orphanage in London, who is going back to
Wonderland to find out the truth about the fire that killed her family.

Game Settings:
Having the game for the PC platform any PC gamer would expect there to be lots of setting for the
player to tinker with, sadly that is not the case. This game is clearly a console port as
settings adjustments are limited as even some of the most basic like mouse sensitivity are absent.
Players can however change a few basics with the options of either on or off. To make up for the
loss, PC version has the option to enable Nvidia PhysX, with a PhysX capable GPU, gaming experience is
taken to another level.

Weapons:
There are quite a few weapons in the game and they are the following:
*Vorpal blade- first introduced in the original, this is Alice's prefer weapon of choice
as it provides quick and deadly attacks. Plus it's light so Alice can quickly get away from her
enemies.
*Hobby Horse- a hammer like weapon with a horse's head attach at the end. Use it for full
on attack as it's one of the strongest weapons in the game. Can also be used to break
surfaces previously not accessible.
*Clock bomb- a timer bomb in the shape of a bunny can will detonate when the timer is up or on
command is used to blast weak surfaces, distract/kill weak enemies, and act as a weight.
*Pepper Grinder- much like the one in real life, Alice uses this to shoot hot peppers from a safe
distance.
*Teapot Canon- Canon in the shape of a teapot, shoots hot bags of tea at enemies at a distance, but
it's launching distance is short and quite inaccurate as it depends on the angle it's shot from.
The longer the canon is charged the hotter the teabag gets.
*Umbrella- uses it as a shield or deflect.
All weapons except the clock bomb and umbrella can be upgraded with the in-game currency using teeth.
As each weapon is upgraded, its damage increases as well as its outer appearance. The vorpal blade does
not change, but players can tell what level its upgraded to by the color it produces. There are 4
level of upgrades for each weapon and each time the transaction is complete, the next upgrade will
result in a higher price tag thus finding as many teeth as possible is essential to keep Alice at a
advantage.

Gameplay:
The are two modes of game play as she will transition from time to time between reality and Wonderland.
During reality game play, the player has limited control of Alice as the only thing she can do
is walk around, look at the surroundings, and interact with limited objects. In wonderland the player
has full control of her as now she can jump, twirl, dodge, float, and uses her primary/secondary attacks.
The slight difference between the two places aside from the clothing she wears is you get first person
perspective only when you're in the real world, but would have been nice if that feature was also included in
Wonderland so the player gets the feeling they're actually that character.
There are a total of 6 chapters, each have its own type of enemies, themes, and to top it off they
even add different dresses for Alice to match along with it. One example of that, the player will get
to see is the start of Chapter 2 as it's a underwater theme where enemies, the player will encounter
are those that lives in the ocean. If a bolterfly was to be underwater, it would not make any sense.
While each level does have it's own type of enemies, one type the player may see through each level
are Dollmaker's "Ruins".
Now each level isn't without its difficulties as majority of the time, player must jump over
long distances as they can do so with twirl and float and sometimes have to time everything correctly
for them to advance to the next area of the game. The timing portion may take some time to get
use to as it will bring frustration for some. To help players cool off their steam, besides primary game play
there are other activities players can enjoy on each level and these other activities are...
*collect memories- it comes in different shapes and forms, once collected it will reveal a bit of the past.
*collect bottles- they unlock extra contents from the game menu
*paint the roses red- enter one of the Radula rooms and either answer Cheshire cat's riddle/questions or
survive for a specific amount of time from a bunch of enemies. If successful a red ink will appear and
Alice gets that to paint a portion of the rose red. When a whole rose is complete that rose is added to
your health meter thus increasing Alice's life span.
*Pig snout hunting- find these, shoot them with a pepper grinder and in return will help Alice get
from one place to the other, give out memories/bottles and even rewards like teeth (sometimes golden teeth
as it's worth more value) as well as roses all nicely packed up in a duchess basket.
To find the pig snouts, players must listen to the "snout noise" they make, but if they hear it while can't find it,
using shrink sense will let Alice see items that are invisible, and get access to areas not possible in normal size.

Performance/Others:
Testing out on a system that is around 3 years old, the game ran really smooth even at high resolutions, but
with PhysX set to the max, frame rate dip into unplayable territory and thus it has to be turn
down a notch. At first, some would think is their hardware not up to the task? Turns out according to others
on the web, this game is quite demanding especially with Nvidia PhysX even if the player has the best
card on the market. If a player don't give anything about this PhysX stuff, they can set it to Low and
the game should be able to run it as long as they got decent hardware and graphic card to boot.
For consoles, players can purchase the DLC and get the nightmare pack which contains extra weapons/dresses
not available in the standard version along with a full copy of the original game. And it's recommended to
play the original first and then the new one to get the complete picture.

Nvidia PhysX adds a layer of realism to the game as Alice breaks up tiles with the hobby horse.
http://img198.imageshack.us/img198/2955/alice1ab.jpg


Benchmarking:
To get a better picture of how good the game runs, that 3 year old system was used to find out how much it
can get with different screen resolutions. Benchmarking results are calculated in FPS (frames per second) and
higher is better. Results are given in minimum, average, maximum. The game is capped at 30fps so some
values must be modified to get the most out of it and vsync is set to false.

Test platform
-Intel Xeon quad core @ 2.66GHz
-4GB DDR2 800MHz
-ATi Radeon HD5850 Catalyst 11.6
-WD Black 500gb SATA 3Gb/s
-Windows 7 Ultimate 64bit w/SP1


http://img193.imageshack.us/img193/1511/lowg.jpg
The game can be played on a wide range of resolutions when PhysX is set to low

http://img534.imageshack.us/img534/1371/medri.jpg
On medium settings, PhysX taps into the graphic card. We can see the higher the resolution gets, the stronger the graphic
card needs to be, to obtain a playable frame rate.

http://img94.imageshack.us/img94/5748/highyb.jpg
The game cannot be played when PhysX is set to high, maybe a 2nd card in SLI or one just one dedicated to PhysX may help.

http://img5.imageshack.us/img5/6826/comparisonjm.jpg
Comparison of average FPS from all PhysX settings

Screenshots:
http://img24.imageshack.us/img24/2567/amrsc1.jpg
Wonderland...

http://img705.imageshack.us/img705/6898/amrsc6.jpg
CardBridge

http://img853.imageshack.us/img853/9592/amrsc5.jpg
Alice firing the pepper grinder at a Madcap

http://img855.imageshack.us/img855/125/amrsc4.jpg
Eastern Level theme

http://img27.imageshack.us/img27/4181/amrsc7.jpg
Alice attacking a Menacing Ruin

http://img32.imageshack.us/img32/5928/amrsc8.jpg
Alice Liddell <<< clickable link

Rating:
8/10

Comments welcome! :)

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  • Jul 15, 2011

CyanideBlizzard

Retired Moderator

CyanideBlizzard

Margarita Time!

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I've been completely digging this game.

What a huge change in a very right direction for American McGee after his wonderful American McGee's Alice. The game has received a lot of flak for not being nearly as open ended, but I think it's perfect just the way that it is.

My only true complaint is that it's obvious the controls were not meant for a mouse-keyboard combination. Either that, or I'm simply not use to that style of control for a PC title, but I think it's more of the former than anything else.

Another complaint I had was I tend to run into slow down as well. Considering my machine is running on two Radeon 5770s, 16 GBs of ram and the Phenom II x6, I find little reason for this game to have any herky-jerky issues. Perhaps this could be simply an issue with the game on steam itself.

Otherwise a very nice review!

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  • Jul 15, 2011
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The game does slow down when lots of PhysX effects are being active, but there is a tweak you can try.
I'll post that up later on as I don't have my notes at this moment.

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  • Jul 15, 2011

CyanideBlizzard

Retired Moderator

CyanideBlizzard

Margarita Time!

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Quote by tiki223The game does slow down when lots of PhysX effects are being active, but there is a tweak you can try.
I'll post that up later on as I don't have my notes at this moment.

I was thinking that might be the issue, although I did turn PhysX down pretty low too. I'm still thinking that there might be some issues because of it, which is such a shame.

By all means! No worries about rushing that or anything. I've got plenty of games to play through.

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  • Jul 15, 2011

SnickerdoodleNinja

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SnickerdoodleNinja

Snicker-Logical

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I got this game for my 360 recently and have been wondering whether or not to pick it up anytime soon, since I haven't and probably won't play the original (watching someone else do it is plenty for me! especially since it looks nintendo hard.T.T) After reading this, I'm really excited to try it out! Thanks for the information, it was quite helpful. :)

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There's a skinny girl who lives inside of me that's trying to get out, but I can usually shut her up with cookies.
"Dance like no one's watching. Sing like no one's listening. Work like you don't need the money. Love like you've never been hurt before. Live like there's no tomorrow."

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Some performance tweaks for the game (PC, don't know if consoles allows you do do this)
Backup files first before modifying!

The game is capped at 30fps. To get smoother game play, users will need to change the value to 60.
Go to Documents\My Games\Alice Madness Returns\Alice Games\Config
Open up AliceEngine.ini with a text editor and find "MaxsmoothedFrameRate" change the value from 30 to 60
Then look for the following:
"bSmoothFrameRate" from True to False
"UseVsync" from True to False

Some PhysX tweaks
Open AliceGame.ini and change "MaxPhysicsSubsteps" to a 4
Open AliceEngine.ini and change "PhysXGpuHeapsize "to 128 , "PhysXMeshCacheSize" to 16
"ApexDestructionMaxChunkIslandCount" to 50
"ApexDestructionmaxChunkIslandCountHigh" to 150
"MinTimeToGuaranteeMinMipCount" to 0
"MaxTimeToGuaranteeMinMipCount" also to a 0

For those with Eyefinity or 3D surround the text menu may get squeezed
Open AliceEngine.ini
Change "ResX=6000" and "ResY=1080"

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  • Jul 16, 2011

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