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**ALL COVERED BELOW IN DETAIL
1. Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem
2. Condemned: Criminal Origins (Xbox 360)
3. Anna (PC)
4. The Dark Descent (PC)
5. A Machine for Pigs (PC)
6. American McGee’s back catalogue
7. Silent Hill
When it comes to Alice in Wonderland, any adaptation is going to be a little kooky. With Lewis Carroll’s book as the source material you’re never going to come up with something mainstream, but add in the off-kilter genius of American McGee and you’re destined to make something unique.
The most accurate genre description I’ve heard for the game is a psychological horror platformer – a bit of a mouthful and certainly not a category used in everyday conversation.
Did American McGee succeed in making something that is utterly its own thing? Or are there secretly video games similar to Alice: Madness Returns that are just waiting to be discovered?
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem is a survival horror. The critics loved it but it was not a commercial success, most likely because of its platform (GameCube).
Why I picked it –A sanity meter is ever present and affected by everything you do. As you sanity lessens the game changes, augmenting the camera more dramatically, adding freaky sound effects and even throwing up occasional temporary error messages about your TV or console.
What’s it about – Alexandra Roivas is investigating the murder of her grandfather in his mansion in Rhode Island when she stumbles across the Tome of Eternal Darkness. She reads it is temporarily transported back to 26BC as she relives some of a Roman commander’s life. Many more pages are found, all linked to different characters throughout time. Can she piece together the link in time?
What’s not to miss – The superb character and story development that won the game an Interactive Achievement Award.
How it is similar to Alice – One of the many joys in Alice is how the protagonist’s mental state fluctuates wildly during trauma, something that is mirrored in Eternal Darkness.
Zoey’s Verdict – On the surface it seems very different but tonally you’ll be surprised. There may not a lot of platforming in it but the riveting story and occasional decent into madness will certain make it worth your time.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Condemned: Criminal Origins is a psychological horror action game with a focus on puzzle solving, collecting evidence and melee combat.
Why I picked it – It’s dark and gloomy atmosphere and enemies that will make you jump consistently.
What’s it about – FBI agent Ethan Thomas has been framed for a double murder by Serial Killer X and must find the evidence to stop him before it’s too late. Searching through many condemned buildings to get to the truth, you must take down your enemies and examine your findings.
What’s not to miss – The limited weaponry almost never allows you to simply shoot the enemy, upping the scare factor as well as the skill.
How it is similar to Alice – The disturbing tone and quest for the truth.
Zoey’s Verdict – It’s not the closest but if it’s the dark tone that you’re trying to replicate this may well hit the spot.
Anna is a psychological horror point and click that was panned by the critics for being too hard and too obscure, making it sound perfect to me.
Why I picked it – Again it tracks your mental health. Your actions will drastically change the man’s sanity creating new areas to explore and even new endings.
What’s it about – A man with amnesia is drawn to an Italian cabin by Anna, who seems to be calling him there. He discovers that Anna is an ancient deity he once worshipped and must solve puzzles to obtain horrific clues and to uncover his memories.
What’s not to miss – The rock hard puzzles that will give the best of us a challenge.
How it is similar to Alice – The protagonist certainly doesn’t have a strong grip on reality.
Zoey’s Verdict – This is a deeply disturbing game that you just shouldn’t miss. If you’re brave enough to take on the puzzles you’ll love it.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a survival horror game filled with puzzles and stealth as you avoid monsters.
Why I picked it – Being in the dark too long or being traumatised will lose you some sanity and create hallucinations.
What’s it about – In 1839 a man named Daniel is around a Prussian castle with little to no memory. He discovers a note that suggests he erased his own memory. Unsure why he explores the castle findings notes from himself, only to also have visions. Hunted by a paranormal presence, he must discover why he arrived at the castle to begin with.
What’s not to miss – This is possibly one of the scariest games out there.
How it is similar to Alice – Alice may not be afraid of the dark but uncovering memories should be familiar territory for you.
Zoey’s Verdict – If you think Alice didn’t go far enough then this is for you. Terrifying and disturbing, don’t play this after dark.
Although set in the same universe as The Dark Descent, A Machine for Pigs has no other link to the previous Amnesia title, not even the time period.
Why I picked it – The Victorian London setting is just what Alice fans are looking for.
What’s it about – Oswald Mandus wakes up after months in a terrible fever. An engineer phones him and says his two sons, Edwin and Enoch, have been trapped in the machine that Mandus constructed under his house, and the machine has been tampered with. The Manpigs, hideous human-swine hybrids try to stop him at every turn as he tries to rescue his sons. Driven mad before the fever he must discover what the machine does and why.
What’s not to miss – A combination of stories in the past and present is nothing new but you’ll wrack your brain trying to figure out which are real and which are merely figments.
How it is similar to Alice – A combination of madness, amnesia, family trauma and Victorian England make a cocktail of disturbing darkness that will suit your mood perfectly.
Zoey’s Verdict – Although I personally favour the Dark Descent there is plenty to love in this series that remains tonally similar to Alice.
American McGee once announced that he wished to be “the next Walt Disney, only a little more wicked”. Anyone who enjoyed the Alice games knows he’s already succeeded, albeit on a small scale.
Why I picked it – It you really want that dark madness coupled with kooky platforming then you have to go to the source.
What’s it about – There’s two titles you should get your hands on. American McGee’s Grimm has a distinctly different graphics style (more simplified) but continues to put McGee’s spin on well-known tales. You play a dwarf named Grimm who creates a trail of darkness everywhere he goes. He’s sick of these child-friendly sweet fairytales and goes on a mission to turn them back into the Grimm source material they once were. Akaneiro: Demon Hunters is a free to play game that reimagines Red Riding Hood as a fighter in the midst of feudal Japan.
What’s not to miss – If you want more of the genius that created Alice then these are your best bet.
How it is similar to Alice – We all love twisted versions of beloved children’s books and that’s what American McGee continues to deliver in these titles.
Zoey’s Verdict – Alice is still by far the best but it’s great to see some other examples of his work.
Silent Hill was the original psychological horror series. Each game sees regular everyday people caught up in terrifying adventures as they struggle to survive.
Why I picked it – There’s just no way round it. If you like games that leave you little emotional scars then this is mandatory.
What’s it about – Although there has since been many sequels, the original follows a man searching for his missing adopted daughter in the town of Silent Hill. After discovering a cult that is trying to bring about the rebirth of their god he discovers that his daughter has a mysterious past.
What’s not to miss – It’s just a classic. Anyone interested in horror games should play it.
How it is similar to Alice – There’s certainly no platforming or light-hearted fun to had here but there is a disturbing story and addictive gameplay.
Zoey’s Verdict – Although the gameplay is completely different this is a valid trip back through the genre for those who have missed out. It’s definitely a high point for the horror genre.
Photo Credit: Video Game Heroes
Bayonetta is a stylish hack ‘n’ slash similar in style to the Devil May Cry series. Melding high-paced action, light platforming and a ridiculously Japanese plotline it’s unforgettable.
Why I picked it – It’s a superb game from start to finish.
What’s it about – The eponymous character is a witch who awakens with a severe case of amnesia. Struggling to remember who she is, all she knows is that she is locked into a fight with the angels. Able to move from one plane to another she must battle those on the heavenly plane whilst she tries to save the couple of humans she truly cares about.
What’s not to miss – Everything. This game is just a delight.
How it is similar to Alice – I’m well aware this is a bit of a stretch but with the overly English voices, the traumatic childhood and a big dose of amnesia I think it’s actually in the same vein. It evens couples platforming with it.
Zoey’s Verdict – The Alice games are fantastic, Bayonetta is fantastic. If you want a memorable leading lady, a lot of bloodshed and a crazy plotline then either of them will do.
If you don’t mind digging out an older console then Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem for the GameCube received critical acclaim for its art direction and story-telling. More recent titles include Condemned: Criminal Origins (Xbox 360), Anna (PC), and the Amnesia games The Dark Descent and A War Machine for Pigs (both PC). All these titles have dark psychological tales.
If it’s the darkness you crave then the above games should scratch the itch, but if, like me, it’s the balance of fantasy and real life horror that made you fall in love with Madness Returns then there’s really only one solution – American McGee’s back catalogue.
…There’s really only one solution – American McGee’s back catalogue…
If you’re not capable of splicing Silent Hill and Bayonetta together to get the right quantities of weird and creepy then you have to go back to the source. American McGee’s first solo outing was the aptly named American McGee’s Alice.
Although the gameplay was a little choppy this PC title (now available on consoles as Madness Returns DLC) brought together most of the aspects of sequel to create an atmosphere that I just didn’t want to leave.
Other creations in the fairytale vein include American McGee’s Grimm and Akaneiro: Demon Hunters which is based on Red Riding Hood.
Photo Credit: Gamespress
The gameplay is fairly standard for a platform. You must collect items, upgrade weapons and solve puzzles to find your way.
The platforming is fairly ordinary, but imaginative and down-right creepy enemies and environments mean you can never forget you’re playing an Alice title.
…Imaginative and down-right creepy enemies and environments …
The real stand out quality of the game has to be the story telling. Following up from the first game, it tells of Alice’s traumas at her orphanage as the resident psychologist makes her forget her memories. She starts to drift back into Wonderland and spends the game meandering between the two worlds attempting to gain the strength in Wonderland needed to face her real world demons.
The truth comes out in fragments as you progress and will always keep you guessing. Just when you think you have worked it out yet another dark twist takes over, in a story that I am surprised was allowed a 15 certificate.
I honestly don’t remember playing another game whose story was so menacingly yet openly evil.
When it comes to games like Alice: Madness Returns you have to break it down into two components: gameplay and story
If the platforming wasn’t so uniquely decorated it just wouldn’t stand out. But when it comes to such a dark story that stays with you there are a few options.
There just aren’t any games outside of the series that pair such a disturbing and adult story with such carefree gameplay.
I want more games like Alice Madness Returns. There just aren’t any games outside of the series that pair such a disturbing and adult story with such carefree gameplay.With no one else looking to pick up the ball it looks like my best hope is to wait for the sequel – Alice: Otherlands.
Patience is not my strong suit!
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