Review: Alice in Wonderland (Nintendo Wii)

Alice in Wonderland
Developer: Etranges Libellules
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Genre: Action
Release Date: 03/02/10

It is easy to fall into the trap of “for a movie tie-in” when reviewing a video game based on a film. The initial desire is to set the bar low when reviewing such a game. That is, to compare the game to the weakest of the lot and not the strongest.

So let us judge Alice in Wonderland not on that scale of movie tie-ins, but rather on its own merits. As a game outside of the stigma of being based on a film.

Who knows, maybe it will be pretty good. . . You know, for a third party Wii game.

To start, things in Alice in Wonderland are based on the movie Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and not the movie Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland.

Geez, that doesn’t really clear things up at all. . .

The game is, of course, based on Disney’s Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Although, that might be a bit misleading as the movie isn’t really based on the book Alice(‘s Adventures) in Wonderland, but is instead a sequel featuring the protagonist some years after her initial journey to the magical land.

Also, Wonderland isn’t actually called Wonderland here; it is called Underland.

And most of the game is spent with the characters arguing whether or not Alice is really Alice.

Hmm. . .

. . .

So, in Disney’s Tim Burton’s She Who May be Alice, and Who Is Also Grown Up Now, in Underland (nee Wonderland) you play as she who may be Alice. Wait. I take that back; you never get to play as Alice in D”ËœsTB”ËœsSWBAaWIAGUNiUnW. Actually, Alice is more of a liability in D”ËœsTB”ËœsSWBAaWIAGUNiUnW; she’s constantly getting kidnapped or placed in perilous situations. Basically, if you play this game you are going to spend a lot of time pulling Alice out of the hands of Card-Knights.

You start the game as the White Rabbit, following the grown Alice down a rabbit hole. From there Alice follows you around for some unknown reason, whilst you go around looking for other characters, and for items to make Alice the right size to open doors. You add members to your party and are constantly attacked by Card-Knights. That’s pretty much all that happens.

The story here is pretty thin. There are numerous cut scenes, some lasting a significant amount of time, but few have merit. These clips mostly revolve around the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire cat arguing about who-cares-what, the other characters arguing about whether or not Alice is the Alice, and the Red Queen demanding the decapitation of hedgehogs. Quite a bit of the time I had to stop and wonder why Alice was hanging around these lunatics and why playing cards hate me so much. Eventually, the player discovers that Alice is going to be the White Queen’s champion in a battle against the Red Queen’s Jabberwocky in order to decide which of the monarchs is going to rule Underland. This aspect of the story is barely introduced until the final quarter of the game. We don’t even see the White Queen until the middle of the third act. The whole thing requires a fifth of rum seven twelfths of the time.

Gameplay-wise, Alice follows the general template of the Lego series of games. You smash everything in site to collect semi-useful score-nuggets. Underland is maggoty with treasure chests full of these same score-nuggets. There are also bigger, fancier chests that contain slightly more valuable score-nuggets. You have a four heart life meter. When that is used up your character disappears in a beam of light, then reappears with a full health meter moments later without punishment. You start the game as a team of two characters (plus Alice) and eventually add three more. Each character has special abilities that can be used to attack enemies, but are more necessarily used to open doors to new areas. Only one of these characters in onscreen at any given time, unless you are playing co-op. You have to swap between them with C.

Most of the fights consist of mashing the B button until everything is dead. Well not really dead, it is a Disney game. Mostly, you have to knock the armor off of Card-Knights, then they flitter away. There are chess pieces scattered throughout the levels which can be used in conjunction with the aforementioned score nuggets to purchase upgrades. These allow you to use your special abilities against enemies. These are touchy things though, dependent on a third party developer’s use of Wii motion control. The special abilities have a tendency not to work when surrounded by enemies, pressed for time, or, in a general sense, needed.

So once again the game is reduced to mashing the B button. You come right back after you die, so dodging isn’t really necessary. This is a good thing, since most of the characters can’t do it very well.

Let’s run down the characters and their special skills.

The White Rabbit can freeze objects and enemies in time, repair clocks and rejuvenate flowers. He has what I found to be the most useful ability in the game. After freezing an enemy, he can make that enemy go back through the portal whence he came, thus avoiding playing the game altogether. His B button attacks consist of hitting people with his pocket watch.

The Dormouse doesn’t actually get any special skills. She is mainly the co-op character. Her attacks are fast and she is small enough that a lot of enemy attacks miss her. She can gain special abilities, such as a sweep that can be performed by shaking the Wii-mote. I can’t get it to work dependably.

The March Hare has telekinesis. I don’t know why. Mainly, this is used to pull shields off of shield carrying enemies and toss rocks. Despite the ability to throw enemies with his mind, he is rubbish in a fight. His B button attacks consist of throwing dishes. I would use telekinesis to instigate cardiac arrest in my enemies, but what do I know?

The Mad Hatter is bigger and slower than the other characters, but carries a sword. This more fits the action aspect of the game than hitting people with dishes or a watch and should be the favorite character for manly men to use. Also he isn’t a lagomorph. His super-power is perspective, turning foreshortening camera tricks into reality. It requires a special perch in the main part of the game, but can be used at any time in battle in what is the greatest aspect of this game. The Mad Hatter will hold his hand in front of his face and squish enemies a la “the Kids in the Hall”. Stupidly, this is not a finishing move. Otherwise, it would qualify for “Greatest Thing Ever”, an honor which is currently held by Arby’s Horsey Sauce.

The final member to join your party is the Cheshire Cat. He can turn himself invisible, turn invisible things visible and certain visible things invisible. For some reason invisible things are also intangible, so this skill is more useful than it sounds regarding balances and obstructions. His own invisibility is of questionable usage, as it only last until you hit the attack button. He seems to be able to fly in the cut scenes, but not when you use him. This is, of course, completely bogus.

Aside from the boring fights against cards, there are a handful of boss battles. Okay, maybe there are only three. The boss fights are the worst. There is only one way to beat each boss, and if it takes you too long to figure out, text on the bottom of the screen tells you what to do. Getting your special abilities to actually work is the trickiest part of these battles, as they all require multiple special powers used in sequence. The big boss battle has quick time elements thrown in as well. Well, you have to press the A button a three times and then eventually B.

Since the game tells you what to do during boss battles, it shouldn’t be surprising that things are fairly easy. Dying is a mere annoyance. Failing a task, i.e. getting Alice caught or killed, just restarts you at the beginning of the task. The game doesn’t even tell you screwed up; you just get a sense of déjà vu.

The game doesn’t want to tell you that you suck at it, and does everything in its power to make sure that you can’t suck at it (save for decent controls). All objects are color coated according to the special power you need to use on them. Purple things require telekinesis, blue things need to be frozen in time, etc. All the puzzles boil down to tapping z, seeing what colors show up, pointing at the colored objects with the appropriate character, and swinging the Wii-remote around like an idiot till the game does what you want. Despite the fantastic setting, there is only one area that shakes things up a bit; it is upside down. Sadly, this just feels like a bad copy of a Super Mario Galaxy level.

In addition to explaining how to beat enemies and color coating objects, the game also gives you an “Alice Thread”. If you press the minus button, a gold sparkly line shoots out of Alice telling you where to go. There is also a map, in case that isn’t enough for you. Also, most of worlds in the first hour of the game are linear.

It takes someone with SKILL in getting lost to get lost in this game.

In terms of aural presentation, the music and voice acting is fine. Well, sort of. The dialogue is redundant, interminable, and often drowned out by the background music, but it isn’t the fault of the actors. Also, Alice has a few things she repeats every time you use your special abilities and that get old hella-quick. The game’s credits say that Crispin Glover reprises his movie role, but I can’t speak for anybody else.

Visually, the game looks like a Wii-game based on a Tim Burton movie. It is what it is. Like a Tim Burton film, more attention was paid to the art-direction than the story and some areas are lit poorly. The camera angles range from acceptable to terrible, and the Wii-motes ability to move the camera seems to be diminished whenever I need the camera to move.

There is only a single mode to this game with a single difficulty setting. It doesn’t save the game when you beat the end boss, but instead just before. The game wants you to go back and find all the chests and chess pieces to unlock all the special abilities, but there isn’t much reason to do this thing. Perhaps it offers something awesome if you 100 percent it, but the combat is so boring and repetitive I cannot compel myself to do it.

The Scores:

Story: Bad
Graphics: Good
Sound: Above Average
Control/Gameplay: Poor
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Bad
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal: Great
Miscellaneous: Decent
Final Score: Mediocre Game

Short Attention Span Summary
To make Alice in Wonderland, mix five parts Lego with two parts Super Mario Galaxy. Stir in one part God of War, and seventy-five parts mediocrity. Talk about baking it for five hours, then bake it for one. Serve on the floor of a bus terminal.

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