Throwback Thursday: American McGee’s Alice – A Twisted Take On Wonderland
On December 5, 2000, American McGee’s Alice released for the PC. The classic fairy tale of Alice in Wonderland gets a grim-filtered follow-up that cracks up the creep factor in American McGee’s Alice. Following the events of the classic Lewis Carroll novels, a fatal accident sends Alice into the depths of madness, from which the only way back is through a horrific incarnation of Wonderland. The game by American McGee has received praise for its elaborate art direction and subversive storytelling, earning Alice a loyal cult following.
Fed up with the influx of space-themed shooters at the time, former id Software designer American McGee was poised to pursue a project that deviated from the tedium. Interested in the timeless topic of fairy tales, McGee found that the well-worn stories often shied away from unsettling themes, and were, therefore, rich with untapped potential. The strange, but classic tale of Alice in Wonderland was considered perfect for an updated retelling, albeit with a much darker vision than Disney would ever dream.
Development on ‘Alice‘ was handled by Quake expansion studio Rogue Entertainment, with McGee serving as director and R.J. Berg writing the story. As the title took shape, publisher Electronic Arts grew increasingly concerned with the mature aesthetics on display, notably the game’s proposed cover art, which depicted protagonist Alice wielding a freshly bloodied blade. Though this particular aspect was eventually altered, the developers’ cerebral horror aspirations remained intact, leading American McGee’s Alice to become EA’s first M-rated game.
American McGee’s Alice begins with a foreboding blaze, as the titular Alice Liddell witnesses her family’s demise from the hands of a raging house fire. This traumatic event pushes Alice into the deepest recesses of her mind, where she finds herself within the world of Wonderland once more. However, things are not how she remembers, as the memorable setting’s lovable characters have all turned twisted and disturbed. Alice tasks herself with restoring order to this corrupted Wonderland, and curing her own madness in the process.
Gameplay follows the action-platforming genre with an emphasis on combat. For dispatching enemies, several weapons based on the extended lore of Wonderland can be found throughout the game. Prominent devices of death include the enemy-freezing Ice Wand, the projectile Playing Cards, and the character’s iconic Vorpal Blade. Two on-screen meters dictate Alice’s status – the red sanity bar and the blue willpower bar. Sanity acts as health, where an empty bar triggers a “game over”, while willpower represents ammunition for special weapons.
American McGee’s Alice spawned several follow-up projects from McGee and R. J. Berg, including dark reimaginings of Grimm and Red Riding Hood fairy tales. A sanity-relapsing sequel titled Madness Returns finally realized in 2011 for PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, each offering the original Alice adventure as a free download. A potential third entry is currently underway by McGee, but he continually stresses the decision to actually greenlight the threequel is ultimately in the hands of EA.
What’s your opinion of American McGee’s Alice? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to follow Don’t Feed the Gamers on Twitter to be informed of the latest gaming and entertainment news 24 hours a day! Also, be on the lookout for the next Throwback Thursday where we’ll highlight yet another title from gaming past. For entries from previous weeks, check out these next few links below:
Eric Hall2712 Posts
Phone-browsing Wikipedia in one hand and clutching his trusty controller in the other, the legendary Eric Hall spreads his wealth of knowledge as a writer for Don't Feed the Gamers. Be sure to catch his biweekly "Throwback Thursday" segment for a nostalgic look at trivia from the past.