This Disney Interactive game for the Nintendo Wii is based on the recent Tim Burton film 'Alice in Wonderland'. Currently it is available from Amazon at £9.91 new.
As you would expect, this game takes its look and feel very strongly from the movie. Graphically it does a nice job of recreating the world of Underland. Some of the scene-setting videos aren't perfect, a little flat and blunt in places: things like Alice's dress & hair not flowing or moving realistically, but I suppose it's a Wii game not film-quality CGI. The game uses the voice talents of the original cast, which is gratifying to hear and adds value for fans. The background music and sound effects tie in nicely.
When you start the game you can choose whether to travel alone or with a partner. Even if you choose single-player, a friend can join you later simply by turning on a second Wii-remote and pressing 1 to join the game. It's not a split-screen dual-player: it is very much co-operative play. It's fun to play alone, but having a partner is useful especially as the game gets more complex & hectic. Of course, it helps if your game-playing styles complement each other - if you're someone who likes to cut down every bramble bush and collect every point while your partner wants to get straight on with the story you're going to bump heads! You can drop out of a game as easily as joining it, so if it gets fraught or the tea needs cooking, you can leave the other person to it without wrecking the game.
To play you need to have a Wii-nunchuk attached to your remote. The motion-sensing capabilities of the Wii are used effectively in this game for unleashing special abilities particularly, while the button controls do the basics.
When you begin your first game, the opening scenes have Alice running away from wannabe-fiancé Hamish and her descent into Underland, under the worried eye of the White Rabbit (McTwisp) and the feisty dormouse (Mallymkun).
The game proper starts in a hall of doors, with you playing as the White Rabbit (if playing with someone they will be Mallymkun). You are given your first objective, which is to find Alice. This is the first in a series of aims, which will draw you through the game, reflecting the storyline of the movie. You head out to look for Alice and the game eases you into play in gentle stages in which you learn the basic controls and get comfortable with how to manipulate your character.
At any point during the game you can press 1 to access the "abilities/achievements/options/quit" screen.
- "Abilities" takes you to screens where you can view each character's skills as they unlock and see brief tutorials on how to use them. It also has tutorials on the more general controls applicable to all playable characters.
- "Achievements" shows you the videos you unlock, how much of each chapter you've completed and which challenges you've fulfilled. There are scales to show how much vegetation you've destroyed, for example.
- "Options" allows you to fiddle with the special effects, music and voice levels as well as the camera controls and whether to have subtitles on or off.
As the game develops, you can switch between characters at the press of a button (c) to use their individual talents and strengths on the puzzles or enemies you come across. Alice, however, is not playable and it's your role to guide her through the game to meet her destiny. The first new character you can access is Mallymkun, followed by the March Hare, then there is the Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat to unlock. You cannot be the same character as the other player at the same time if playing together, of course.
As you progress, further abilities & fight-moves are unlocked for each character. These are quite unusual and funky, such as McTwisp's time-control, Hatter's ability to destroy with perspective and Hare's telekinesis. It can be a bit fiddly using these abilities mid-fight, so sometimes I haven't used them as much as I'd like in favour of just whacking the enemy.
Hare never fails to amuse me with his basic fight move of throwing cups, although you'll be there a while if you try to do any full-scale battles that way!
The enemy are playing-card soldiers for the most part, whose armour gradually breaks off as they lose health. Your character can lose health and die as well. What shape you're in is shown by the number of hearts around your character's portrait, shown in the corner of the screen. You poof back into existence, but obviously it slows you down to die and the cards will make off with Alice if you're not quick enough, which means you lose. Health restoring hearts appear when you smash opponents or objects and you can pick these up by running your cursor-hand over them or your character going to them.
You can also collect "impossible ideas", which are bouncing glowing balls that appear when you open chests, smash objects, chop down vegetation or solve puzzles. These seem attracted to your character and are picked up partly by close contact or by running your cursor over them. "Impossible ideas" are basically points, which are kept accounted for at the top of the screen.
Another objective in the game is to collect all the special items, usually chess pieces, which are in various secret places throughout the game. There are save points in different locations, that if you're wise, you can choose to use. These are sort of gold aura-ed podiums that you get your character to approach and click on. It doesn't save automatically at the end of chapters or objectives, so it's best to use them when you find them.
Load times are short, and screens with quotes from the characters show while you wait.
I very much enjoy playing this game, and so have all my family. It's rated as a 12 but both my children are under that age and able to play it. My six year old needs some help with the battles and puzzles at times, but is able to enjoy playing the easier parts without assistance. I don't think playing single-player he'd get very far in the game, but in two-player with someone older he's fine. There's nothing really scary or unsuitable, although there is the Bandersnatch's eyeball scene: this isn't done in a gory way, but is probably the worst bit.
It's a very satisfying game experience in small ways, squishing mushrooms, beating up the guards, having the Hatter kick statues to bits. The puzzles are solved in joyously surreal ways, like using reflections to make halves whole - the game plays with the whimsy and curious-ness of Alice in Wonderland well. It gets more challenging as you go along through the game to match your confidence and competence, although sometimes it's a little repetitive. The finale requires you to use all your skills and characters and is a nice way to complete the game.
The only pity is there is only about 8 to 10 hours of game play in it. If you're someone who goes straight for the prime objectives and isn't interested in the more minor achievements then you'll finish all too quickly.
I also rather wish that Alice had more to do in the game: she is reduced to a hanger-on for the most part and gets annoying with her rota of remarks. Other than that, this game is great if you liked the film - it really recreates the atmosphere and world of Burton's Alice. If you didn't like the film or haven't seen it, it probably holds less interest for you.