Lewis Carroll's creations are no strangers to the video-game universe. They have popped up in games ranging from the whimsical Kingdom Hearts to the grisly Silent Hill. Alice herself has starred in several releases, most notably 2000's American McGee's Alice with the game designer's name presumptuously lodged in the title, rather than Carroll's.
After more than a decade, McGee has revisited Wonderland with Alice: Madness Returns. It's a fascinating project in many ways, quite unlike anything else on the market in 2011 that's undermined by occasionally sloppy programming.
McGee's Wonderland is all inside Alice's head, a fun-house distortion of her dismal life in Victorian London. See, the rest of her family was killed in a fire when she was a child. In the first game, the girl was trying to piece together her sanity; 10 years later, she's out of the asylum but trying to find out what caused her initial trauma.
The clues are scattered throughout Wonderland, but it's being destroyed by the runaway Infernal Train and consumed by Ruin Spawn, creatures made of oil, machinery and disembodied doll heads. This isn't the cartoon version of Wonderland; it's closer to Tim Burton's 2010 movie, though even more ghoulish.
The action is wonderfully smooth, whether Alice is battling monsters or leaping between floating platforms.
RATING M for Mature
PLOT Alice returns to a twisted Wonderland
DETAILS Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, $60; PC, $50
BOTTOM LINE A fantastic world