Developer(s): Spinnaker Software Corp.
Publisher: American Interactive Media
Alice in Wonderland is an adventure game presented in the style of a 2D platformer. It’s of course based on the two classic Lewis Carroll novels, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. As Alice, you walk around a series of interconnected single-screens, pressing up to jump, and one button is used to bring up the verb menu for commands. The majority of your interactions with the game will be through physically exploring each area and your dialogue interactions with the residents of Wonderland.
The platforming is mostly a nuisance. It’s difficult to line Alice up properly to make jumps, and you’ll often find yourself falling to the ground (or even a lower screen) and having to climb back up and try again. Early on you start accumulating items that you can eat to make you grow or shrink, and some jumps will require you to grow in order to clear them. I often worried I’d run out of these items and get stuck, but if you can make it back to the Caterpillar, the mushrooms in that area re-spawn. Another irritant with getting around is that there is often no visual cue as to whether you can continue walking left or right off a screen or if you’ve reached an edge, and if you walk into a wall, Alice falls over and an annoying sound effect plays. You will hear this sound effect hundreds of times throughout a playthrough.
The character interactions, on the other hand, are mostly a pleasure. When you speak to anyone, it zooms in on them to display a neat-looking clay-sculpted model against a painted background, and the voice-acting is very effective in a children’s storybook kind of way. Each character spouts the sort of nonsense and wordplay you’d expect, and they all display distinctive and memorable personalities. As you work your way through the conversation options (which vary for each one, and may include Coax, Help, Argue, and Scold, for example), the characters may give you hints, ask you to solve riddles (bringing up a text box you need to fill in), or ask for (or offer you) an inventory item. The one part of this I hated is that some conversation options will suddenly cause the character to leave, and you’ll need to go away and come back later to try talking with them again.
There aren’t really inventory puzzles in the traditional sense. Mostly you’re just gathering items from some characters to give to others. You can also accumulate not-quite-right nursery rhymes you’ll need to sing to certain folks to get them to do what you want. Very occasionally you’ll need to use an item to bridge a large gap or even to fly up to an otherwise unreachable area. It is theoretically possible to get stuck somewhere, like if you’ve eaten all your mushrooms and you can’t get through a small door, but there is a “Renew Game” option in the menu that will move you back to your last safe location.
The Alice novels are some of my all-time favorites. I don’t know if this completely captures their spirit, but it does an admirable job reworking the locations, characters, and various elements into what’s ultimately a rather traditional (if a bit basic) adventure game. If it wasn’t for the terrible platforming, this would be a much easier recommendation. As it is, I still think fans of the source material or hardcore adventure game fans will get some enjoyment out of it, but others may be better off not taking the plunge down this rabbit hole.
Graphics – 8
The clay character models and painted backgrounds are terrific, and I only wish more of these interactions were fully animated
Sound – 8
The voice-acting is consistently strong, and evokes a children’s storybook, though the sound effects can be annoying
Gameplay – 5
The platforming is godawful, and there is unfortunately quite a lot of it
Value – 8
With a ton of characters and locations, taken from two full novels, this game will take many hours to completely explore
Reviewer’s Tilt – 8
I love the original Alice stories, and the developers did a fine job of adapting them into the structure of adventure game
Final Score – 7.1