[Promoted from our Community Manager's inbox, here's another fantastic Guest Writer! This piece comes from Lola (ThatDocktorGirl). ThatDocktorGirl is an FPS and action game nut, with a side passion for RPGs. She loves Batman villains and zombies. She tries to like all games and appreciate them for what they are, and she also writes about my thoughts and experiences with games. You can get to know her better by following her on Twitter.]
When I was little, starting from when I was 4, I would always read, draw pictures from and about, and watch the Disney film of Alice In Wonderland. It’s where my love of madness, delusions and insanity came from (Just in case those kind of thoughts sound a bit heavy for a 4 year old to think about, I’d like to add that I’m rather mentally mature for my age, always have been. Right now I’m 20 but mentally 37.) When I grew up, I read it less and less, and the drawings came to a standstill. I still loved Alice and her Wonderland, but it had changed for me, from something to escape into, it had just become a story; my mind and creative outlook had twisted and changed as the years went on, as it does, and it didn’t mean the same to me anymore.
When I was about 10, I played American McGee’s Alice, which I appreciate a lot more now. At that point in my life, video games weren’t the biggest part of my life; I did play but not to the extent of it being a staple of my childhood like so many people I know, I don’t have many standout memories around gaming as a child. Plus this was way before I became a rage-fueled cynic, back then I had no real personal darkness to help me relate to her plight.
So just over 2 years ago, Alice: Madness Returns came out. I got it as soon as it came out, I was so excited. Before the release I was drooling over all the released artwork and screenshots, loving how macabre and devious it was. Putting the disc in my Xbox, letting it load (the appearance of the Cheshire Cat after the EA logo makes me smile every damn time) and then the theme music kicked in, ugh I fell madly in love with that instantly. I’ve actually got the soundtrack on as I’m writing this, it’s so beautiful and haunting at times.
Interesting fact – I remember quite distinctly that my hair was the exact same length as actual-world Alice’s hair was. Oh yeah.
So playing it, and starting at Dr Bumby’s, following the kitty through the high street; I’m not gonna lie, I wasn’t gripped at all. But the second the floor starting crumbling as Pris turned into some winged hell beast, my heart picked it’s pace up, my back went straighter and my eyes didn’t blink for what felt like the whole time I played it, like I wouldn’t let myself miss even a millisecond of content. Arriving in the Vale of Tears, in Alice’s signature blue dress, to be greeted by the gorgeous (albeit malnourished) Cheshire Cat and Alice’s smart little retorts to him; it was like carrying on from where I personally left off with Wonderland and my thoughts and feelings about it.
As the first chapter went on, and the scenery changed from lush and delicate, to crumbling and spewing black evil lava; and all throughout the theme of the game, as the further you went into this new Wonderland the more horrifying, broken and f*cked up it became, it was like a little bit of my long past childhood had grown up with me in some way and went through what I did. It was nice that in all the madness ensuing around me, I had something from my past to keep me grounded that had evolved in a similar way that I felt I had.
And then chapter four; just yes. On your way to confront the Queen of Hearts, through the most perfectly distorted version of the courtyard and castle (it seriously could not have been done better. I was a little grossed out by how fleshy the place got nearer the end, but you couldn’t not do it that way) that goddamn Executioner, the card guards, just everything, with a little cake on the side to boot! That whole chapter is one of my favorite, most memorable levels in modern gaming. Plus the dear Queen taught me a good lesson which I actually have said to a fair few people – “don’t ask questions you already know the answer to, it’s not polite”. I love that.
Now when you’ve reached the dollhouse level it’s very very clear that Alice is right on the edge of falling into a horrific, dark insanity. When you get to the underground areas of that level, it pushes you too. I felt so wigged out at some points in those sections; it’s like Saw traps with dolls, but some of the positions that they’re in and some of the things you‘re seeing; it’s sick and wrong – I get why though. I’m not gonna spoil the ending (I was so genuinely shocked when it clicked with me) but it is one of the eeriest, harrowing levels I’ve ever come across.
I love that game so much, it’s so beautiful, daring and fulfilling to complete with the most perfect ending for Alice; it couldn’t have ended any other way, it was crafted gorgeously.
Now fingers crossed that it definitely definitely happens with minimal or no hold ups whatsoever is Alice: Otherlands. I saw (too late sadly, would have loved to have gone in for it) that they were looking for an Alice cosplayer for a live action trailer. Needless to say I was too excited for my own good at that news.
I’m really interested in this new dynamic that’s been mentioned about Alice going into other people’s minds to use her “powers“ there – because I’d more than happily let her share her Wonderland in my mind.