In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the heroine eats a cake to grow larger, drinks a potion to grow smaller and meets all manner of extraordinary characters. It’s an interesting starting point for a videogame and when focused through the prism of Tim Burton’s imagination, even more so.
The surprise is that you don’t play Alice. Instead, she spends the game congratulating you for minor feats, getting captured by guards and cowering on the Mad Hatter’s hat. However you do get to play as the Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, the March Hare and the Dormouse. Each of them has a unique ability that is vital to progress through the strange world Carroll invented and Burton re-imagined.
Ultimately, much of the success of this title can be placed at Tim Burton’s door. The environments and characters are marvellous. They strike just the right balance between lovable and sinister – Stephen Fry’s Cheshire Cat and Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter are particularly good.
But the cleverness of the game’s level design is also worthy of praise. Puzzles are multi-faceted, meaning you’ll need to switch between characters to solve them. Often a level’s perspective will be turned on its head. Essentially this disguises the fact that underneath it all this is just another Lego-style platformer – albeit a clever and charming one.
It’s not a huge adventure but there are plenty of highlights. Whether you’re reassembling a tumble-down, topsy-turvey house whilst under siege from malevolent playing cards, or taking down a boss by removing an eyeball with a hatpin, the game isn’t afraid to take dark turns away from your average child-friendly movie licence.
The result is hardly original but it’s well made, enjoyable and occasionally surprising. At heart it’s well made but unremarkable – yet, like the Mad Hatter himself, it’s dressed up eccentrically and packed with enough quirks to keep things interesting.
Mar 3, 2010