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Alice In Wonderland Review

Disney take us down the rabbit hole with a quality tie-in

You're all bored of reading it, we're bored of writing it: movie tie-ins are a waste of everyone's time. Cheaply made to hit impossible deadlines, they rarely merit a first look, let alone a second. How refreshing then to find a licensed game that makes a real effort to provide a unique, thoughtful experience that compliments the movie, rather than just charmlessly limping through its key set-pieces.

Although it loosely follows the same story as Tim Burton's movie (a sequel to the original tale), it ditches the look of its source material and goes off on its own, considerably more appealing, stylistic tangent. Simply put, Alice In Wonderland is one of the most beautiful, visually charming DS games we've ever played.

Click to view larger image
Whereas the film is bright, garish, freaky and, yes, downright pig-ugly at times, French developer Etranges Libellules have come up with a delightful cel-shaded approach, packing an impressive amount of nuance and expression into the character animations.

The game itself is, at first glance, a fairly straightforward stylus-controlled 2D platformer. At the outset, you take control of the White Rabbit, with Alice following behind (you never actually control the titular heroine - the whole game is essentially an extended escort mission). As you progress, you meet the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and Absolem, all of whom join your gang and become playable. You can easily switch between characters by tapping the icon in the top right corner and making your choice.

A Thing Of Wonder

It's basically another take on the tried-and-tested Metroid formula. You've got a big non-linear world map to explore, parts of which you

can only access once you've recruited a new character and their particular special power.

The White Rabbit can manipulate time; Absolem can mess with gravity and stretch his body; the Cheshire Cat can make objects disappear and climb walls; and the Mad Hatter can flip the scenery and move between the background and foreground.

For example, you might find a huge apple blocking your path. The solution? Select the White Rabbit, hold down any button to bring up his stopwatch controls and hit reverse. The apple will go back in time and shoot back up to the tree branch from which it originally fell, allowing you to progress. Clever stuff.

As well as this puzzle element, there's also plenty of combat. Every now and then your path will be blocked off and a gang of soldiers will materialise out of a red vortex. To attack, you just slash at an enemy with the stylus. There is some strategy to it though. Some soldiers can only be attacked from behind, meaning you have to roll behind them, while others charge you, making you block to stun them before you can attack. There are some imaginative boss fights too, especially the eye-popping final showdown, which is worth the price of entry alone.

Click to view larger image
It's fairly standard stuff for the most part, but it does have one ingenious little twist up its sleeve. To sidestep all that tedious backtracking that these Metroid-aping platformers often inflict on us, you can manipulate the game map to create your own shortcuts. The map is essentially a big jigsaw puzzle. As long as you can get the pieces to fit together, you can move chunks around at your leisure to bring yourself closer to your destination. It's a really clever mechanic and further evidence of the imagination that has gone into the game.

Simple Pleasures

Before we get too carried away we'll temper our praise with a fair few grumbles. Seasoned gamers will find it far too easy. There's never any real sense of threat and the solutions to most of the puzzles are signposted as clear as day. The stylus controls aren't 100 per cent reliable, the levels can be rather devoid of life at times and the combat does get repetitive. So, it's by no means an essential purchase, but if you are a younger gamer, a big Tim Burton fan or just appreciate beautiful character design and classy gamemaking, you'll find a great deal to enjoy here. Alice In Wonderland is not just a good licensed game, it's a good game - period - and that's to be applauded.

Comments

23 comments so far...
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  1. mirage 5x5 Thursday 4th Mar 2010 at 14:24

    beautiful charming visuals my ass
    this looks so bad
    the i pod is game is better than that
    and the score is a bit to good for this
    what are you thiking

  2. LEGEND MARIOID Thursday 4th Mar 2010 at 14:32

    U need to see DS visuals in motion on your ds in order to really appreciate them. I can tell that they will look good o a ds from extensive experience of playing a huge number of ds games (thankfully and I am lucky enough to say) Screw the iphone sideways.

    I had a feeling this would be one of the better licensed games. Nice one.

  3. Wiintendo Thursday 4th Mar 2010 at 16:37

    Sweet :D

    1st Kung Fu Panda & now Alice In Wonderland, 2 fine movie games to think of, for the DS that is.

    What a welcome surprise

  4. ChrisONM Thursday 4th Mar 2010 at 16:37

    beautiful charming visuals my ass
    this looks so bad
    the i pod is game is better than that
    and the score is a bit to good for this
    what are you thiking


    So I'm assuming you've seen it in motion (hence the criticism of the visuals) and played the game (hence the score being "too good") then?

  5. MB-Poke-Fan Thursday 4th Mar 2010 at 16:40

    Looks great, can't wait...
    I may buy both the movie AND the game at the same time...

  6. Wyld_stallyon Thursday 4th Mar 2010 at 16:45

    I doubt I'll buy it, but I hope it does well, it's nice to see a movie tie-in genuinely making an effort :)

  7. SuperMaster97 Thursday 4th Mar 2010 at 17:14

    beautiful charming visuals my ass
    this looks so bad
    the i pod is game is better than that
    and the score is a bit to good for this
    what are you thiking


    So I'm assuming you've seen it in motion (hence the criticism of the visuals) and played the game (hence the score being "too good") then?

    Too right ONM, I mean i doubt he has played the game so he is does not really have the right to criticize it.

  8. ShadowofPain Thursday 4th Mar 2010 at 17:42

    beautiful charming visuals my ass
    this looks so bad
    the i pod is game is better than that
    and the score is a bit to good for this
    what are you thiking


    So I'm assuming you've seen it in motion (hence the criticism of the visuals) and played the game (hence the score being "too good") then?

    Agree with Chris here. Have you even played the game? Heck, have you even SEEN a sufficient amount of gameplay footage? I highly doubt it. For a DS game the visuals are charming and although I won't be getting it I applaud the effort since they actually made a good movie tie in game (apart from Kung Fu Panda for DS).

  9. Fii Thursday 4th Mar 2010 at 17:49

    Wow, a post-PlayStation licensed game that's actually decent? What a rarity. Yeah, I know licensed games have always sucked as far back as games go, but good ones were a lot more common back in the day - maybe if this game sells well it'll spur developers into putting more effort into licensed titles.

    Also I noticed you didn't delve much into the music - apparently it was made by Richard Jacques, any comment on that?

  10. bluelight Thursday 4th Mar 2010 at 18:38

    Its glad to see some effort on licensed games, even uf they never will be at the level of other games like Mario. I do hope the Wii version plays good aswell.

  11. mirage 5x5 Thursday 4th Mar 2010 at 18:39

    beautiful charming visuals my ass
    this looks so bad
    the i pod is game is better than that
    and the score is a bit to good for this
    what are you thiking


    So I'm assuming you've seen it in motion (hence the criticism of the visuals) and played the game (hence the score being "too good") then?

    ok i will admite i have not played it but i have seen it runing and it still looks bad
    have you played the ipod game yet
    its bad when the ipod game looks 10 times better
    you have given games less for looking better
    if its only relying on gameplay then its a bit high on score :roll:
    sorry but thats the way i see it

  12. LEGEND MARIOID Thursday 4th Mar 2010 at 20:48

    iPod gaming is a marvelous piece of technology put is a pale comparison to the Nintendo DS. The DS is made by a company who know a thing or two about gaming and it shows with the ds.

  13. nintendo_guy Friday 5th Mar 2010 at 10:32

    beautiful charming visuals my ass
    this looks so bad
    the i pod is game is better than that
    and the score is a bit to good for this
    what are you thiking


    So I'm assuming you've seen it in motion (hence the criticism of the visuals) and played the game (hence the score being "too good") then?

    ok i will admite i have not played it but i have seen it runing and it still looks bad
    have you played the ipod game yet
    its bad when the ipod game looks 10 times better
    you have given games less for looking better
    if its only relying on gameplay then its a bit high on score :roll:
    sorry but thats the way i see it

    Shut up.

  14. mirage 5x5 Friday 5th Mar 2010 at 14:43

    iPod gaming is a marvelous piece of technology put is a pale comparison to the Nintendo DS. The DS is made by a company who know a thing or two about gaming and it shows with the ds.

    the ds for games is better but when a game that is better on the ipod then there is something is wrong

  15. ShadowofPain Friday 5th Mar 2010 at 18:18

    beautiful charming visuals my ass
    this looks so bad
    the i pod is game is better than that
    and the score is a bit to good for this
    what are you thiking


    So I'm assuming you've seen it in motion (hence the criticism of the visuals) and played the game (hence the score being "too good") then?

    ok i will admite i have not played it but i have seen it runing and it still looks bad
    have you played the ipod game yet
    its bad when the ipod game looks 10 times better
    you have given games less for looking better
    if its only relying on gameplay then its a bit high on score :roll:
    sorry but thats the way i see it

    Firstly, you seem a bit ignorant here. That fact of the matter is the Ipod is MORE POWERFUL than the DS so of course there are gonna be better looking games.

    Secondly even if it was based on a solely gameplay score 78% is a suitable score. Unless the graphics look terrible to the point that it's not suited to the hardware or you can't tell what is on screen than they don't have a large effect.

    Finally I saw some gameplay footage of the game and it looks great. The storybook like visuals really suit that game and the animations are smooth and fluid.

  16. MB-Poke-Fan Friday 5th Mar 2010 at 18:23

    iPod gaming is a marvelous piece of technology put is a pale comparison to the Nintendo DS. The DS is made by a company who know a thing or two about gaming and it shows with the ds.

    the ds for games is better but when a game that is better on the ipod then there is something is wrong

    He speaks the truth. iPod has nothing on the DS...

  17. LEGEND MARIOID Friday 5th Mar 2010 at 20:51

    iPod gaming is a marvelous piece of technology put is a pale comparison to the Nintendo DS. The DS is made by a company who know a thing or two about gaming and it shows with the ds.

    the ds for games is better but when a game that is better on the ipod then there is something is wrong

    Have you played the game on the iPod?

    A calculator is more powerful than a NES, so what?

  18. Nintenmole56 Saturday 6th Mar 2010 at 08:26

    iPod gaming is a marvelous piece of technology put is a pale comparison to the Nintendo DS. The DS is made by a company who know a thing or two about gaming and it shows with the ds.

    the ds for games is better but when a game that is better on the ipod then there is something is wrong

    Have you played the game on the iPod?

    A calculator is more powerful than a NES, so what?


    you really are a legend

    ... also it doesn't realy matter hes entitled to his opinion, having said that, we are entilted not to care.. :lol:

    In my view i think the game looks like a hidden gem i saw it in sainsburys yesterdday at 24.99 alreaady and the wii one higher in price. Retailers should really read the mag ,actually they shouldn't because great games like this will be cheaper without the retailer knowing wat they are missing out on. Money wise.

  19. AMthedude Saturday 6th Mar 2010 at 21:10

    beautiful charming visuals my ass
    this looks so bad
    the i pod is game is better than that
    and the score is a bit to good for this
    what are you thiking


    So I'm assuming you've seen it in motion (hence the criticism of the visuals) and played the game (hence the score being "too good") then?

    ok i will admite i have not played it but i have seen it runing and it still looks bad
    have you played the ipod game yet
    its bad when the ipod game looks 10 times better
    you have given games less for looking better
    if its only relying on gameplay then its a bit high on score :roll:
    sorry but thats the way i see it


    You do know that graphics can be 'good' without being photo-realistic, right? Take Okami - great art style but not realistic at all! It's the same with this.

  20. mirage 5x5 Monday 8th Mar 2010 at 17:45

    beautiful charming visuals my ass
    this looks so bad
    the i pod is game is better than that
    and the score is a bit to good for this
    what are you thiking


    So I'm assuming you've seen it in motion (hence the criticism of the visuals) and played the game (hence the score being "too good") then?

    ok i will admite i have not played it but i have seen it runing and it still looks bad
    have you played the ipod game yet
    its bad when the ipod game looks 10 times better
    you have given games less for looking better
    if its only relying on gameplay then its a bit high on score :roll:
    sorry but thats the way i see it


    You do know that graphics can be 'good' without being photo-realistic, right? Take Okami - great art style but not realistic at all! It's the same with this.

    okami is good game its new fresh
    alice in wonerland look bad and dated
    if you want bad games go get it then i dont care
    just dont give bad games good scores

  21. jimmyduckett Monday 8th Mar 2010 at 17:53

    erm. A movie tie in thats WORTH playing. Unless the game is Looney Tunes: Back in Action it's not worth playing. I am appalled that professional video gamers like yourself believe this game is play worth. I kid, the game is great! (never played it. this is just spam :P )

  22. Mous3y Sunday 14th Mar 2010 at 15:13

    beautiful charming visuals my ass
    this looks so bad
    the i pod is game is better than that
    and the score is a bit to good for this
    what are you thiking

    Well the game may or may not suck but it's good that they can string coherent sentences together.

  23. Annataylor Thursday 25th Mar 2010 at 09:43

    What happened to Disney? Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland does not compare to the original animation. I remember when I was a child I would watch films like The Jungle Book and 101 Dalmatians and be amazed! Now, Disney has gone downhill and its films seem to be getting worse and worse as time goes by. If you ask me, many <a href="http://www.dozenkids.com">kids websites</a> like Disney's should not be listed on the top category of sites like http://www.twitter.com/dozenkids. Is it time for us to realize that Disney is not really what it used to be and in fact it now scraping the barrel of entertainment?

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