Kids get to control 'Alice' characters
By JINNY GUDMUNDSEN
Gannett News Service
Disney Interactive is offering two games tied to director Tim Burton's quirky "Alice in Wonderland" which hit movie theaters Friday, one for the Nintendo Wii and Windows PCs, and the other for the Nintendo DS. While they are both titled "Disney Alice in Wonderland," they are completely different games. This is a review of the Wii and PC version as played on the Wii. It's best for ages 10 to 14, from Disney Interactive, www.AliceVideoGame.com.
The game takes place 10 years after the original Lewis Carroll "Alice" stories. The White Rabbit yanks Alice back down into his hole in hopes that she can save the Underland world from the Red Queen's reign of terror. The White Rabbit, the Dormouse, the March Hare, the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Hat have banded together to form the Underland Underground Resistance, but they need Alice's help to defeat the Queen.
Kids join Alice in this puzzle adventure by taking control of one of the five Underland Underground Resistance characters. Initially you can only play as the White Rabbit or the Dormouse; but as you find the other characters, you can switch between them at will. This switching between characters is the key game-play mechanic, and it serves as the basis for most of the puzzles.
Each character has a unique ability. The White Rabbit can alter time or slow down an enemy. The Dormouse is the best fighter. The March Hare uses the power of telekinesis to move and throw objects. When playing as the Cheshire Cat, you can become invisible or you can make hidden objects appear. The Mad Hatter has the ability to create optical illusions by lining up objects in just the right way. Each character also has a unique combat style.
As you navigate through the many psychedelic environments, you will encounter unusual happenings and obstacles. You will need to use the characters' magical abilities to get through. For example, when trying to navigate through a garden maze, you will encounter spinning directional signs. If you approach the sign as the White Rabbit and flick the Wii remote at it, the White Rabbit's ability to alter time will stop the sign from spinning and point you in the right direction to travel.
Playing as the Mad Hatter, who looks like Johnny Depp's character from the movie, is one of the most interesting aspects of the game. It is fascinating to stand on a podium and line up two different scenes so that as you look through the first one, it becomes incorporated into the second and thus opens a new path. This power of perspective is amazingly different.
While this game has lots to like including a memorable fantasy world created by the use of highly saturated colors, mesmerizing characters (many who talk in nonsensical manner) and environments that are constantly topsy-turvy, it is not a game with universal appeal.
The game's navigation can, at times, get confusing. While the game does offer prompts, there are times when you will repeatedly run around in a scene trying to figure out how to advance.
But the biggest bugaboo in this game is the inclusion of intense battle scenes into this otherwise wonderfully clever puzzle adventure. Most of the game focuses on exploration of this fantastical world. However, you never know when a tranquil scene is going to turn into a frenetic war zone by the opening of a vortex. Vortexes deliver the Red Queen's card soldiers who try to steal Alice. The music turns threatening, the soldiers grab Alice, and if you don't do the right things quickly, you will lose and have to start again from your last save point. In addition, there are three "boss" battles in the game that are against foes that are even trickier to defeat. Kids may need to repeat the battles until they get them just right.
Since you can't avoid the intense, adrenaline-inducing battles, kids who just like puzzle adventures won't like this game. It's too bad, because the rest of the game is enthralling to explore. A way to make these intense battles seem more palatable may be to use the game's excellent two-player option where a friend can drop in and then drop out. A battle isn't so tough when you're in it with a friend.