Alice: Madness Returns, the sequel to the 2000 cult hit American Mcgee's Alice, is somewhat...terrible. As you may have noticed, this is a running review, and it does contain my first impressions - and those are, "this game is awful". So why write a piece about it? Why not just forget it and move on? Because 5 hours in, and not even to the end of Chapter 1, and there is something I can't help but write about. The game is awful, yes, but it is beautiful.
In essence, A:MR tries to do an Ocarina of Time. You get your Vorpal blade back from the first game, along with a ranged weapon and bombs as the levels progress. There is a copy of the Z-Lock targeting, and there's a lot of environmental puzzles. However, it's just all done so poorly. The camera, especially in Z-Lock mode, is diabolical, and when the game throws so many enemies at you at once, each needing specific dodge timings, a Z-Lock system simply doesn't work.
The only plus-side rests in the visuals (and the plot, though obviously that's not very well developed at this stage). The characters all have incredible designs and the graphics themselves are extremely pretty - but it's the locales that really make me gasp. The game has already taken my breath away twice with its designs, and it keeps surprising me. Below are some screens that'll hopefully prove my point.
In conclusion: so far, as a game, A:MR falls well short of the mark. However, it really is a lesson in incredible design. It's all so wonderfully dream (or nightmare) like, and it's obvious that a lot of effort has gone into that side of the game. Unfortunately, more effort should have been expended making it playable.