Graphics are great when it comes to textures, resolutions, and lighting but what about the art itself? Some games are living breathing pieces of art and are one of a kind. Sometimes a game may be inferior technically but surpass in style and better art. This year was more geared toward technical showcases, but there were a few artsy games that popped up.
Alice won over everything else because it is just oozing with art and substance from American McGee’s crazy mind. It brings out the darkness in Alice in Wonderland and every single speck on the screen has something unique about it. It has been a long time since something like this has come out where you want to hang every screenshot on your wall. Alice truly deserves this award hands down, but all I can say is you have to play it to understand why.
This was a tough call against Portal 2, but Skyrim came out on top thanks to composer Jeremy Soule’s amazing passion for the Elder Scrolls game. Every piece of music moves you and sucks you into the world like no other video game soundtrack can do. There are dozens of songs and each is masterfully composed and that is extremely hard to do. Every piece fits everything you do, see, hear, or interact with within Skyrim. The sweeping and dramatic theme song to the softer tones of exploring the world is perfect and nothing can match this kind of instrumental beauty.
The Alice in Wonderland series isn’t something you would expect to be a game or even a good at that. American McGee took the series and twisted it into a sick gothic horror adventure back in 2000 on the PS1 and PC. The game’s atmosphere, art, and overall design was amazing for the time, but everything else was subpar at best. The game returns 11 years later and with tons of improvements. If you haven’t read the books or seen any of the many films or TV shows then you’ll be fine. The story is kind of confusing even at the end, but the story is supposed to be. The whole world of Wonderland doesn’t really make any sense except the fact that Alice has been locked away in an asylum because she can’t get over the death of her sister. She lost her family in a fire that burned her house down, but there are some shady characters around her that seem to be manipulating her. She falls into Wonderland (her own mind) and has to stop the Infernal Train from destroying the place.
You get to meet classic characters like the Cheshire Cat, Caterpillar, The Mad Hatter and March Hare, the Door Mouse, The Queen of Hearts and so on. Each character is wonderfully designed for the atmosphere and they are just sick and twisted and unlike anything I have ever seen. However, the game is made up of two main parts: Combat and platforming. Each is equal in flaws, but both are better than the last game and are a lot of fun.
Platforming consists of puzzles, shrinking down on the fly to find invisible platforms, hidden keyholes to find hidden items, jumping around, floating, gliding, pulling switches, avoiding traps, heading through obstacle courses. Each level is very unique and looks completely different from the last, but the same elements apply to each level, and towards the end, it gets kind of boring and repetitive since it’s the same thing over and over without end. The combat and platforming are balanced, but by the end of the game, you just get too much of both because the whole game mainly focuses on just that.
The combat is fun and violent, but it’s very simple with just one button for light attacks and another for heavy. You can use the pepper grinder and teapot cannon to shoot, the auto lock-on works well, but overall you can only upgrade your weapons and there aren’t enough of them. The hobby-horse is for heavy attacks, the vorpal blade is for light attacks but those are the only four weapons in-game. You slowly acquire them, but I wanted to see more. The combat feels repetitive because there’s not much substance to it and the enemies all play out almost the same. Each level has its own unique enemies with different weaknesses, but executing them is pretty much the same for each one.
While combat and platforming are the same there are some mini-games tossed in for good measure that is a sigh of relief. These involve sliding puzzles, chess games, 2D platforming sections. These are fun and each level has its own unique mini-game. Speaking of uniqueness that’s exactly why I rated this game so high. The art, atmosphere, characters, and everything combined are just so amazing and I have never seen anything quite like it. It’s also the fact that something so sweet and innocent like Alice has turned into a screwed gothic adventure (some scenes are really messed up trust me) with dismemberment, cursing, gore, and downright freaky images. That’s what I love about Alice so much and you always look forward to new levels to play. Even Alice’s dress changes with each level so you can tell there’s a lot of detail going into the game. The game technically is a little dated with some pretty bad low-resolution textures in spots and there are a few collision detection bugs that can make you restart.
If you can get past the repetition and sometimes very difficult spots then you will fall in love with the game. The game is amazing to look at, the characters are great, and it just oozes creativity. I just wish the combat and platforming weren’t the same through the whole game and lacking in depth.