Alice in WonderlandESRB:
Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Developer: Etranges Libellules
For months my daughter and I have been eagerly anticipating Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. After a long wait, we took in the big screen movie on its opening day and overall we really enjoyed Tim Burton’s 3D modern day take of a timeless children’s classic. To tie in with the movie, Disney has released a Wii and DS game which was released only days before the big screen movie launched. I had the opportunity to review the DS version of the game. Typically movie based titles fall flat, often appear rushed, and only exist to capitalize on a film’s success. Much to my surprise though, Alice in Wonderland for the DS does not present or play like so many movie-based games do. It is a charming game and certainly one of the best DS games that I have played on Nintendo’s handheld machine so far this year.
The visuals in Alice in Wonderland take on an illustrated style that one might expect to find within the pages of a comic book. It is cell shaded in black and white with some effective splashes of colour throughout. It was not what I expected at all and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. In short the game does a wonderful job creating Alice in Wonderland’s world of illusion where nothing is quite as it seems. The character design and animations are somewhat simplistic but they work well nonetheless. Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Rabbit, and all your favourite characters are all recognizable but take on an original yet cute cell shaded look. I also noticed many of the characters expressions and emotions as they simply shined in the game. It is a drastic departure from the visuals in the movie but it is perfectly suited for Nintendo’s handheld machine. The game's environments are also nicely detailed taking on a stylish look which really immerses you in the game. All in all, Alice in Wonderland is a great looking DS title and there is no doubt many will enjoy how the overall visual presentation.
Alice in also manages to hit the sound department on the right note. The sound effects are, for the lack of a better word, very 2D platform-esque; if that makes any sense. All the bumping and crashing that you would typically hear in a DS platformer is heard in this game. This is not a bad thing but some may complain that it's not original at all. As for the game's musical score, it is very whimsical and sounds just like some of those swooping orchestral tunes heard in the movie. It can get repetitive at times; however, it never seems to get annoying like so many other DS games where the soundtrack loops over and over. The lack of vocalizations is a bit of a disappointment as I often wished some of the endless text could be replaced by some actual voice acting. That being said, considering the limitations of the DS/DSi's hardware, incorporating a great deal of voice work in such a game is often difficult to accomplish, or so I am told. In the end though I would say that the sound manages to help one enjoy this game that much more.
As far as the storyline is concerned, it comes as no surprise the basic plotline from the movie is present in the game. After 10-years (in the movie its 13-years) Alice has once again fallen into the mysterious labyrinthine world of Underland, only to find it decayed and torn to pieces by the gigantic Jabberwocky. This Jabberwocky, which is a giant fire breathing dragon of sorts, is controlled by the Queen of Hearts and her forces of evil. Your mission in the game is to lead Alice to battle as she collects weapons and armour to defeat the big headed red queen. The key moments in the movie are captured in the game but for the most part this DS/DSi interpretation takes many different directions not seen in the movie.
Alice in Wonderland for the DS is a 2D Platformer and played almost entirely with the stylus. Throughout the game you play as four famous characters from the movie/story – Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, Caterpillar and the White Rabbit. Surprisingly enough, you do not play as Alice but rather you guide her along as you progress in the game. It’s a unique little twist and it works as the characters all bring some fantastic and unique abilities to the table. When you first fire up the game you play as the White Rabbit who guides Alice into the hole and leads her through the first few missions collecting puzzle pieces, solving puzzles and moving across the linear levels. Eventually you run into the other characters who in turn lead Alice through the various landscapes. As you progress the characters become interchangeable by merely taping an icon on the corner of the DS.
As far as the games controls are concerned, most of the game's control is accomplished with the stylus. Walking is performed by moving the stylus left or right and attacking is accomplished by swiping the stylus up or down. You can also charge the enemies by slashing the stylus left or right. Anyhow, you get the point. The only time the buttons come into play is when you activate and use your characters special abilities. Overall, the game's control scheme is very basic and the first couple of missions provide a nice little tutorial. On the downside, the controls can be unresponsive at times and your characters have incredible range when it comes to striking the enemies.
Much of the game involves climbing over obstacles, slashing enemies and solving puzzles. Each of the four characters have unique abilities which help you get by the various obstacles. For instance, the White Rabbit has the ability to slow down, freeze, and speed-up time. As a result the Rabbit can control objects as he guides and protects Alice through various missions. Having characters use their unique abillities adds a bit of flash to the game.
As you venture through the early levels Alice needs to collect various items to complete her quest. In doing so she needs to unlock various environments. This is accomplished by tracking down puzzle pieces scattered about the levels. These pieces are then placed in a corresponding slot in the world map which opens up various short cuts and new worlds. Nothing is quite as it seems in Alice in Wonderland as the game effectively captures the essence of the timeless tale.
Alice in Wonderland is strictly a single player experience and as a result there is no online or cooperative component to the game. There is some unlockable bonus content and some DGamer cheat codes.
Alice in Wonderland for the DS is a unique yet delightful game for Nintendo's dual-screened wonder. Capturing the key moments of the movie, the game's storyline is captivating and the characters all bring lots of entertainment value to the table. The lack of any multiplayer options and the sometimes unresponsive controls can be a bit of disappoint; otherwise, Alice in Wonderland is solid game. Fans of the movie and DS owners alike will unquestionably want to pick this one up. Those of you who are not fans of the movie may also want to give this game a spin as by itself Alice in Wonderland is arguably on of the better games that we have seen on the DS so far in 2010.