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Review by DaveTheUseless
"Just shy of a wonder-ful experience."
It isn't very often that, smack dab in the middle of the 3DS era (if not its prime, thanks to the recent release of A Link Between Worlds), that I feel the need to go back and play a DS game. In fact, I didn't... at all. I spotted this game at a Five Below, and was quick to snatch it up for the $5 price tag. A DS game for $5? One based on a big budget license, at that (yes, I know, movie games have usually been half-hearted since LJN's conception and perhaps prior... but hey, even a blind squirrel finds an acorn)? I admit to never seeing the film, but the quirky and youthful charisma emanating from the cheeky-dark art style and characters was convincing enough for me. Worst case scenario was that the box would be decoration for my portable gaming library.
Gameplay (Genre: Side-Scrolling, 2D Platformer) - You begin as the clock-obsessed rabbit we've known and loved for many-a-decade (in this case, his name's McTwisp), who you control while helping Alice along behind you. As time goes on, you'll acquire three other characters (if you don't want to know which ones, you should stop reading this... but you can probably guess who they are): Absolem (the Caterpillar), The Hatter (who bares a strong resemblance to Beetlejuice), and Chessur (the Cheshire Cat). Each have their own distinct abilities, and as one might expect, the game features puzzles that are built around swapping between the characters and manipulating such elements as time and gravity. Fair enough, but the puzzles aren't the problem: Alice is. Jump over a moderately-sized pit? You have to tap on her, so that she jumps over, and your character will automatically help her up. The brief pauses in the game's flow are a nuisance as they add up, but thankfully, they aren't a game killer; just a minor irritant.
So, how about the battles? Glad you asked. Outside of the generic living-grass style foes and the game's small handful of bosses (I found the final boss underwhelmingly easy, but I'm sure the developers wanted this game to be fun-for-all-ages, given the license and console), you're going to be fighting the same enemy type again and again: red knights. A lot. Once you find a flat plain area without much curvature, you can expect a vortex to pop up in the sky, a red knight to grab Alice, and you to fight off one-to-several red knights. You can use a few moves to defeat them (blocking, rolling past them...), and the style you use often depends on the enemy's attack style. I found it tedious to fight the same sort of enemy after awhile, but if that doesn't bother you, then you'll likely enjoy yourself.
Low on health, or the energy necessary to perform a character's abilities? No problem: either smash up some enemies, or 'cut' some grass by walking up to it and hitting it. Yes, it's that simple, and I never died once in this game. Keeping in mind that there are frequent save points, the challenge is distinctly kid friendly, with only the puzzles making this game more difficult than, say, New Super Mario Bros.
As far as collectibles go, you'll find upgrades to your health and ability meter in treasure chests (a modest amount of treasure chests include health and energy replenishment, as well), and bonus pictures that I didn't care enough about to look at. What makes these treasure chests especially cool is that some are color coded, so you'll have to point your system's camera at an object of the same color (or multiple colors) to unlock them. If I didn't have an appropriate object nearby, I'd type, say, 'red' into Google Images and point my camera at my monitor.
One last thing, but certainly not the least important: to access a new area, you must find and place its puzzle piece and place it on a world map, or in this case, a puzzle board. You'll find that pieces generally have holes or attachments in the shape of one or more of the four card kinds (hearts, diamonds, spades, clubs), and that's how you'll link them together. I found this refreshing, and the amount of backtracking due to removing pieces to place new ones negligible. Cool stuff!
Graphics - Burton-esque, tongue-in-cheek gothic cartoon backgrounds that largely make use of white, black, and purple decorate this game in a minimalistic and perfectly acceptable and anticipated way. It's true that there isn't much diversity color-wise, but this isn't based on the old Disney movie, which aimed to overwhelm with whimsical, vivid colors, among other things, so I didn't expect otherwise. Bottom line: it works.
Music/Sound - The music is appropriately composed, with the sort of light-hearted horror tunes you'd expect from a Burton movie. Much like the graphics, the theme is favored over diversity, and for a game that I plugged approximately 7 1/2 hours into, that's just fine.
The problem is the sound. Alice's screaming (this especially happens if you wander off and leave Alice alone for awhile; a vortex will appear from the sky, and she'll get stuck in it, while a superfreaky icon of Alice with a vortex head appears on the side of the screen... you'll have to go back and grab her), sobbing, and "hey, I'm still here!" style obnoxious little girl noises are the stuff of nightmares. And I don't mean that in an inspiring horror movie way... I mean that they're annoying. They're not quite as bad as a crying baby, but it inspired me to lower the volume at times.
"Should I buy?": In my mind, a $5 game should give you at least an hour for each buck. Given I got just under 7 1/2 hours out of this one, my answer's a yes for that price. It might not end up in your list of your 5 or 10 favorite DS games, but it will expand your library with an above-average, somewhat unorthodox platformer that only modestly tries your patience.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 12/18/13
Game Release: Alice in Wonderland (US, 03/02/10)