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Default Alice: Madness Returns

August 3rd, 2011, 07:21
Just finished Alice: Madness Returns.

Folks, this is going to be a long post but I do hope you find it interesting.

Alice is my favorite game so far for this year. I will outline the reasons below. But bear in mind that I still haven't played my copy of TW2, as I'm waiting for the 3D stereo vision bugs to be fixed. For now though, Alice is it, and is definitely in my list of top ten favorite games of all time.

While playing the first chapter I thought this was a very simple platforming game with a cool artistic design. Unfortunately, most reviewers concluded the same thing, and thus potentially misleading a lot of people into overlooking this complete gem. The more I progressed into the game, the more I realized that the story was complex and utterly profound. Notice I said "complex," not "complicated." The story itself is simple through its entirety - Alice Liddell (the name of the real Alice, fittingly) grew up in a madness brought about by a horrific family tragedy. As you progress through the game playing as her, you assume that you are on a quest to end the madness that consumes her, which in fact is true. It took me until the third chapter however, to realize that Alice was becoming MORE mad as the game progressed, not less!

The chapters are divided by means of repressed memories that Alice unlocks as she gets closer and closer to the truth about the real cause of her family's, and subsequently her demise. There is enough variety in the locations, cutscenes, and types of gameplay to make it difficult to tell where one chapter ends and the next begins until further into the game where the method of progression becomes clear.

There are lesser memory fragments that can also be unlocked by finding them scattered throughout the game world. The memory fragments are lesser in importance, yet were very beneficial in fleshing out the story and Alice's relationship with the 'real-world' (not wonderland) characters. I even noticed after a while that many of the memories had a fitting parallel to their location in the game world, whether due to the characters involved or what was said in the memory, propelling the illusion that Alice's make-believe Wonderland was a by product of real-life experiences. This overall method of telling a simple, yet deeply psychological story is delivered in such a subtle way that you feel as though you are discovering these things along with Alice, and constantly compels you to see what's just around the corner.

The overall package of art and narrative is so perfectly executed, it caused me to feel the story. As Alice sank further into madness and more memories were unlocked, I began to preempt the plot in my own mind, drawing my own conclusions. I was correct, which felt more like a reward rather than a disappointment. In chapter 4, there are hints of the evil nature behind the truth Alice needs to discover, while in chapter 5, the truth becomes sinister.

The story touched a nerve with me, as I have personally had certain tragic experiences similar to Alice's. I speak with authority when I say this: The idea of unlocking repressed memories may come off as being a cliche' or convenient method of plot development to the casual observer, but it is a very, very real phenomenon. Oftentimes those repressed memories suddenly surface due to a trigger, and they can be crippling. I had experiences in my childhood that I had utterly forgotten, out of necessity, but suddenly returned to me after an extremely stressful event occurred in my adult life. It literally spawned hallucinations, so the idea of this fictional character of Alice being driven mad by such memories is no stretch.

The use of symbolism throughout the game was nothing short of genius. I can't even begin to count how many references there are to the classic stories of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. As good as those references are, though, they are to be expected in a game loosely based from the books. The real novelty are the symbolisms that are more subtle and yet undeniable. - The use of keys to identify the individual chapters, correlating to memory 'keys' to unlock the truth. The Red Queen's castle resembling the insides of a human body, symbolizing Alice's own internal struggle. The Infernal Train, symbolizing her subconscious ever chugging toward an inevitable conclusion. And finally, the most profound for me, the ultimate villain and his wretched, giant, inescapable puppet stringed hands trying to squeeze the life out of Alice.

Conclusion: Sure I could go on about the gameplay, its strengths and weaknesses, the brilliant graphics muddled at times by some very poor textures, but you can watch a review on youtube for that. What is truly significant is the incredibly genius, beautifully crafted macabre journey that American Mcgee has produced. Many may buy the game… but few will truly 'get it.'

..& so they take the fiction all out of the Jabberwock & I recognize & accept him as a fact. - Mark Twain, May 30, 1880
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August 3rd, 2011, 07:27
thank you for the well-written review, my friend. I cant wait to play it, maybe after I get done w/ Sanitarium. (which i think you'd really like too btw..)
Now go play the original Alice, it's great too!
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August 3rd, 2011, 14:44
Aquaria
Aquaria is in indie game that came out just before or at the very start of the wave of indie games that we have seen during the last couple of years. It is also one of the more ambitious indie games out there.

The game reminds me quite a bit of Metroid or the later 2d Castlevania games, but unlike those, you are not bound to the ground. You navigate an almost maze-like underwater environment, solve puzzles and gather objects that enhances your characters strength (this might be in the form of permanent health powerups, new abilities or items that gives you a temporary buff). Much like in the metroid games past past the second one a lot of work has been put into the bosses, that are challenging and well though out, which each boss requiring an entirely different strategy. And the bosses are not easy, most of them will probably take the average person more than one attempt.

The graphics is beautiful and varied, which each region having a different style, that still works well with the game as a whole. The music is also fitting for each region, and very well made.

If there is one thing that I could complain about it is the very start of the game. The first hour was not very fun, it felt like I was just aimlessly swimming around, trying to figure out where to go next. But after the first boss, the game got a lot better. Much like in Super Metroid the game feels open ended, but is in fact rather linear. There is an order that you are supposed to do things in, and it is often quite obvious where you are supposed to go next, but somehow the game gives you a sense of freedom.

It was also quite lengthy. While a new 2d metroid or castlevania will take me roughly 3-4h from start to finish, this one was just over 12h long (14h total time according to steam, but that includes time where I started the game, and then left the computer to do other things). Overall I do recommend this game to anyone who enjoys 2d game with a focus on exploration.
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August 5th, 2011, 05:53
Originally Posted by xSamhainx View Post
thank you for the well-written review, my friend. I cant wait to play it, maybe after I get done w/ Sanitarium. (which i think you'd really like too btw..)
Now go play the original Alice, it's great too!
Thanks Sammy! Yeah, I want to play the original Alice now, and I know they included it on the console versions, but I guess not on PC. I'll have to try Steam I suppose.

Sanitarium is old isn't it? If it's the one I'm thinking of. Is it FPS or just a point n click?

..& so they take the fiction all out of the Jabberwock & I recognize & accept him as a fact. - Mark Twain, May 30, 1880
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August 5th, 2011, 06:16
Oddly, there doesn't seem to be a digital download version of the original American McGee's Alice. At least not one that I've been able to find. I checked Steam, GamersGate, and Direct2drive with no luck. Nothing on EA's website either.
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August 5th, 2011, 07:12
Jabberwocky - it's a point and click adventure. But it's far better than your average "pixel hunt" style adventure game, where you spend hours combing every pixel and combining every object in your inventory ad nauseum. The puzzles are logical, the story is bizarre, and the setpieces are freakin awesome. At the end of the game now, looks like it actually still had a few stages left for me!

JDR - Yep, I had to dig out my old copy of Alice to reinstall and play last year. It's available, but you'll pay a bit for it. Some people got the original game when they bought Madness Returns, so I know it can be gotten digitally. I just dont know where right now. The online services just probably have to futz around w/ EA a bit before it can be sold separately
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August 6th, 2011, 06:38
Seems like a google search turned up a bit torrent version, but it's against my principles to get it that way.

..& so they take the fiction all out of the Jabberwock & I recognize & accept him as a fact. - Mark Twain, May 30, 1880
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August 6th, 2011, 21:59
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Scariest game ever?

Story
"Don't Forget… some things mustn't be forgotten. The shadow hunting me… I must hurry. My name is Daniel, I live in London at… at… Mayfair… What have I done? This is crazy. Don't forget, don't forget. I must stop him. Focus! My name is… is… I am Daniel."

With those words, and brief glimpses of a dark environment, you collapse on the floor. When you wake up and focus, you grasp that you are inside a dark castle, no clue where or when. All you got are those rose petals scattered on the floor, that seems to create a path for you to follow.

A few spooks and some major drops of insanity later you find yourself with the task of stopping him while escaping the shadow hunting you…

Engine: Graphics & Sound
Amnesia is a first-person physics-based adventuregame. As a such it have a very modern 3d engine that is very pleasent to look at, although one could have wished for more when it came to what is meant to look like human beings that looks like something from 1999. Pushed to max, it made my OC i7 920@3.8ghz and SLI480GTX to crawl. However, this is only when you set SSAO Samples to 128 which is completely meaningless. You can't see the difference between 32 and 128 and 32 ran just fine.

The audio is awesome. It will most definitely assist in creeping you out. Not only that but the voiceacting is extraordinary. Even if there are very few voices in the game, especially the main characters voices will stick in your head and you will probably remember them after finished the game.

Gameplay
Amnesia is a first-person physics-based adventuregame. It's puzzles often rely on you to pick up items and use them in the environment. That said, the actual puzzles aren't that many throughout the game. The main challenge really is to navigate the often pitch-black corridors with your nerves intact.

Have you ever played games like Undying, in which you begin really scared, only to find your first weapon and then it's a breeze? Amnesia is not that game. Amnesia is a first-person Survival Horror-game in which there simply are no weapons and no way to kill the awful monsters scattered around the castle. Even looking at the enemies makes your sanity drop and when your sanity drops too much you collapse to the floor. Then you have to struggle to get up again, which often means game over if a monster see you. All you can do when a monster is onto you, is to run and try to hide in the shadows. Did I tell you that darkness drops your sanity as well?

I do not wish to boast, but I tend to have nerves of steel. I rarely get scared by a computergame and I have played most of them. I have long considered Condemned the only game that could get to me. Then came Penumbra, the first trilogy made by the developer who now made Amnesia and yeah, those three were quite creepy. But not even them compare to Amnesia, which is a really evil game. Once you are done with the main story, have a look at youtube and check out some of the "amnesia reaction" videos. They are often hillarious.

Final Verdict
Amnesia isn't so much of a game as it is an experience meant to make you terrified. As a such, this is THE best horror-game ever. If you are a horror fan, nothing should stop you from checking this game out. If you aren't, well, I hope you have some nerves left if you dare to try.

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August 6th, 2011, 22:12
Amnesia: Justine (DLC)
A DLC which is automatically added to the game from patch v1.2 and higher.

Story
You wake up in a cell with a phonograph next to you, by a monster banging on the door. Next to you is a phonograph with a womans voice telling you that you are now part of a test. Who you are and who this "Justine" is, seems to be the mystery you need to solve, if you survive that is.

Justine is very loosely tied to the story of Dark Descent and is mostly a short sidestory.

Gameplay
Justine plays just like the first game, although you can't save, so you need to solve the whole thing in one sitting which can be quite annoying (takes about 30min). There are also some annoying tasks you need to solve like stacking crates to get up high.

Final Verdict
If you are an amnesia fan you can check it out. You already got the DLC afterall.

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An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
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August 7th, 2011, 10:37
I never even heard about that DLC. I don't remember what version Amnesia was when I played through it, but it was proably before the first patch was released.

As far as Amnesia goes, I thought it was a decent game from a small developer, but nowhere near to being the scariest game ever. Different types of horror affect people in different ways though, and I've never really been creeped out by the "haunted house" type atmosphere that Amnesia had.
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August 7th, 2011, 11:19
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
As far as Amnesia goes, I thought it was a decent game from a small developer, but nowhere near to being the scariest game ever. Different types of horror affect people in different ways though, and I've never really been creeped out by the "haunted house" type atmosphere that Amnesia had.
What makes something "most ever"? To answer that question I think you should go for the base-rate, not your own opinion.

There are plenty of layers to what makes someone afraid, just like you say. There are also different tastes when it comes to food. What Amnesia does is to catch a wider range of scare tactics than most horrorgames, kinda like a buffet restaurant. It is misleading to boil down the game to "the haunted house"-formula.

In it's psychological techniques it uses darkness, sound, distorted vision (causing confusion and robbing your senses), the feel of being alone and desolated, the feel of guilt (SH2 built on this), the coldness of rational evil, undefeatable danger, weird/sudden/unexpected events, the sense of being hunted, insects and gore. By the same time the game offers very few soothing elements such as weapons, resting grounds, huds and 3rd-person mode that make you remember "it's just a game", minimaps etc.

This makes Amnesia a "catch all" kind of game, where a wider range of people is affected by it. Personally I am not affected at all by plenty of these elements, but having watched youtube videos there are people who just walk right past things that "gets me", just to be freaked out by something I found completely unscary. And that is the point. If you wish to go for the "best ever" you need diversity to cover a wider range of people.

So I am going to stick with the "scariest ever" until a game have been presented that catches an ever wider range of fears and thus affects an even wider range of people.

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August 8th, 2011, 08:08
Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
What makes something "most ever"? To answer that question I think you should go for the base-rate, not your own opinion.
Except that doesn't work, because what is "scary" to one person might not be to another. That sort of thing is completely subjective and differs between individuals. You also have no way of knowing how many other people felt the same way about it.


Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
In it's psychological techniques it uses darkness, sound, distorted vision (causing confusion and robbing your senses), the feel of being alone and desolated, the feel of guilt (SH2 built on this), the coldness of rational evil, undefeatable danger, weird/sudden/unexpected events, the sense of being hunted, insects and gore. By the same time the game offers very few soothing elements such as weapons, resting grounds, huds and 3rd-person mode that make you remember "it's just a game", minimaps etc..
I'm familiar with what the game offered, I finished it last Winter. I simply didn't find it very impressive in that way. It was tense at times, and the pacing was good, but I was never really creeped out for whatever reason. I could easily list 5-6 games that had a more effective atmosphere (to me) than Amnesia.
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August 8th, 2011, 08:28
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
Except that doesn't work, because what is "scary" to one person might not be to another. That sort of thing is completely subjective and differs between individuals. You also have no way of knowing how many other people felt the same way about it.
I believe I adressed this point with the next thing you quoted, which was my entire premise. Baserate overrides individual opinions. Like with gamescores; you may certainly reject a game with 95% average score, but that tend to reveal more about you than the game. Chances are greater that a friend of yours enjoy that game, than the 60% you loved.

Acknowledging this might be tough, but to do otherwise is called baserate neglect, a habit not beneficial in the long run.

Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
I'm familiar with what the game offered, I finished it last Winter. I simply didn't find it very impressive in that way. It was tense at times, and the pacing was good, but I was never really creeped out for whatever reason. I could easily list 5-6 games that had a more effective atmosphere (to me) than Amnesia.
Congratulations of being special. Care to list those games?

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August 8th, 2011, 14:41
Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
I believe I adressed this point with the next thing you quoted, which was my entire premise. Baserate overrides individual opinions. Like with gamescores; you may certainly reject a game with 95% average score, but that tend to reveal more about you than the game. Chances are greater that a friend of yours enjoy that game, than the 60% you loved.

Acknowledging this might be tough, but to do otherwise is called baserate neglect, a habit not beneficial in the long run
Your baserate is based on what *you* think an imaginary majority finds scary or disturbing.

The only thing you addressed was your opinion. Acknowledging that might be tough, but could be beneficial in the long run.



Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
Congratulations of being special. Care to list those games?
Since you've already decided to become condescending, I don't really see the point.
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August 8th, 2011, 15:05
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
Your baserate is based on what *you* think an imaginary majority finds scary or disturbing.
The only thing you addressed was your opinion. Acknowledging that might be tough, but could be beneficial in the long run.
I also think trees are green and have the opinion that Europe is east of the USA. Stating that something is "opinion" is however unrelated to whether or not something is true or valid.

Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
Since you've already decided to become condescending, I don't really see the point.
I knew you would bail, just not which excuse you would use for doing so.

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August 8th, 2011, 15:30
Your conversation reminds me of this.


Anyway:
MechCommander 2
MechCommander is a real time tactical game, set in the BattleTech universe (same setting as MechWarrior). You have a few mechs under your command in each mission, and you get to salvage the opponents mechs after each battle, thus growing your army. You also have a limited amount of pilots, who gain experience and new skills as they fight through the campaign.

Where the first MechCommander was incredibly unforgiving and hard, the second game swings over to the incredibly easy side of the spectrum. You will get plenty of mechs as the game progresses, so losing a few is not a big issue, and money is so plentiful that it becomes pointless.
The core mechanics of the game are solid, and while there are some severe balancing issues, the game still works surprisingly well. The graphics are not bad, even though the game is old and the live action cutscenes are just cheesy enough. Overall, had they fixed the balancing issues (long range weapons are just too good) and made the game a bit harder, then it would have been a hit, but as it stands, I would only recommend this to people who either don't like it when games are hard, or to people who are brand new to real time tactics games.
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August 8th, 2011, 15:39
Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
I also think trees are green and have the opinion that Europe is east of the USA. Stating that something is "opinion" is however unrelated to whether or not something is true or valid.
You can provide factual evidence that trees are green and that Europe is East of the USA. I suppose you'll refuse to see the difference though..


Originally Posted by JemyM View Post
I knew you would bail, just not which excuse you would use for doing so.
Ok, I'll humor you, despite your lame attempt at an insult.

Off the top of my head, I found System Shock 2, Aliens vs Predator 2, Silent Hill 1-3, Dead Space 1&2, F.E.A.R, and Doom 3 to have a more intense atmosphere for me.

I'm not claiming those are superior horror games as fact, just that they were superior for me. As you can see from my list, I'm obviously biased towards Sci-Fi horror.
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August 8th, 2011, 16:11
Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
You can provide factual evidence that trees are green and that Europe is East of the USA. I suppose you'll refuse to see the difference though..
Or you can also propose a theory that can be refuted by showing it's incoherent, either within itself, by presenting opposing evidence, by presenting a better theory etc.

Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
Ok, I'll humor you, despite your lame attempt at an insult.
Yay!

Originally Posted by JDR13 View Post
Off the top of my head, I found System Shock 2, Aliens vs Predator 2, Silent Hill 1-3, Dead Space 1&2, F.E.A.R, and Doom 3 to have a more intense atmosphere for me.

I'm not claiming those are superior horror games as fact, just that they were superior for me. As you can see from my list, I'm obviously biased towards Sci-Fi horror.
I did not claim Amnesia was best as a game, just best as a horror-experience, even noting out that Amnesia might not even be a game at all. Several of the titles you present above are better games, but they have other qualities. Also, if we are speaking about pure atmosphere rather than actually being horrified, I would probably toss in S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Bioshock, Undying, Condemned and Half-Life to the mix.

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August 8th, 2011, 16:32
Providing a wider range of scares means nothing, unless you can evaluate the "combined" scare factor - which is of course impossible.

It's essentially the same argument people use to call Avatar or Titanic the best movies in the world, because they include elements to touch the most people.

What they seem to miss, which is very much in keeping with Jemy's usual ignorance of nuance, is that all those things might not end up weighing the same together, as any individual or combination of a few elements might. That's because, as JDR pointed out, things touch us all in different ways - and they also depend on execution rather than merely existence.

So, while Amnesia could theoretically scare more people - it might not scare these people very much at all. A game which scares fewer people more, could easilly be argued to be scarier overall. To add more complexity - which is of course inconvenient if you can only see the world in two colors - some people might need a particular LEVEL of being scared - for it to even register as being scary.

For the record, I didn't find Amnesia particularly engaging.
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August 8th, 2011, 16:59
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
Providing a wider range of scares means nothing, unless you can evaluate the "combined" scare factor - which is of course impossible.
Only if you are restrained by sissy stuff such as "ethics".

Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
It's essentially the same argument people use to call Avatar or Titanic the best movies in the world, because they include elements to touch the most people.
IMDB works fine as a baserate actually. With high numbers you get a probability that can be quite deterministic. A bit scary really.

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