Developer: Spicy Horse
Here we go again. After literally murdering her own madness in the decade-old original, Alice's insanity has returned (hence the title) in the form of the menacing Infernal Train: a burning cathedral on wheels that's laying waste to the imaginary realms of Wonderland. Though a hypnotherapist is doing his best to help her forget the rogue memories, our heroine soon finds herself wandering the streets of London and periodically descending back into the twisted nightmare world between flash-forwards to reality. It's a decent enough premise for a reunion tour.
The visuals are the first thing you'll notice. Madness Returns looks absolutely gorgeous, which is partly due to atmospheric lighting and detailed texture work courtesy of the ever-reliable Unreal Engine. However, it's mainly testament to the consistent quality of the art direction. Wonderland is as bonkers as it is beautiful, and each thematic zone (such as deep blue ice fields or hellish industrial complexes) is packed with deeply surreal imagery, enemies and design elements. A preternatural sense of wrongness and horror underpins tragically innocent and childlike themes. It's a banquet for the senses, and regardless of where you point the camera, your eyes will pop and your mind will blow.
Once you've wrapped your brain around it, though, you'll realise that the surreal chicanery is just camouflage surrounding one of the most dull and conventional action-platformers to have released in recent years.
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