Rated M for mature
(X-Box 360)

I want to begin this review by saying I have a bias when it comes to anything based on the tale of Alice in Wonderland, which this is. It is a different tale however. It begins with acknowledging that Alice has had some difficulties, which have necessitated her being placed in a mental institution with other kids. Her main issue was that her parents and siblings were killed in a house fire, which she believes that she caused, thereby killing her family. The key here is that it is not in modern times, but the brief portrayal of the psychiatric hospital and even the psychiatrist is that they are evil and that the psychiatrist's job has been to erase the memories of Alice and the other residents there. So, what does Alice do? She escapes. Of course, she escapes to Wonderland, which is not as she left it.

As you play, as Alice of course, you encounter many of the creatures from the well-known Wonderland, like the Cheshire cat, Mr. Caterpillar, the Mad Hatter and the Red Queen. They are all different, as is Wonderland. There is an under current of evil as you walk through Wonderland and see the scenery which is blood-filled waters and crying statues. You must walk through this place alone and at times are faced with battling evil creatures. You do of course have a rather large knife in your arsenal as well as interestingly enough, a pepper grinder. You do have to stab and jab these evil creatures that do die and leave you often splattered in blood. For the most part they do not look like a human at all, except for one type of creature that has a face of a doll, but the body of a monster. Most of the creatures are mechanical looking and fall apart in a heap of metal when you do defeat them.

Throughout the game, you are also challenged with collecting teeth that appear as you defeat evil creatures as well as when you break apart mushrooms on the screen. I haven't figured out why teeth exactly, but they do earn you some benefits such as new weapons and levels which you can buy. You are also earning memories as you walk through Wonderland. They are Alice's recovered memories of what has happened in her past. You begin to get glimpses into what life was like for Alice before her placement in a mental institution, and how normal it was. You see the goal of the game is to not only save Wonderland, but for Alice to save herself as she learns what really happened in her life.

So, that leaves the rating. I think it is appropriate on some levels as the themes of recovering memories, death and losing loved ones, elements of violence and cursing, being an orphan raised in an mental institution as well as the elements of evil and magic are developmentally sophisticated. However, T for teen maybe more appropriate as long as the child can separate fantasy from reality as the possibility of any of this translating to real life is harder to see than FPS games. It is hard for me to see this game being the same rating as Call of Duty as that game seems so real as well as bloody and violent.

Nicole Franklin
nfranklin@Lifespan.org