Alice in Wonderland
German release date: 12/2001
French developer/publisher: EMME / Lexis Numerique
German publisher: Cornelsen Software
North American publisher: I.C.E. Multimedia
for kids 7 to 12
A review by slydos 15th January 2002
Cornelsen software is well-known for their edutainment titles, e.g. the Wanadoo games "Crusades" or "Knight Arthaud". "Alice in Wonderland" is classified by Cornelsen in the edutainment sector with target group children between 7 and 12 years. After the classical book of the same name by Lewis Carrol, French developer studio Lexis Numerique created a multimedia adventure game, to abduct the gamer into the fantastic dream world of Alice. A surreal story, which expects probably also a surreal conversion.
The prehistory of Alice and her life at home is not treated in the game and Alice is also a modern girl from today with a ponytail and a chic orange dress, who follows a white rabbit and falls through the dream hole into the realm of the Queen of Hearts. As in the book she meets a set of strange creatures, playing cards or animals, which follow their own, quite different rules. Thus one experiences the fact that the Queen of Hearts leads her kingdom very rigidly and harrasses her subjects. So e.g. the poor gardners must pay with death, if they do not manage to colour the queen's rose sticks in her favourite colour red. Also the Knave of Hearts is in big danger, because the queen complains him on having stolen her strawberry tarts. Only if Alice can prove the innocence of the Knave of Hearts, she will be able to leave the magic realm.
The room of the doors
The house of the rabbit
The installation of the game from CD ran smoothly under Windows ME. Approx. 145 MB disk space is needed. On the same CD is also the Mac version. At the beginning you are asked to input your name. There is only one savegame under a name. However you can always determine, when you would like to save a game. Alice is represented by a real young actress, who must look about in an artificial surreal world.
At the beginning Alice falls ever deeper and deeper. The game begins from the start, until the gamer detects, that Alice must be stopped by the gamer at a special level indicated in meters, in order to arrive in the game itself. Alice reaches a location with many doors and can still see, how the lamenting white rabbit disappears behind one of them. The game interface and controls were not intuitive or easy to learn for me - I had to use the small manual, in order to find my way.
"Alice in Wonderland" is totally mouse-controlled. Hotspots on the screen are not made clear by texts, however the cursor transforms into a small hand and usually the object under th mouse moves, makes noises or speaks to Alice, e.g. the bottle with liquid, which can be found in each screen, is entreating "Drink me, drink me!" If you click on an object, an action is executed immediately or as with the bottle, Alice shrinks. Other items are taken up by clicking and must be stored in the inventory.
The scrollable inventory is hiding at the top of the screen. If you click on an always visible hook, it will open. Here you can also quit or save the game. If you click on "Save", a saving window appears for a short time - if you don't click fast enough, it again disappears without saving. Unfortunately, when you have collected several objects, you later can't no longer detect exactly, what they're meant to be. This can be disturbing later in the game, if you e. g. want to compose different ingredients after a recipe and now don't know, what the many items actually are supposed to represent.
Also positioned in the inventory/navigation bar is a button to switch on/off the music. Since those surreal orchestra sounds were sometimes very nerving (first of all, if you were stuck in the mini games), a surely praise-worthy function. In the center of the inventory bar you find the face of the helpful cheshire cat. You can click on its grin and than pull it over the screen. If its muzzle gets eyes, you can click with it on certain objects and it gives verbal assistance.
You can also call up a map, on which the so far visited locations and games are displayed. From there you can move fast from place to place. From time to time you can move Alice to another screen by clicking on the inserted arrows - thus you can scroll. If Alice wants to enter a new location, then she must go from the starting screen through one of the doors or select a location in the map. Some of the doors are too small, so that Alice must shrink herself with the magic drink. If she again wants to modify her size, then she must eat one of the cookies lying around in each screen (by the way, the so-called cookies rather look like crispy rolls).
Beside clickable objects there are also often interlocutors, who assign tasks to Alice and often have very much to tell. Also Alice gives helpful comments by herself, if you click on the girl. In 3rd person perspective we control our heroine in a two-dimensional surreal fairy tale world. The game consists of 10 different sceneries, from which you can reach further locations. If you arrive in another scenery, e.g. the house of the rabbit, then you can watch the game characters in animations as helpful stagehands shifting the window blinds and a curtain closes and opens. These animations are the most beautiful part of the game - in 3D and actually also very humorous.
In each scenery there are items to find and Alice must often modify her size or solve puzzles of the most different types.
Often these mini games require good reaction, so that children will probably progress here faster than their parents. So e.g. you must complete a crocket game with a flamingo as racket and a hedgehog as ball. Among other things you have to assemble proverbs with the kitchen personnel or correctly build together a clock. With the five o'clock tea of the hatter you have to evaluate the predicates of the dishes correctly. In order to save the Knave of Hearts finally from court, all puzzles must be solved and a large number of objects must be collected. When preparing a meal that one can select from a recipe book, Alice must add the correct ingredients and process the preparation correctly.
Always the puzzles and functions are quite easy, however the handling and execution are sometimes not evident. Falling down multi coloured mushrooms e.g. had to be assembled. Here I had to use the solution on CD as assistance, since it was not clear, how the mushrooms were to be controlled technically.
As previously mentioned, the graphics consists of a genuine actress for Alice, who has to interact with objects other animated creatures within a partly real, partly drawn scenery. The actress has no great vocabulary, usually we see her as a complete person in the profile. When she has to wait, she yawns from time to time or shrugs toward the gamer.
Sometimes she is cut in as close-up in a corner of the screen. When she speaks to other characters there is no lip-synchronicity, which is particularly noticeable in the close-ups.
If she takes up an item, then you don't really see that she is doing it, it's only suggested or the magic drink simply comes flying to Alice and then disappears completely and Alice makes only a pantomime, as if she drinks it. So the graphics are not convincing, especially if you compare them to other games, where real actors must interact with an invented environment.
The high quality 3D animated sequences suited me and also the credits movie, in which the real development team introduces itself. In the animations a bit of the fantastic, fairy taleful atmosphere became visible while the game comes rather dry and without suspense.
The game is only limited recommendable for parents and children in my opinion. The handling is complicated and in many places you'll ask yourself, what you can actually do, in order to master the actually easy tasks. The graphics look a bit unprofessional and the animation of the main actress was single-laned and little interesting. Except for a few sequences I had the feeling that it would be better to read the book.
However I am not sure, whether one could complete the book in a period of 4 hours, as the game. Additionally in this game, expressly defined as edutainment adventure, the learning part is missing to me. Even if "Alice in Wonderland" is a governed supported game (in the French version) that will probably still reap a prize here and there - a beautiful retail box, some good animations and three or four interesting puzzles and tasks do not justify probably a price of 35 Euro.
My rating: 54%
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
System requirements Windows:
- Windows 95/NT 4.0 or higher
- Pentium 133 Mhz
- 32 MB RAM
- High Color graphic card 16bit
- 16bit sound card
- 8x CDROM-drive
System requirements Mac:
- System 7.5.3 or higher
- Power PC
- 32 MB RAM
- High Color graphic card, 640 x 480
- 8x CDROM-drive
- Pentium III 850
- 128 MB RAM
- Sound- and graphic card DirectX-compatible
- Toshiba DVD-ROM
Alice must find a special scarab
The catarpillar has a special task for Alice
Restore the fan of the Queen
Alice with normal height
The map shows the locations you already visited
Tea with the hatter
Not an easy puzzle