Childhood is overrated. I mean, who needs treasured memories? And who says children's stories have to be inviolate? If you prefer Disney to Hans Christian Andersen when it comes to fairy tales, this off-kilter point-and-click set in a Wonderland that has seen better days may not be for you. The rest of us, twisted little deviants that we are, can settle in for a story straight out of the darkest, least-visited corner of the library. It's okay, you're in good company. We're all mad here.
Chapter One of Alice is Dead is one part mystery, one part escape game, and a big heaping helping of wrongness. You find yourself in a locked room with a locked trunk, and your fellow captive isn't exactly in a talkative mood. How did you get here? Who are you? How can you get out? More importantly... doesn't that blue dress look a little familiar?
Some of the puzzles may require a bit of abstract thinking to get around. An early incarnation of the game I had the good fortune to play featured a hint system that unfortunately doesn't appear to have made the cut. Instead, you're given access to a walkthrough from the play window. You'll have an easier go of it if you "go native" and try to approach things from Wonderland's own strange perspective. Here, let us help you get into the right mindset. TEA! TALKING FLOWERS! UN-BIRTHDAY PARTIES! How's that? No good? Then try combining the different items you come across. There isn't a lot of trekking back and forth to be had, so trying different things usually nets you a solution sooner rather than later.
The downside is that the game is actually fairly short, but the experience is still a quality one. What the game has in spades (or hearts, if you're playing from a royal deck) is atmosphere. There are no scares or loud surprises, but Alice is Dead can send shivers up your spine from the first few screens. The artwork and setting manage to make the otherwise innocuous soundtrack more than a little unsettling.
More Brothers Grimm than Lewis Carroll, Alice is Dead is a short but sinister little noir-ish tale that will entertain even if the plot twist at the end is a little predictable. Play it on a coffee break, or play it with the lights down low and the sound turned up. You didn't need those sweet dreams anyway, did you?
Play all 3 games in the Alice is Dead series: