In news that devastated one of gaming’s most ravenous fan bases, developer American McGee announced in April that the Alice franchise had finally met its end at the collective hands of EA. The Texan subsequently retired from video games.
Unfortunately, Alice had (and may yet still have) quite a promising future, with a TV series penciled in for release sometime this decade.
Queen of Hearts
For reasons only EA understands, a planned third Alice game, subtitled Asylum, was snubbed despite a 400-page treatment from McGee. The proposal tabled either a licensing agreement with EA or direct funding but the publishing giant declined both. Oddly enough, EA stressed that the Alice IP was “important” to the company, which makes its decision to sit on it seem a little strange.
Alice is loosely based on Lewis Caroll’s psychedelic novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The first game, released in 2000, told the story of a girl orphaned at a young age, who escapes to Wonderland in order to deal with her psychological trauma. Similar to the 1865 novel, Alice must overcome the nefarious Queen of Hearts to restore Wonderland, her friends, and her own sanity.
Of course, American McGee’s Alice is far from the first thing to take its cues from Caroll’s book but it’s definitely one of the most prominent in gaming. Now in the public domain, Alice has also starred in the Playtech game Adventures Beyond Wonderland. This live online casino title is a Wheel of Fortune-style experience that comes with its own presenter, suitably dressed as one of several characters, with Wonderland-themed bonuses (such as multipliers provided by Caterpillar) and game aesthetics to keep the concept going.
Along with jigsaws, movies, and just about everything else, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is still as bankable today as it has been for the past 150 years. Still, there’s seemingly no way forward for American McGee’s adaptation – but what could it have been? Alice: Asylum was designed to be a direct sequel to the second game, Alice: Madness Returns, and would tell the story of an amnesiac Alice trying to recover her memories.
Asylum would have continued to delve into Alice’s fractured mind, envisioning the five stages of grief as different places or “domains”. For instance, the Liddell house, where Alice was orphaned, would have served as the shock stage, while a circus takes up the mantle of denial. It’s here she meets Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Anger, suitably, would have been represented by the Queen of Hearts’ castle.
The Mad Hatter, Jabberwock, the Chesire Cat, and the corrupt family lawyer Wilton J. Radcliffe would also have made an appearance. The once-lost rabbit doll that survived the fire at the Liddel house would have served as a companion in Alice: Asylum, although, its role in gameplay isn’t clear. The rabbit has long been a fixture of merchandising for the Alice franchise.
Sadly, that’s basically it for Alice: Asylum. Until the release of the TV show, which is written by David Hayter, of Metal Gear Solid and X-Men fame, it’s unlikely that there’ll be any more developments on an Alice video game.