Every so often we here at Capsule Computers are lucky enough to get a sneak peek at up and coming games, and even luckier when ‘said games’ we’re previewing are from game developers American McGee and Suda51. Legends in their own right, their video games have greatly contributed and influenced the games of today, with many of them regarded as classics of gaming.
Two of the more interesting game developers working in the industry today were in town and we were able to check out both Alice: Madness Returns and Shadows of the Damned at an EA Games Preview Event in Sydney. Games developers American McGee and Suda51, both gave a presentation on their respective games. Suda51 opted for a more theatrical take on his presentation, opting for a costume change a few minutes in switching from his elaborate golden jacket to an equally, if not more badass Garcia Hotspur leather jacket. Garcia Hotspur if you don’t already know, is the protagonist in Shadows of the Damned and what a game it is.
In fact, both Shadows of the Damned and Alice: Madness Returns honestly blew me away. I’ve been playing alot of first-person shooters (Call of Duty: Black Ops mostly), so coming here and playing these new fresh games that try to break the mainstream mould really does give me a breath of fresh air. I’ve seen a little bit of both games on the internet already, just few screen shots and a bit of concept art and video but seeing and playing the games hands on is a completely different experience.
First up I was really looking forward to playing Alice: Madness Returns. The original Alice, released more than a decade ago in 2000, was one of the those games that I unfortunately missed out on playing growing up but heard alot about at school where I can distinctly remember my friend telling me about a game where you play as Alice from ‘Alice In Wonderland’, and go around murdering the inhabitancy of Wonderland. Now it’s not quite as like how my friend put it, but America McGee’s Alice and its sequel is certainly a very dark and twisted take on Lewis Carroll’s literary masterpiece. Ten years on and Alice finally returns, bring back both what made the original so unique and critically acclaimed to this current generation.
Alice: Madness Returns will be partially nostalgic to anyone that’s been remotely interested in ‘Alice In Wonderland’, whether that be the original books or through its many adaptations, American McGee’s Alice or films (and hopefully that’s Disney’s 1951 animated classic and not the recent 2010 adaptation *facepalm*). The game holds a very strong dark and twisted art style and direction, from the character models to the vivid environments in Wonderland.
Gameplay wise the game blends both action and platforming, this partially struck me as quite interesting. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but it somehow reminded me of playing the original Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon games from way back in the late 90s. I mean this in a good way, for once here a game that has been developed for a ‘mature audience’ but still holds simple yet very effective game mechanics – all in a very stylishly cartoony world. For example in combat, you won’t have to worry about remembering lists of combos like in God of War 3 nor is it completely dumb down to one-button hits as seen in Fable 3. Dodging, switching between weapons, melee and long range attacks are all very fluid and easy to pull off with just a few taps and is very satisfying when up against a range of different enemy types.
Now moving across the room to a completely different game Shadows of the Damned, which if you’ve seen anything about the game or even better haven’t, in short it will melt your mind. Suda51 describes it as a “Punk-Rock Adventure” and that’s as best as I can probably describe it as well. Think of the most B-grade horror movies, mixed in with a punk rock soundtrack topped with some bad taste and political incorrectness – All that turned in to a video game and you’re close to what Shadows of the Damned is like.
You play as self-described badass Garcia Hotspur, with a name like that your sure to expect something really insane on his journey through Hell to rescue his lover Paula. I think even this game pushes the boundaries on what you’d come to expect from Suda51. Sure Killer7 was very weird and No More Heroes perhaps even more so but Shadows of the Damned, I think it’s on a completely different field. Underlying the game is a very tongue-in-cheek boyish teenage humour. For starters your flaming skull demon companion is named Johnson who transforms into a variety of weapons one of them is called “Boner” well…it does shoot out bones.
Shadows of the Damned’s style and overall presentation is unique, its interpretation of Hell is one that has to be seen to be believed. Fundamentally the game is at heart a third person shooter much in the same vain as Resident Evil 4 or Alan Wake, sort of if those games where plunged into Hell itself and ramped up to 11. In Hell, you’ll be fighting a range of enemies and puzzles that both revolve around the use of light and dark. Segments of the game take place in ‘Darkness’ with Garcia slowly losing health and enemies significantly becoming tougher. These segments require players to quickly locate a source of light before taken out several enemies. Massive boss battles are hallmarks of Suda51 games and Shadows of the Damned doesn’t shy away from them featuring its fair share of twisted, bloody demonic beings.
Overall, in the short time I had with these two games and meeting with their legendary game developers American McGee and Suda51, I was left feeling very much impressed with what I had not only just seen, but experienced. Perhaps Shadows of the Damned more so than Alice: Madness Returns, but both games equally brings something new to gamers out there. They are both very unique, fresh and exciting games that players can certainly expect to play in the near future.
Alice: Madness Returns is set to release on Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and PC on June 16th & 17th in Australia and New Zealand with Shadows of the Damned releasing a week later for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on June 23rd & 24th in Australia and New Zealand as well.