Movie games are a dime a dozen, which is interesting, because big-budget movies run about $5 billion a dozen. With some very notable exceptions like Terminator Salvation and Avatar, the official iPhone tie-ins to big flicks are usually underwhelming. Alice in Wonderland manages to steer clear of catastrophic marketing duds like Pandorum and 9, and instead offers clever puzzles in a familiar fantasyland.
Alice in Wonderland makes a very good candidate for the videogame treatment. After all, she discovered how to shrink and grow large a century before Mario ate his first mushroom, and the Lewis Carroll stories are filled with memorable allies and enemies. Turning the Wonderland of giant flowers and twisted trees into a straight-up platformer would have been the easiest, and most predictable, route for the developers to take.
What an inconvenient place to put a mirror.
Instead they made a puzzle game, with some clunky and imperfect platforming between puzzles. There are reverse-worlds you can access by moving through mirrors, and a cast of recognizable characters like the Cheshire Cat and White Rabbit who grant you the power to freeze time, make objects disappear, or move them around. Alice is the only one of them who can run and jump, so you’ll have to stop every time you want to access them, slowing the game’s pace deliberately.
While Alice’s awkward jumping is the most common skill you’ll use, others will tax your noodle more than a few lines from Jabberwocky. One example of a multi-layered puzzle might involve using the Mad Hatter to send a box between the real world and the mirror world, having the March Hare move it onto a higher platform, then having the Cheshire Cat make the platform disappear so it can fall onto the heads of some of the Red Queen’s guards.
Alice has gone full Were-Rabbit!
A bevy of extras, like collectibles you can find by taking alternate paths through glowing ‘tears’ in the scenery, and some others that you have to unlock with your iPhone’s GPS, camera, and date/time functions, are cute and clever but also unnecessary. They don’t add anything to the main game, and we would have preferred a longer main adventure instead.
Quality music from the movie provides a haunting backdrop to the mystical puzzle-solving, and Alice in Wonderland is one of those rare iPhone games we don’t want to hit mute on. Unfortunately, though, you don’t have the option to put on your own iPod music if you choose.
We were surprised that Alice in Wonderland contains some genuinely clever puzzles and Hollywood production values. Even if you’re not interested in the movie, try out the game.