Also worthy of note is Alice herself, who is one of the most stunning character models I've seen in a long time. Her outfit changes to fit whatever Wonderland domain she is currently occupying, and each looks great. Her hair physics are easily the best I've seen in a game, and I'll leave it at that. The developers clearly went out of their way to portray Alice as a figure of overwhelming grace; the combat looks like a macabre ballet recital. When Alice dodges, she momentarily dissipates into a swarm of bright blue butterflies, and when she leaps into the air, her dress swirls and leaves a trail of flowers in its wake.
Enemies are disturbing caricatures of classic Wonderland standbys; from the amorphous blobs with porcelain faces to the undead card guards to the eyeless dagger-wielding baby dolls, Alice: Madness Returns is hardly short on creative enemy design.
Finally, the pop-up book style cutscenes fit the game's tone perfectly, as we are indeed dealing with subject matter that lends itself well to such a style. Once you look past the brilliant art design, the game's technical shortcomings come into view. Alice: Madness Returns is working with the Unreal Engine 3, and it usually looks just fine, but there are some texture pop-in issues, as well as some jarring loading sequences that literally come out of nowhere.
Alice: Madness Returns doesn't sound quite as good as it looks, but that's not saying much; after all, nothing else in the game is as good as its art style. The voice acting is great, though it is often smothered by the music. This is most noticeable when Alice talks to the Cheshire Cat, whose low monotone struggles to rise above all the rest of Wonderland's aural eccentricities. The soundtrack is fantastic in some parts, merely okay in others; this becomes a problem later in the game, when most of the problems start to crop up. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Combat sounds fantastic; landing hits with the vorpal blade and hobby horse creates a joyfully weird and unabashedly grim cacophony.