Review: ALICE VR
You'll go down the rabbit hole but you might not want to stay.
Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been rehashed into numerous genres over the years, from films and cartoons to videogames. Creators have been inspired by the zany world the author created and now its made its way to virtual reality (VR). Carbon Studio has taken some of those elements and mixed them up into sci-fi adventure ALICE VR, that at points works, and in others not so much.
ALICE VR takes you on a story laden journey into the cosmos, where you’ll find yourself on a mysterious planet devoid of life. Having been a crew member on a spaceship, the AI computer awakens you as there’s been a disaster and the vessel is in need of Graphene, a special fuel that powers it. Upon awakening you’re tasked with exploring the ship solving a few puzzles along the way as a basic training tutorial. Nothing too complicated, but its here that you’ll find the first touches of inspiration from the book, shrinking and growing panels that allow you to complete various objectives. These panels are then littered throughout the videogame.
As with any puzzle oriented title you expect the first few to be easy but as you progress they naturally get harder. This isn’t really the case in ALICE VR, the majority of the puzzles are easily solved, with a few slightly more time consuming ones on offer. There’s none that could be called hard or even remotely frustrating. And they do tend to follow a similar pattern, hit targets in a sequence, shrink to find a lever, swap objects around to make them line-up. The lack of variety is somewhat disappointing.
Then there’s the pacing of ALICE VR. To begin with everything just seems so far apart, you’re just walking for miles and miles looking at the scenery (albeit very nice) as you make your way to the next area. There’s a run mechanic, but for those less attuned to virtual reality (VR) this could start to cause some issues. But as it progresses and you head into the city, ALICE VR starts to feel less linear – go here, unlock this door, head to the next area – with more areas to explore and things to find.
But there is a nauseating factor to the videogame. ALICE VR doesn’t feature any comfort controls, look rotation and speed can be sped up or reduced but there’s no snap feature that has become slightly more common place in other titles. Simulator sickness in most apparent in the areas there you have to walk along illuminated walkways that bend up walls and upside down. Even for experienced VR users this will likely turn a few stomachs.
But ALICE VR isn’t all bad. The world that Carbon Studio has created is a fantastic mix of sci-fi architecture and bizarre dreamlike scenarios. The books inspiration can be seen everywhere, from the mechanical cat that occasionally appears to the out and out absurdly trippy experiences, sharks flying through the sky, menacing black and white forests, tunnels that twist and turn as your viewpoint changes, it’s a visual assault on the senses. Add to that the eerie audio score, and you have quite an engaging mixture.
All in all ALICE VR does have some great individual pieces that should have been part of a much more interesting adventure. But its the fact that the barren feeling of the title, the lacklustre puzzle elements, and the queasy feeling the videogame generates, all hamper what could have been an excellent VR experience. A decently sized title at 5 hours + when searching for all the hidden items, it’s just a shame that you probably won’t want to, or go back for a second play through.