Alice Escaped! Review – Wonderland of Waifus

Alice Escaped! Review – Wonderland of Waifus

The setup is straightforward, Usada and Kotora are studying in a library at school when Usada finds a book with a letter inside that says, “Find Alice.” They are both pulled into the book, waking up in Wonderland. Throughout this adventure, they’ll meet strange characters, explore whimsical areas, and swing a hammer at things to find Alice and return home. Developed by illuCalab, Alice Escaped markets itself as a Metroidvania-Style game. While the subject of Alice in Wonderland has been used plenty in every media, Alice Escaped still manages to set itself apart.

The world and characters of Alice Escaped are amazingly vibrant. Every area is brimming with color and detail, giving personality to the environments and NPCs. These visuals are arguably the best part of the game, only to be made better by residents of Wonderland’s unique and goofy interactions. Their dialogue with Usada and Kotora always left me chuckling or shaking my head at how ridiculous it was.

That sums up the experience pretty nicely. The characters are all cute anime girls, bleeding personalities and detail, and the entire game leans into whimsy and goofiness as much as possible. Even the sound design is cartoonish, often making you feel like you’re at a carnival.

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For combat, you switch between Usada, who swings a squeaky hammer, and Kotora, who fires a large gun. Usada will likely be your main character, as her hammer attacks deal lots of damage and can easily stagger enemies. Kotora’s gun lacks the stopping power of the hammer but makes up for it by being very adept at breaking through enemy shields and allowing you to keep your distance from enemies that are tougher to stagger. You can go through most areas using only Usada just because her attacks are so fast and allow for better movement.

To power up your characters, you spend Skill Points. There are three types of points, each used for various skills on a tree. Blue points are the easiest to acquire. You gain them by battling enemies, finding them in the field, and even collecting crystal pieces as you explore. With those being the easiest to get, you use them mainly at the beginning. Green points are found during the mid-game and are typically used to unlock upgrades to skills and abilities you’ve already unlocked. Lastly, red points are only found during the endgame and unlock the best upgrades. These are also fewer to come by, so spend them wisely.

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The skills you unlock vary from granting an extra dash in the air to allowing your reserved character to heal over time or increase the power of your weapons. This is your main form of progress. Instead of finding an item to unlock abilities or weapons like a traditional Metroidvania, you can open these in whatever order you want.

Certain barriers require a specific weapon or special attack to unlock, and many places you can’t reach until you acquire more air dashes, but they can never hard block you from areas due to how you unlock upgrades. To this end, the game plays a bit closer to a Beat-Em Up with an open map.

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The map itself is relatively small, but the areas are varied. You can explore castles, libraries, forests, and a tea party, each full of secrets and characters. The movement generally makes exploring these areas a total joy, even with their smaller size.

The map in the menu also does an excellent job of helping you keep track of your progress with optional upgrades to provide details about the areas you explore. While not the best map in the genre, it does well enough. Fast Travel points are also pretty frequent, and when combined with normal checkpoints, make any deaths barely more than a mild annoyance.

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On the topic of enemies and death, the enemy variety is somewhat lacking, and the game, in general, is pretty easy when compared to others in the genre. A few “Death Traps” exist throughout the areas, such as spikes or garden-variety bottomless pits. Unfortunately, these tend to cause more resets than enemies will. Still, these deaths are quick, lose you nothing, and with the frequency and smart placement of checkpoints, ensure that any area traversal or difficult combat situation will be quickly learned and dealt with.

Enemy variety might be the most disappointing thing about the game. You’ll only see about ten different enemy models throughout the entire game and lots of recolors of previously seen enemies. The only real difference between any enemy is whether or not they have a shield gauge or if they use ranged attacks. You can generally handle most enemies with Usada until enemies stop staggering or have large shields to deal with. The only saving grace is that the combat is enjoyable with clean movement.

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Bosses follow a particular formula. They all have shields and will receive minimal damage until they are broken. After their shield is down, they will be stunned, letting you smash them until their shield recovers. Early on, you can often drop a boss to zero before they get a chance to recover, but later, bosses will lock you into phases to complete. As a result, they aren’t too much to deal with until near the endgame, when they become more complex and enjoyable.

Speaking of endgame for a moment, there are multiple endings where you need to complete the initial run to unlock the next. Beating the first final boss lets you find a “backdoor” to another end. After dropping the 2nd ending, you unlock the ability to rewind the world.

Doing this resets all of your fast travel points, bosses defeated, quests completed, and secrets found, allowing you to reset as many times as you want to max out your health and gather as many skill points as you need to max out the tree. This trivializes maxing out your characters but also ruins the fun of finding secrets. Using your rewind allows you to unlock the path to the true ending.

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Alice Escaped! provides a colorful and concise adventure for Metroidvania fans. Although the enemy variety is lacking, the combat and abilities make progression exciting through its intuitive skill tree and charming environment. The plot is covered in silliness, with a few dark themes sprinkled in, but it all meshes well with the fan service-focused character designs. Although you may prefer a higher challenge, this makes for a great weekend game.

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