Malleus Maleficarum!
353 – The Factory Floor

Lil’ Ragamuffin has a hard time explaining her feelings. Of course, part of that is because urchins don’t actually experience the same emotions as humans — although QUIGGLES is comparable to the human experience of joy and THERMOS FORTITUDE is very much like suicidal ennui — nor do they actually think in language.  Urchins think in blood and fire.

So unrelated, on the reccomendation of Bowlingballhead, I finally got around to playing Alice: Madness Returns. OK, no, I lied. I didn’t play it because I don’t have the patience for actually playing video games, so I did the next best thing and watched a walk-through.   There are, like, a million gritty reimaginings of Alice in Wonderland out there — it’s really only second in popularity for gritty reimagings after Wizard of Oz — but this one was definitely one of the best.  It’s nice that all the bizarre things happening in Alice’s Wonderland delusions are nicely connected to things happening back in Alice’s actual reality. I see too many of those HERE’S SOME RANDOM WEIRD STUFF TO SHOW THAT THE PROTAGONIST IS CRAZY THAT LOOKS COOL BUT DOESN’T HAVE ANY NEXUS AT ALL WITH THE HERO’S PSYCHOLOGICAL STATE, I AM LOOKING AT YOU 2000 JENNIFER LOPEZ STARRING VEHICLE THE CELL.  But Alice: MR mostly avoids that pitfall, plus it has some very good paperdoll-style cut-scenes that really set the whole mood nicely. I think a big problem with a lot of these psychological horror fantasy stories is that they pretend to be a lot more distubing than they really are. Like, The Cell. Ohhh we’re supposed to be all freaked out because a horse got sliced up by a weird clock machine.  Ok, that’s kinda gross… but what’s the point?  What horrifying revelation about the character’s psyche was that supposed to symbolize? His love of slicing up horses with clock machines? That’s dumb. Whatever. Man, I’m really angry about The Cell now. But my point is that the ultimate reveals in Alice: Madness Returns actually ARE disturbing, so you feel like all the off-the-wall insanity leading up to the finale was warranted.  Oh, and there are insane children in it.  Which, of course, is great. I LOVE THE INSANE CHILD LEADER, SHE’S SO COOL. She doesn’t have a name, though, does she?  She must have some name in Alice: Madness Returns fan fiction out there. I suppose I should look it up.

Also, Alice and Dr. Bumby totally had sex. I don’t know which one of you were arguing that they didn’t, but they totally did.  It’s pretty blatant.

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Discussion (14) ¬

  1. Bowlingballhead

    It is. It is as blatant as it can possibly be without using the phrase ‘we had sex.’ Huh. How spoilery do you think it’s polite to be in these comments?

  2. Mr. Casual

    Wait, they had sex?? :O You’ve spoiled it for me!!

    No, it actually was pretty damn blatant, heh. I did love the Alice games, though. Interesting ways to turn the creepy and fantastical into intriguing gameplay.

    As for the comic: So when Rags says she’s feeling “mad”, that means she’s feeling something alien and nonsensical, right?

  3. Bowlingballhead

    And you totally nailed it with the ‘warranted.’ The Cheshire Cat tells her repeatedly that she’s basically imagining all this because she doesn’t want to admit what she’s doing in real life, and then you find out, and it’s like ‘Holy shit, yeah, that’s something you would retreat into a fantasy world rather than face.’ It really is that bad, which just… doesn’t happen in ‘goes insane because Bad Things’ stories.

  4. Bowlingballhead

    Oh, and Mr. Casual, urchins feel a form of anger whose only significant difference from our anger is that they feel it basically nonstop.

  5. admin

    I think it’s okay to be spoilery here. After all, the game came out five years ago, so it’s reasonable to expect it’s already been spoiled for anyone who hasn’t already played it. I’m having trouble thinking of specific examples but there are a lot of stories that do that “OH NO YOU REPRESSED A TERRIFYING MEMORY oh psyche it turns out the repressed memory was that time you stubbed your toe” thing. I like that Madness Returns had, for lack of a better phrase, the courage of its convictions.

    Rags is trying to communicate her feelings in words for Percy’s benefit, because, surprisingly, rats DO experience human emotions and think in language. Actually, that’s probably not too surprising for anyone who’s kept pet rats — they’re smart, empathetic little boogers. :) What Rags is describing as “mad ‘n’ sweaty” is a form of righteous fury called, in urchin vernacular, PITFIRE.

  6. Bowlingballhead

    The asylum level impressed me for being such a horror show that you could see how agreeing to be the mistress and assistant of the man who raped her sister and murdered her family was the LESSER of two evils. That game does not hold back. Wow.

    There’s a particular memory/quote in the level with the oriental level with the ants and wasps, and I’m wondering if they found it in the playthrough you saw? It’s hidden in a very out-of-the-way spot and easy to miss, but it changes everything. It’s her old doctor explaining that the stories Alice is telling herself are about what’s happening to *her*, and she frames it as rescuing other people to feel less helpless.

  7. admin

    Yeah, that asylum level was pretty intense! It was one of those things that was very hard to watch without feeling gratuitous.

    Hmm, that line doesn’t ring a bell, I think the playthrough might have missed that bit!

  8. Bowlingballhead

    It’s very, VERY easy to miss, but it drives home what’s happening to Alice in the real world, knowing that the stuff she tries to pretend is happening to others is actually happening to her.

  9. admin

    Durr I just realized my last post didn’t convey the tone that I’d intended. What I meant to say was that the asylum level aws hard to watch YET DID NOT FEEL GRATUITOUS. Reading what I wrote I managed to convey the exact opposite sentiment. Because I’m dumb lololo

    You know what else I just realized? This was also the first gritty reimagining of a beloved public domain franchise that didn’t include goofy constant hyper-sexualizations of the whole female cast. When Todd MAcFarlane did his “Twisted Fairytales” toys (LOL WELCOME TO MY TWISTED MIND), you’ve got leather dominatrix Little Miss Muffet fucking a giant spider and spiked bikini Little Red Riding Hood fucking a wolf and what not. In fact, considering the underlying themes of sexual violence in Alice: Madness Returns, I feel like it would have been very easy (and probably very tempting) for the developers to go that route, but it all feels mercifully restrained.

    I suppose part of it might just be standards and practices forcing them to make a slightly more family friendly game lol or part of it might just be that the Alice universe doesn’t have a lot of female characters that you can really imagine all sexed up, but I still think it’s worth noting.

  10. Bowlingballhead

    I think if Standards and Practices had noticed Alice was- no, I literally have no idea how this game got past any American censors of any kind whatsoever. But you’re right, it worked hard to make its really harsh story not titillating, which was the right decision and another plus mark on a truly unusual story.

  11. Benny

    This is how the world works Rags.

  12. Nezumi

    I Still need to finish Madness Returns. The first one was good, and had some actual symbolism going for it, but is weaker on the justification for her retreat and stuffs. So, yeah, not appreciating the spoilers, but should’ve guessed. Still super-early in it, too. Can’t remember what else I was gonna say.

  13. admin

    Oooops, sorry Nezumi! That’s my fault. But at least we can talk about the first one without ruining it now, right? :)

    How bout that Voracious Centipede, huh? :)

  14. Nezumi

    Yeah, first one I finished through.

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