I really enjoy collecting artbooks of my favorite franchises, but there is certainly a big divide between the very best and very worst when it comes to artbooks. Some are little more than art assets thrown together in a book with an appealing cover, whereas the best ones really take you behind-the-scenes of the game and show how it evolved and changed over time. Fortunately, The Art of Alice: Madness Returns falls into the latter category.
If you have ever played Alice: Madness Returns then you’ll certainly agree that its visuals are nothing if not creative. The game takes players into the psyche of Alice Liddell, whose Wonderland was ruined when her family home burned down and she was the only person to make it out alive. The Alice in Wonderland books, or really any adaptation of it, were already bizarre on their own, but American McGee and his crew topped all prior adaptations by turning it into a hellish place with their video games. By reading this book you are taken along for that ride, as it shows everything from the start of development to the last, stressful weeks.
And what makes this particularly interesting is the diverse team that created the game. Spicy Horse operates from China and reading the commentary of these highly talented Chinese artists was insightful in a way that few other artbooks can offer, particularly in regards to the struggles they faced creating the oriental-themed stage of the game. The book also goes in some technical depth, explaining how art was used to inspire game mechanics or otherwise aid game designers. You can even get a peek at scrapped ideas, enemies, and other creatures; an absolute joy for any fan.
And, of course, if you just want to look at some pretty pictures there is plenty of that as well. All in all, the book is a great read for fans of the game, or designers interested in learning how art changed this game. At about 25 to 30 dollars it’s a tad pricey, but comes in a nice, sturdy hardcover with pages filled to the brim with beautiful pictures. Definitely worth the investment.