On June 14, Electronic Arts will release American McGee’s Alice: Madness Returns, the sequel to the 2000 computer game American McGee’s Alice. The new game will run on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as well as PC. Judging from one of the trailers, the graphics are luscious and the scenarios violent. A dark-haired adult Alice at a psychotic tea party rams a knife through the giant eye of a cycloptic monster. Blood splatters on her face – and, scene!
Here’s a newer more revealing trailer:
There’s a nice article interviewing American McGee at news.com.au here. American McGee is his real name; he is the legendary game designer famous for Doom and Quake.
“I can remember the copy of the book that I had,” he said of the classic he read many times as a child, and many more as an adult.
“The size and the feel of it. I know it made an impression on me as a child.
“I think Humpty Dumpty (from Through the Looking Glass) had a pretty significant impact on me. It was a pretty dark piece of the story — this character shattering and breaking.”
I’m not sure if Lewis Carroll’s books have ever been converted into video poker machines before. (Has anyone ever seen one?) But now, there’s an online video slot version called “Alice’s Wonderland” released last week at Virgin Casino. You have to be registered on that site to play (which, correct me if I’m wrong, citizens of the U.S. have to have an offshore bank account to gamble online…)
According to Betastic(“your guide to online gaming”):
No surprises in predicting that this five reel, twenty line video slot is centred around Lewis Carroll’s magical Alice In Wonderland. There are three bonuses which can all be won in the same spin: Mad Hatter’s Tea party (progressive jackpot); Rabbit Hole; Free Spins bonus with additional wild symbols.
The jackpot is starting at £10,000, with other prizes including web-cams and Alice in Wonderland DVDs. But like most looking-glass gambling experiences, I’m sure your money will get further from you the more you walk towards it.
Miniville, makers of “tiny apps for tiny hands,” have re-released their Alice in Wonderland interactive storybook application for iPhone/iPod/iPad. This completely revamped version features new artwork, new audio, and new ways for children to interact with the abbreviated and adapted story.
You can download a free version that includes some advertising, or an ad-free premium version for $0.99. Even better, John Jumper, the app’s developer, has kindly offered five free copies of the premium edition to Lewis Carroll Society members. We will send the promotional code to the first five people who email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those of you who are just curious to see another example of this one possible future of children’s books, John Jumper has created a demo video on YouTube.
Check out this beautiful custom chess set, featured on the website English Russia. It seems to be a work in progress but, from the description, we gather that the grand scheme is for an ornately carved table concealing a glass chessboard and ivory pieces. Turning a handle shaped like a flamingo’s head will activate a mechanism that lifts the board out of the table and ready for play.
The work of an unnamed Ukrainian master ivory carver, each piece is a highly-detailed rendering of a Tenniel illustration – white players from Through the Looking-Glass and black players from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. See the website for pictures of the man at work and a longer description of the project. Let’s hope that pictures of the finished work make it online too.
A new tin and things to keep within from Prospero Art. This “first edition” tin is sold as a package with either a 150-piece jigsaw featuring the lid design, or two packs of Alice in Wonderland playing cards, or both. The tin is a limited edition (3,000 made) and measures 5 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/8 inches. More images, ordering information and a 2.25-minute video introduction to the tin can be found at ProsperoArt.com!
In April this year, Mongoose Press released the “first ever” anthology of contemporary chess fiction. Subscribers to our Yahoo news group will already know that one of the stories was written by LCSNA-member and novelist Katherine Neville. Neville’s story featuring Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson sits alongside other stories diverse in genre and inspiration. Other contributors include Steven Carter, author of the New York Times best-seller Emperor of Ocean Park, and Paul Eggers, former United States Chess Federation master.
A lengthy review of the book, written by Sean Gonsalves, is now available on ChessCafe.com. In Howard’s Gambit, Gonsalves provides some interesting back story to the book and its editor Howard Goldowsky. He also reviews some of the contributions. For serious chess aficionados, let down in the past by implausible fictional chess, Gonsalves offers the following reassurance:
… for all you expert chess players out there, the icing on the cake with MOT is the realistic description of actual chess moves in each of the twelve stories, unlike the impossible positions found in lots of pulp chess fiction.
To wit, from Patrick Somerville’s short story, The Game I Once Enjoyed:
“There was a fork on his next turn – king and bishop – but I had to get my queen out of the way of the long diagonal he’d opened up in his last turn, another little something I had missed. He’d be up a piece, whichever way I went to save my queen. So be it, I thought. Been here before. I reached forward to move, but stopped.” More…
Masters of Technique: Mongoose Chess Anthology of Chess Fiction (Hardcover) can be purchased from the Mongoose Press ($24.95) or from Amazon ($17.96). Proceeds from the book will go to support chess schools and clubs.
Several LCSNA members have noticed Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland featured in magazine advertisements for something called 100 Classic Books. Gary Brockman describes one ad thus: “Against a background of bookshelves packed with mostly leather-bound volumes, a pair of manicured hands holds open an electronic reader. On the left ‘page’ are the last lines of ‘All in a Golden Afternoon’ (there not being room for an entire stanza) and on the right page the beginning of Chapter 1 of AAIW (there not being room for the entire first sentence). The ad copy reads in part: ‘Own an instant library of 100 of the greatest books ever written, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to The Hound of the Baskervilles.'”
The list price is $19.99 for Nintendo DS (a latter-day Gameboy), and is exactly what it says it is: 100 classic books that you can read on your Nintendo DS. How comfortable these little hand-held gaming devices are for reading full novels is open for debate. But how excellent would it be to find that the teenager zoned out on his gameboy at a restaurant is not rescuing princesses (‘princi‘?) but instead reading Don Quixote? I’ve seen young people huddled around tiny iPod screens to watch full length movies, so the idea of having a hundred classic books in miniature at your disposal for long trips might not be entirely claustrophobic to the right demographic.
The postage stamp-sized game card includes a variety of books for all different ages, including seven separate works by Charles Dickens. There are novels that people can enjoy on the beach, such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; adventure and mystery novels that can be devoured during summer travels, such as The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle or Bram Stoker’s Dracula; and books that kids can read at home, such as The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
What number connects Lewis Carroll with the noble game of baseball? For the answer to this question, please welcome guest blogger and LCSNA-member Ron Papp. ~ Rachel
Jackie Robinson Day has come and gone again. As you may know, on April 15th each year all the Major League Baseball players wear the number 42 on their uniforms.
Beginning in 1997, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s breaking of the color barrier, MLB revived his (the only) league-retired number. At first it was just one player per team who became 42. Subsequently, the number is worn by every player, coach and umpire. With some 20 teams playing on that day, and with four coaches per team and three umpires per game, there’s a ballpark figure of 630 wearing the number 42.
One plan for the coming year is to pass out t-shirts stamped with the famous integer to the thousands of fans at any given stadium.
But, of course, it would be difficult to tie in this annual phenomenon with Lewis Carroll other than it was his favorite number. Robinson played for the Brooklyn Dodgers, not the Brook-leaping Dodgsons. Yet, the beginnings of baseball do hail back to Carroll’s time. Abner Doubleday invented the game in 1839, when Carroll was about seven. Baseball teams (wearing straw caps) rose in popularity during the Civil War when Alice in Wonderland was written. Also, the Cincinnati Red Stockings became the first all-professional team in 1869, with the regulation size and weight of a baseball being decided in 1872 – both around the time of Through the Looking-Glass’s release.
A pity there isn’t more, considering the great number of people commemorating (in part) the number 42 while playing games. And always just nineteen days before Alice’s birthday!
Rachel: That sounds like a game to me! Can anyone think of some more connections between Carroll, Alice and the game of baseball – numerical, historical, linguistic or spurious? Next week we’ll try curling…
Alice needs your help! The the type of help, however, varies from game to game. Help her fall down the rabbit hole! Help her avoid death by playing cards! Help her wait tables in a poorly-managed Wonderland cafe! These are some of the many choices available in recent games for your Mac, PC, or iPhone.
First up is the inevitable Disney/Tim Burton spin-off game, available for iPhone/iPod Touch, Wii™ and DS™ systems. “Alice in Wonderland – An Adventure Beyond the Mirror” is a 2D platform puzzle in which players are invited to “explore a world filled with whimsical settings, optical illusions, challenging puzzles, and formidable adversaries.” According to reviewers it is ok:
“Alice in Wonderland makes a very good candidate for the videogame treatment. After all, she discovered how to shrink and grow large a century before Mario ate his first mushroom, and the Lewis Carroll stories are filled with memorable allies and enemies. … a puzzle game, with some clunky and imperfect platforming between puzzles…We were surprised that Alice in Wonderland contains some genuinely clever puzzles and Hollywood production values.” Andrew Podolsky, Slide To Play
"Alice's Teacup Madness"
Whether Alice is searching for points or hard cash, Wonderland seems to have discovered wage society. Take “Alice’s Teacup Madness,” available for Mac and PC; in this game Alice has to earn her way out of Wonderland by serving tea and pastries to difficult customers. Suddenly the question of who stole the tarts becomes one of petty larceny and it’s Alice’s job on the line.
Despite the excitement, reviews have been a little lukewarm:
“A lackluster presentation … not worth recommending except to the most die-hard of time management game fans… While the comic strips at the beginning of each location are cute, the characters who actually visit your cafe during a level remain one-dimensional and do not differ notably in tipping habits, patience levels or other behaviour.” David Becker, Gamzebo
"Alice Free Fall"
“Alice Free Fall” is an iPhone/iPod download in which players guide a tumbling Alice to collect points in the form of roses and avoid death in the form of collision with playing cards. It has recently been updated and improved and the developers are promising new levels, new magical items and better visuals. If you have dismissed it in the past it might be worth another look.
And finally, we can’t omit the iPhone app “Alice’s Adventures: Rabbit Hole of Death.” As far as I can tell it takes the same basic premise as “Alice Free Fall” – “help Alice fall down a hole,” but this time Alice has been to see those nice plastic surgeons and invested in some fishnet stockings. One reviewer described it as your basic “move the limbs to fit through body-shaped holes” game. Basically, players must contort nubile Alice, as she falls through space, in order to prevent her colliding with pots of marmalade etc. Charles Dodgson please look away now.
"Alice's Adventures: Rabbit Hole of Death"
I am sure there are many more out there. Additions and reviews below please!
And now for something completely different: drive yourself mad with a Disney-themed interlocking pocket puzzle, sold online at ThinkGeek.com. The puzzles are based on the classic mechanical games involving two interlocking pieces which must be separated – only this time you are offered motivation from the Magic Kingdom: help Alice navigate the Red Queen’s maze, extract Winnie the Pooh from Rabbit’s hole, separate Minnie and Mickey (?…).
The vendors says that the puzzles are intended for adults – “kids might be pretty frustrated,” by which I think they mean they will be quiet for hours (good), right until the point they pitch the thing through the passenger side window (bad).