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Nightmare Fuel / Alice: Madness Returns

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Good lord.

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  • Where exactly to begin? Let's start with the 'where' indeed?
    • First we have lovely pastoral Wonderland...that slowly devolves into a hellish, dead world with black ichor dripping everywhere and a blood red sky.
      • And how. Going around the happy Wonderland, butterfly jumping, nice music, family memories. Down the slide- wheee! Oh, look! I just landed in a puddle of blood!
      • Right in front of the pile of bones that used to be the Jabberwock, no less.
    • Then there is Hatter's newly renovated realm, a steampunk's nightmare of gears, grinders, and a Dodo 'misery-ium'.
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    • Next up is Tunderful and the Deluded Depths. Not too bad, at first. Little dark humor with the Carpenter & Walrus...and then you have to enter into the pitch black tombs of dead sailors, following a glowing seahorse through the gloom lest the seething darkness itself sap your life away.
      • After this, you find your way back to the Theatre...specifically, you find a back door and enter via the basement. Long story short, here's hoping that you weren't in the mood for sushi. Why? Because the basement is is brutally decorated with bloody piles of fish people that have been torn open and gored.
      • Especially when you notice that the mayor is still alive and crucified, and he's groaning insane gibberish.
      • After the above, you find your way back into the Theatre proper, and things look as normal as ever. But even as you walk past the production staff, all gathered for the big performance, the music is subtly off, reflecting how you now understand something's terribly, terribly wrong.
      • Wrapping things up in the Deluded Depths? Why, only the Walrus' rampage against the oysters and the audience, starting with him literally crashing the play, telling a gruesome rhyme about death in all its forms (complete with visuals), then straight up devouring all the aquatic citizens!
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    • The Mysterious East isn't too bad...until you enter the paper wasp tombs that are slowly filling with the black ooze of ruin, and the walls whisper to you.
      • The seemingly innocent female statues later in the level that, upon further inspection, have the heads of wasps. And even the ones with normal human heads are crying blood and half-naked with their kimonos pulled open, which one can probably assume is a manifestation of Alice's guilt over Lizzie's rape.
      • What about the mutilated Origami ants, or those imprisoned in cages suspended on a huge abyss? And the fact that the Wasps will fill them with eggs, just like Real Life wasps?
      • The wasp samurai themselves, for anyone with a fear of hornets. The buzz they make as they attack is entirely too realistic.
    • Queensland. Hey remember how great that entire living womb of a castle was? Well now you get to play through a dead and rotting womb... until the end, and then you get the place in high-def!
      • Speaking of Queensland, it would be foolish not to mention the Queen's Executioner, who is three times taller than the normal cards, cannot die, and has maggots in both his eye sockets.
      • It's worse than that. That's not maggots; that's a tentacle going in and out of his eye sockets.
      • What you have to do to the King. Poor bastard's trapped and is blocking Alice's way into the castle. So, what does she have to do? Smash him. All that's left of him is his right eye, still trapped on the wall staring into nothing.
      • And who can forget the zombie cardmen? Their claw rush is tricky to dodge, they like to attack in packs, and they can get back up after being struck down. The only way to kill them is to [[swing the Hobby Horse down on their prone bodies, or blow them up twice with the Teapot Cannon.]]
      • How about the Queen herself? She might be more unsettling than downright terrifying at first, but that changes quite a bit towards the end of her scene: after giving Alice a lecture on ignorance, she picks her up with her tentacles, opens her mouth far too much for comfort and apparently eats her alive. All of which is seen in glorious first-person. Oh, and there's an image of it on the game's wiki, which you really don't want to accidentally stumble across.
  • Did you know that the innocent, implicative, something's-definitely-off kinda horror; creepy, desolate, eerie horror; pervasive unease, mind-screwingly reminiscent, sorta-familiar horror and oppressive, bloodcurdling, soul distorting horror are supposed to be, at least to the extent that they don't ALL come into play at the same time, mutually exclusive, and for a good reason? Yeah, American McGee didn't know that, so he created the Dollhouse world. Wasn't that sweet of him?
    • To put it into perspective, when you get up there and start exploring, you can quickly go from longing to the point where things will get worse and the world will transform into an Eldritch Location just so you can get away from all the deformed, broken, creepy dolls, to longing back to the deformed, broken, creepy dolls when things GET WORSE without even easing up on the creepy factor...
    • At this point, a more in-depth description of the Dollhouse level might be in place: it looks like a giant city of dollhouses, only that the houses are ripped apart and disembodied doll parts are everywhere, as well as Dollgirls waiting to kill you with scissors and fire. Gets Worse as the game progresses, everything gets darker and darker and it feels like you're traveling through some sort of abandoned orphanage/basement/asylum, with even more disembodied doll parts, taxidermied things, skeletons in glass displays, dolls with parts cut and ripped out, hell, even the levers are with a bloodied eye or a doll head with it's brain exposed floating in liquid, watching you as you pull the lever.
    • The Broken Doll enemies. Yeah, it's a giant broken doll attacking you with fire breath and broken scissors. Imposing, but by this time we've been through the Queen's level. We've seen worse. Then, while you're attacking it, you shred its clothes. The doll then shrieks, wraps her hands around her body, and shakes her head. You follow this by blowing her arms off, rending her (almost) helpless and then ripping open her chest and attacking her heart.
    • Not to mention the music in that chapter. A really slow, out of tune, hurdy-gurdy track. Sweet dreams.
    • Never mind the music...try not to think too hard about the Unfortunate Implications of what fighting the Broken Doll is meant to resemble in Alice's fractured mind.
  • When you replay the game. Did anyone see it? Yes, run around and look for collectibles you missed... then the Insane Child appears. Watching you. Waiting for you. And running away when you go after it. So does that mean that every time you've been in Wonderland there is a insane, horribly mutilated, unnatural young child that will never be innocent again waiting and following and watching your every move? Paranoia Fuel much?
    • Oh, and, guess what, it appears again! As Alice runs around in her subconscious in that place only lit by streetlamps, the horribly mutilated child shows up once again. It's following her, like it always has, but now it has lost half its body, trailing and dripping blood behind it and CRAWLING BACK to Alice while trying to talk to her and saying "We need your help!" There is just something innately horrifying to a young child that has been reduced to such a state. Despite everything that has happened to the child it is following you, what could have happened to it that made it crawl back to Alice and beg for help? What attacked it? What could be looming ahead? It makes for powerful Foreshadowing. Then, even though it is the stuff of nightmares, the Insane Child is still on Alice's side, and it is trying to help her regain her sanity.
  • Body Horror: The opening sequence of the game. Alice is sailing "with a friend" the White Rabbit, but then his head explodes in a shower of blood, the river turns into black slime infested with doll heads and doll parts, then the dolls crawl up Alice and rip her face off!
  • Doctor Angus Bumby. And not just his monstrous, Wonderland form (The Dollmaker), but also of his role in real life. And also the fact that he was going to be a Karma Houdini if it weren't for Alice.
  • The asylum sequence. Not the usual brand of creepy that Alice dishes out. It was the subtle atmosphere, seeing the other patients wandering around, trying to get a good look at their faces — only to see that they had no faces, and then being cornered by the Tweedle Brothers and the faceless nurse, strapped to a bed, and nearly trepanned.
    • The patients do have faces. Horrible, grimacing dark faces equipped with clamps and stretchers straight from A Clockwork Orange.
    • Poor Alice. She's been shaved of all her hair, her brain is fried and is just a hollow shell of herself doing nothing but walking around the asylum with nothing but a vacant stare and a straitjacket binding her.
    • Which is not to say that the Asylum is devoid of less subtle imagery. After the cutscene in the Trepanning room, giant bloody screws are sticking through the ceiling and walls. And the Bloodletting room drips endlessly. But not with blood: it's leeches. The ceiling is teeming with them, or possibly is made of them. (Thankfully, the Ward has a pretty amusing conversation.)
    • And that nurse? You remember her: it's Pris Witless.
    • In the deleted Shock Therapy room, the Tweedles mention that they hope the shocks make her forget the time they touched her inappropriately.
  • The rape subtext on the Dollhouse. Near the end you find a giant doll, with a gaping hole between its legs, lying on the floor, legs wide open. You have to go through that hole and through that doll to the other side.
    • There are two giant dolls: the one referred to above, each with a hole to go through.
  • Alice getting turned into a doll with a giant freaky head near the end.
  • The hopelessness of the London segments. Almost every named character is looking to take advantage of Alice in some way or another - and most of them are bigger than her. It's a setting where innocence is prey, trust fatal and virginity a myth. The banality of it all is shocking. After the first few throaty offers to take Alice to bed, paranoia sets in. The poor thing is scarred enough as it is; but even without the schemes of Dr. Bumby, an encounter with the wrong gentleman could so easily undo all her slow recovery and destroy her for good.
  • In the first game, the insane children represent the others at the asylum. In the sequel, they're the orphans at Houndsditch. Everyone knows that, right? Well, now make the connection. Not only are those kids being pimped out, but they're all mentally damaged to that extent. And then Bumby's 'therapy' corrupts their memories and destroys whatever's even still left of them until they're just blank slates, toys for others to abuse. That's pretty horrific. Just...no.
    • Hey, you know those framed cross-stitch things that typically say "HOME SWEET HOME"? Well, Houndsditch has a couple like it that you might just blow by if all you're trying to do is get on with the game part of the game. The first says "HOME SAFE HOME"; given the above, it's rather ironic. The second you'll encounter says "EARN YOUR KEEP"; normally good advice, except for how Bumby expects them to do so...
  • Near the beginning of the game, before your first Wonderland section, in fact, you can encounter some children playing hopscotch, if you go to the right place. Nearby, facing the wall, is a little girl. If you go near her, she numbly recites a poem. The way she says it might lead you to wonder what happened to her. A possible clue? Near the end of the game, The Dollmaker recites it when turning Alice into a doll.
  • It's a minor thing but there are a few implications that Alice's lawyer, Radcliffe had spent quite an amount of Alice's inheritence on luxury items (the Eastern vases and other objects seen in his house): who knows how much money is left now? What if Alice finally gets well enough to take her money, only to discover it's all gone? Who knows how she will end up taking care of herself with no money...
    Pris: On the street, selling 'er backside!
    • This particular fear doesn't eventuate (we learn from Alice: Otherlands that she found a job shelving books in an opera house), but that doesn't make its likelihood any less worrying.
  • The Colossal Ruin. The character profile says that it just gets worse if you fight it.
  • The line "And that noise wasn't Lizzie talking in her sleep." was pretty damn creepy, largely because of what it implies.
  • If you look around in the Dollhouse level you will see a lot of implications of child prostitution, like dolls in corners with a price tag on them, which becomes especially devastating when later, on the Infernal Train, you see a cutscene of Bumby selling off children wearing price tags to "wanting customers". Or what about the beds soaking with blood, implying horrible things may have happened to the dolls of the dollhouse.
    • Once you realize that all those dolls were created by the Dollmaker, and the Dollmaker makes those dolls out of real children, you start to grasp how many lives have been destroyed for the sake of child prostitution.
  • Alice finding out who caused the fire. We're treated to a lovely cutscene of Dr. Bumby breaking into Alice's house and closing in on her sister while alone in her room. He gives her a horrific Death Glare and locks the door...
  • There is a loading screen tip that reads: "The Hobby Horse is the most direct route to a Dollgirl's heart." If you fight a Dollgirl, you slowly but surely undress her until you break open her chest and destroy her heart. A Hobby Horse is a toy. Basically, when you are fighting a Dollgirl you are, symbolically, earning the girl's trust by playing with her and her toys, and you slowly continue until she is fully undressed, at which point you can pretty much imagine what is being done to her next. It makes killing those Dollgirls just that much harder.
    • Well hey, if you don't like that suggestion, you can always reach her heart with several spots of tea... oh right, tea parties.
  • The way the Fleshmaiden dress looks almost seamless on Alice's skin, it might not be a dress at all...
  • The way how each piece of Wonderland is at least partially inspired by the Victorian London segment before that is abit sad in how Wonderland seems to show how things really are beneath the surface...
    • Let's start with the Vale of Tears and Mad Hatter's Domain. The Vale of Tears is an original part of Wonderland with seemingly no counterpart in London. But as we keep going onwards, we find the land distorting with black sludge and the corpse of the Jabberwock, until we eventually get to the Mad Hatter's Domain. The Domain itself seems like a steampunk fantasy inspired by Victorian London...until you see all the Dodos working themselves exhausted or to death by their overbearing bosses, the March Hare and Dormmouse. This somewhat reflects the era of the Industrial Revolution, where worker abuse was commonplace with little to no regard for the workers getting hurt or even killed.
    • Next is Tundraful. The Victorian segment before this involved Alice being fished out of a river by two brutes who were talking about bedding her, going through a freezer and seeing Jack Splatter making his way through the Mangled Mermaid, a whorehouse, and setting the place on fire. Tundraful starts off nicely enough as glaciers, a few sharks here and there and you make your way to the Deluded Depths where a nice town of fish people live, and the Walrus and the Carpenter are putting together a play. But then things get terrible when it's revealed it's a ruse by the Carpenter to keep pieces of Wonderland alive and trying to sate the Walrus's appetite with the audience they play to, lulling them into a false sense of security before devouring them whole. Such is the monstrosity of pimping, devouring everyone else to sate your desire for more money and sex.
    • Next is the Vale of Doom and Oriental Grove. We start with Alice leaving with Nan Sharpe to go to Radcliffe's place, and his shelves are adorned with oriental imagery. Then Alice has another psychotic episode making her go to the Vale of Doom, her Vale of Tears ran through by the train. She finds one miniscule place of safety, but even that has its own issues. The Grove is taken over by warlike wasps hurting the peaceful ants who pray for help only to recieve none. The Vale of Tears becoming the Vale of Doom can be seen as synonymous to Alice losing the last peaceful place in Wonderland she had with Nan Sharpe being one of the only people supporting her. The Oriental Grove can be seen as synonymous to British Colonialism in the Far East with the Wasps being the English, or, more relevant to the actual story, the parasitic abuse and destruction of the weak and helpless by those in power.
    • At Chapter 4, we have Cardbridge and Queensland. The Victorian Section starts with Alice waking up in a jail cell, being taken there for a psychotic episode, during which she had called out a man who used others for their own gain. Then we get treated to the cells becoming like the dungeons in Queensland and Alice appears in Cardbridge. Now Cardbridge isn't that bad...until we get towards Queensland. Here, the Castle of Hearts is ruined, the Queen's tentacles still there but rotted and useless. So many White Chess pieces scattered about and dead, with the White King needed to be smashed through to enter! Then you need to run through the corridors as the Executioner chases you and terrorizes you. All the while, you have to make your way to the Queen and the closer you get, the more "alive" things get. When you finally get to the Queen, she calls out Alice on ignoring the abuse around her and wants her to realize the true threat causing it all, and the fire, is right next to her...
    • And finally, we have the Dollhouses. As said above, the Dollhouses don't have a victorian segment, and are made up of supposedly colorful bits with Doll Girls, where fighting them is synonymous to rape, and many bits implying the act of rape. The lower bits show the true horror, littered with devices of torment and body parts scattered about. Out of all the areas that this place can take after, it takes after the Houndsditch Home For Wayward Youth and the truth of what Bumby has been doing there. He makes it look like a respectable place on the surface, but in reality it's a horrible place where kids are taken apart mentally until they're mindless enough to be used for other's pleasure. The kids are no different to the pieces of dolls scattered about in the Dollhouse, or the body parts kept in vats, conscious enough to be alive but unable to do anything about their situations.
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