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Royal Suit Alice

Alice: Madness Returns
by yo go re

When the original American McGee's Alice came out, some company called "Milo's Workshop" made toys from it. They weren't very good. But now the game has a sequel, Diamond Select Toys has the license, and we have a reason to buy.

In American McGee's Alice: Madness Returns, Alice has access to different outfits that provide different benefits in different regions of Wonderland. It is in the ruins of Queensland, where the Queen of Hearts is slowly regaining her power, that Alice acquires the Royal Suit, a playing-card-patterned dress which allows her easy access to her invincible Hysteria mode. Alice comes armed with her Vorpal Blade, Hobby Horse and Pepper Grinder weapons.

That is some perfunctory back-of-the-card text. That's fine, it succinctly summarizes what this figure represents and what it means. If you really need more backstory than that, there are other places you can go to learn about it. Is there anything you really need to know that that paragraph doesn't tell you? "Here's what the costume does, here's where she gets it." Boom. Done. Wearing it does lower her hit points (roses, in this case), but whatever.

The sculpt is credited to Gentle Giant, which might mean it was done from scratch, or it might mean it's secretly just a cleaned-up game file. Either way, she's looking good. Her face is round, yet narrow (perhaps a bit too stretched), and she's got the giant eyes that are a hallmark of the character's design. Her hair is blowing to the side in some unseen wind.

Royal Suit Alice uses the same sculpt as the two previous Alice figures (plain and Hysteria versions), which does present a bit of a problem: changing costumes in the game isn't just a question of perfoming a palette swap; the pattern of the dress changes, as well. For instance, Alice's apron should come to a point in the front, her gloves should flare out at the wrist, and the skull in the center of the bow in the small of her back should be heart-shaped. Obviously we understand why these changes weren't made - it would defeat the purpose of a repaint - but if you're looking for a 100% game-accurate representation, this isn't it.

That said, DST did a lovely job of translating the complicated colors of the Royal Suit into an action figure. Her top is black with red trim, and her skirt is red with black trim. Both halves of her outfit have yellow accents to carry the "playing card" theme forward: hearts and diamonds on her shirt, hearts on her bow, and a checkerboard pattern at the lower edge of her skirt. There's a large black Spade hanging from her belt, and astronomical/alchemical symbols on her pockets: a red symbol of Venus (♀) and a black descending node (☋). The upper edge of her gloves look like the merlons and crenels on a castle's parapet (that's "the jagged bits at the top," for those of you who didn't major in medieval architecture in college), and her fingertips are red. Underneath it all she's wearing striped stockings that would get Tim Burton's engine revving.

One of the problems with the old Milo's Workshop Alice figures was the lack of articulation - a problem this DST release does not share. Miss Liddell has a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel forearms, swivel waist, balljointed hips, swivel/hinge knees, swivel boots, and hinged ankles. Everything moves without sticking, but the thickness of her PVC skirt keeps the hips from moving very far in any direction. Her tiny feet make it hard for her to stand, but the figure comes with a black oval base with four footpegs. The two on the outside are taller than the two near the center, and are consequently too tall for her thin feet.

Alice comes with three accessories. First is her trademark knife, the Vorpal Blade. It's apparently snicker-snacked its way through a few enemies already, because there's a bloody red paint app along its sharp side. It also has a rough, pitted texture, rather than just being smooth plastic. Next is the Hobby Horse, the game's heavy melee weapon. This is its Level 4 upgrade, which gives it a unicorn horn, a wild mane, an ornate chain bridle, and a diamond-like stud at the base of the stick. It's a deep red, rather than the silver seen in the game, but maybe the weapon changes color like the outfits do? Then finally a ranged wepaon, the Level 4 Pepper Grinder. It's shaped like a cast-iron warthog, with internal fires glowing out through its eyes, mouth and nostrils. Its handle/tail actually rotates! Alice's right hand is molded to hold the knife, while the left hand is open wider to accommodate the Hobby Horse. You could flex the right hand open more, but then I'd be afraid she'd be unable to grip the knife any longer.

The plain Alice figure is nice, if you want a vaguely gothic version of a classic children's character, but Royal Suit Alice is even better, thanks to a crackerjack design. She's very eye-catching, and looks terrific on the shelf even if you don't have any other Wonderland toys to put her with.

-- 10/20/13

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