Developed as a mobile app by Bear Hug Entertainment, Alice Legends is a curious combination of Gin Rummy, turn-based RPG battles and a building simulator, all set against the beautiful backdrop of Lewis Carroll’s novels, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There. Adopting the role of an omnipresent reader, players must guide Alice and her companions through the world of Wonderland, collecting pages of their story to rebuild the destroyed kingdom. To win pages, players must battle through a series of foes made up of unlikely creatures; such as bumblebees, beetles, flamingos and of course, giant playing cards. Once players have earned enough pages, they are able to rebuild parts of the kingdom and with each completed section, they can earn bonuses and coins to use in-game. Rather than forcing players to build a pre-set version of Wonderland, there are three different versions of each component that can be introduced to the world, allowing users to customise their own individual Wonderland hubs. Mine is a mix of classic and steam-punk choices, resulting in a rather eclectic take on Lewis Carroll’s imaginary world.
The actual gameplay relies on a mixture of strategy and luck, which can be frustrating at times when luck is clearly not on your side. The core rules of Gin Rummy apply and players must find either a run of numbers in the same suit, or three or four identical numbers across suits. Each one of the four suits is represented by a character and an attack score, so when you have a playable selection, the total attack score is used against the creatures on-screen. For example, if you have a run of four diamond cards and your diamond character is the Dodo (attack power of 6), you will deal 24 points of damage to your enemies. Each turn you can draw more cards to replenish your hands, and if you are unable to perform an attack, you must discard a card instead. This is where the strategy comes in, and players must discard cards whilst maintaining whatever patterns you have already built up. Although relying on one specific card appearing might end up costing you the match as enemies can attack after one, two or three turns.
Visually, the game is absolutely stunning with a distinctive animation style that captures the magic of the Alice in Wonderland books. The artist, Toby Allen, imbues the characters with such charm and whimsy that it is an absolute joy to play the game and watch the avatars on-screen. His take on the White Rabbit is particularly adorable and I look forward to advancing further in the game and seeing more of his brilliant designs. As players enter the combat section of the game, the screen moves down a beautiful 3D corridor populated with familiar iconography from the Alice in Wonderland franchise, such as tea pots, red roses and pocket watches, and the road is paved with pages from the books. The attention to detail is glorious and the animations of the characters are utterly spell-binding. Not only is the game a joy to play, but it looks incredible on a smartphone display.
As a Free-to-Play game, there are naturally micro-transactions located within the game itself and this takes the form of coins, which can be purchased with cash or earned naturally through game progress or regular usage rewards. The coins themselves are used to purchase additional lives or “redeal” buttons, which allow players to reshuffle the deck to get another chance to find a much-needed card. Currently, the game requires 700 coins to receive 10 reshuffles, which isn’t terribly difficult to earn from playing, but can be circumvented by purchasing 1,400 coins for £1.99. Personally, I would have preferred the opportunity to purchase additional characters early instead of having to earn them naturally throughout the adventure. As of typing, I have reached Level 60 and unlocked four new characters and have roughly another nineteen more to unlock so clearly there is plenty of longevity in the game.
The game’s difficulty can be inconsistent at times, with the luck of the draw contributing heavily to whether a player can progress further or not. Character bonuses and redraws definitely help turn the tide, although I strongly recommend reserving those for a playthrough that seems to be going well. Normally, you can tell whether a playthrough will be successful or not based upon the first couple of hands, so often I would quit a turn early to bank the coins and save up for bonuses to aid a later playthrough. There are a few quirks that hopefully Bear Hug Entertainment can improve in future updates, such as the ability to “bank” character power-ups earned. Currently, the game doesn’t allow you to have more than one of each ability, which makes it frustrating when you earn a second of the same power. It would be better if players could have multiple power-ups, or if it transferred to another character who didn’t have a power-up yet. While the difficulty level may put some casual players off, there is great fun to be had if you persevere and learn the rhythm of the game.
With its Gin Rummy-inspired combat system, Alice Legends stands out from the crowd of turn-based RPGs to offer gamers something exciting and different. Taking the thrill of card games, random chance and gambling and aligning it with an enchanting narrative set in a familiar landscape results in a breath-taking and surprisingly addictive mobile game – I have found myself constantly tapping away at my phone to battle the various hordes of Wonderland’s misfits. Sure, the storyline might be a bit bare bones compared to other mobile RPGs, but Bear Hug Entertainment have made it just moreish enough to encourage multiple visits a day.
A treat for both the eyes and the brain, Alice Legends is definitely worth checking out if you’re bored with the raft of Candy Crush Saga clones and Hidden Object games out there!