Alice: Madness Returns hands-on

American McGee is back, and he's brought Alice with him. Alice: Madness Returns is the long-awaited sequel to the strange and twisted take on Alice in Wonderland that was released at the end of 2000.

Memorable for its inventiveness, beautifully gothic graphics and clever platforming action, it's surprising how little (bar pixel resolution) the first title has actually aged in 11 years. But, apart from an Apple Mac port, for some reason or another, it never appeared on console. Any of them.

It was certainly fit to do so, offering a combination of platform, action and puzzling genres, and rich 3D settings. And, from what Pocket-lint remembers, it was a far better game than many other similar titles. Maybe the dark theme and twisting of a children's classic tale put off publishers, retailers or console manufacturers at the time.

Of course, with Alan Moore's fruity take of Lewis Carroll's eponymous heroin, and Tim Burton's extremely similar rendition (to American McGee's), the Cheshire Cat most assuredly out of the bag; there has never been a better time to revisit Wonderland.

And that's exactly what Mr McGee, and his development studio, Spicy Horse, has done. It's remodelled, redesigned (to a degree) and re-jigged the game to appeal to an audience that is already au fait with repainting Alice using a darker brush.

Alice: Madness Returns takes place 10 years after the conclusion of the first chapter, and she's been locked away in a lunatic asylum ever since. However, a new psychiatrist has taken on her case, and may just be able to help, and rid her of the nightmarish hallucinations that still haunt her. Cue a new trip to the twisted Wonderland, and a bonkers trip in more ways than one.

There wasn't much more than a brief level on show at Electronic Arts' Spring Preview event in London, but it was enough to suggest that this is going to be a beautifully dark platform game, with all of the same action and puzzle elements as its excellent predecessor. If anything, the level we played felt like a more intense, somewhat weirder, version of Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time - and that's a huge compliment.

We got to experience several of the features that will stand out in later plays, such as shrinking to see the world in a different way (revealing hidden entrances and platforms), and used many of the weapons available to Alice. But it is the design that most immediately stands-out, both graphically and in gameplay terms. If the rest of the game looks like this, it will be stunning.

Alice: Madness Returns will be out on 17 June for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.