American McGee’s Alice is a wonderful and cryptic story. There are a lot of references in the game. Some of them are rather easy to spot, some aren’t. Some things seem to have some hidden meaning but they actually don’t.
This collection of Easter eggs and references will help you understand what is what.
The Vorpal Blade
Alice gets the Vorpal Balde early in the game, and it stays her primary melee weapon throughout her quest. It’s a scary-looking knife that looks like something out of a horror movie.
But these terrifying looks have noble beginnings. Those of you who read the original book know that it’s a reference to the vorpal sword that the boy from Jabberwocky poem used to defeat his foe.
The odds are ‘Vorpal’ is a warped version of the word ‘verbal’. Both the boy in the poem, and Alice had to deal with the problems, both imaginary or psychological, with a metaphorical sword.
Oh, and if you haven’t read Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky, you should definitely check it out. It’s way nicer than the spirit of American McGee’s Alice but is extremely bizarre.
Another weapon from the game is a gag about the events in the book. You can see Alice wielding a flamingo-shaped croquet mallet. It’s not just one of the cruel fantasies of American McGee, this object really does have roots in Lewis Carroll’s work.
Alice had to play croquet with Queen of Hearts and her court. They used live flamingos as mallets and hedgehogs as balls. Alice had a hard time making flamingo’s neck straight. It’s easy to see how this seemingly childish phantasmagoria could have been made into the nightmarish masterpiece that is American McGee’s Alice.
The original books about Alice are not the only source this game takes inspiration from. Here’s the one from Greek mythology.
Do you remember the gnome who helps you to get across the void? The one who operates a bicycle-propelled flying balloon?
He is most likely inspired by Charon. Charon is the man from the Greek underworld, who helps dead souls across the river Styx, the dark river that lies between the worlds of the living and the dead.
You could say that the whole story of Alice descending in the underworld and getting back seems very similar to Greem myths of heroes who went to hell and back. So, Charon was an obvious choice.
There’s another item from Greek mythology in the game. The turtle in the book has a proper turtle shell, but its head looks a bit like a cow’s head. It doesn’t have horns, though.
If you’ve played the game, you know that Mock Turtle has a huge bull’s head. This is a direct reference to the Minotaurus, a monster who ate people in the Labyrinth.
This may be a reference to the labyrinth-like nature of the world of American McGee’s Alice, or just a nice spin on the original imagery.
In the location called Vale of Tears, you can find a statue of crying Alice. Since the game is so bent on presenting the Wonderland as Alice’s psyche, this must be the representation of her grief for dead parents.
Alice’s dress symbols are so exciting. Alice from American McGee’s game has two astrological symbols on her apron. In Madness Returns, each dress has a couple of them. They’re cryptic enough, but you don’t have to hire a custom essays service to decipher them.
The ball with a cross on the left is one of the symbols of Eris, a Greek goddess of strife and discord who would make people hate each other. It was her apple that started the Trojan war.
Ironically enough, she inspired a cult in the 50s, followers of which came to be known as Discordians. They believed in some form of spirituality and thought every man on Earth is a pope. Typical for the era.
The symbol that looks like number 4 is for Jupiter. Jupiter is a Roman god called Zeus by the Greeks.
What do they mean? The truth is, there are so many meanings in both symbols that you could come up with a dozen theories and probably be right. If American McGee had a deep symbolism in mind for the signs, their meanings can be so rich it’s virtually lost.
The main reason they are on Alice’s apron is that alchemy and astrology signs look mysterious and cool.
Alpha and Omega
Some people say that Alice’s necklace is a symbol of chaos, but that doesn’t stand up to criticism. What most people agree on is that it’s an Omega symbol.
It may be a visual gag, as in the beta version of the game where Alice wore a necklace with the letter ‘A’ as in ‘Alice’. Is it a commentary on Alice’s relationships with the divine? A reference to the fact that Alice is approaching the end of everything, like in eschatological myths? A fun gag? You decide.
The Centipede’s Picture
It’s a small Easter egg, but on one of the levels, you can find a painting of Alice defeating the Centipede and Army Ants.
Lewis Carroll’s Portrait
On one of the levels, you can find the author’s cameo. There are a lot of paintings there, and one of them represents a low-res portrait of Lewis Carroll. That’s a way to remember the man!
Mad Hatter became pretty obsessed with time in the game. So obsessed, in fact, that the Crazed Clockwork location shows a slight nod to the famous Dali’s painting ‘The Persistence of Time’.
Sure, they don’t melt like in the painting but watches do appear to be the thing that links these two surreal worlds.
A face in a face in a face in a dream in a game. That’s about the level of recursion you experience in American McGee’s Alice. This particular face in a face looks a lot like a small mouth inside Alien’s mouth.
Great game bosses go out in a blaze of glory. Duchess went out in a sneeze of glory. This is a reference to the original book, where this lady could not make her child stop sneezing because of the pepper dust flying around.
The creature called Snark comes from another poem by Carroll. In the game, it’s a two-legged fish. In the poem, it’s basically Boojum, which is another animal from the game. Doesn’t sound coherent? It isn’t
Rich Carlson signature
This Easter egg is a tough one to crack. Most people didn’t find it at all. You can only see it if you follow the water upstream while at Pool of Tears. The ones that found it, think it’s a Thief 2 reference, as there’s a symbol like this hidden in one of the levels.
However, this symbol can also be found in Quake, and in Oblivion. As it turned out, it’s a signature of the game designer Rich Carlson, a.k.a aardvark. He confirmed this on a small forum back in 2003 but remained cryptic about the symbol in Alice.
‘As to the appearance of this symbol in Alice, that is another story to be told another time.’ – he says on the forum.
There may not be a direct reference but you could tell American McGee loves David Lynch. The dream-like nature of the game, the black-and-white floor, the abundance of red, and the atmosphere. The atmosphere in this game is completely Lynchian.