Here's the intro to the game, which is, of course, entirely in Japanese, but fortunately it's pretty easy to get the gist of it. Alice wakes up in the middle of the night, and the White Rabbit shows up for some reason. Babbling in Japanese ensues. Then Alice gets dragged back into the world through the Looking Glass. Shoot-em-up action follows soon after. One thing to note, though, is that the game's pretty inconsistent with how Alice is supposed to look. First off, Alice's more common blue dress is thrown out in lieu of a red one. However, the game can't make up its mind about Alice's hair colour- in the intro, her hair's blonde (as in the original books) but in-game and on the original flyer, it's very clearly brown.



Anyway, each round is shown on this rather pointless map, each one giving you only the vaguest idea what to expect. Wheeee!



The first round has a cake motif in the background, and it's a nice, gentle place, so you can get used to the awkward isometric perspective. With a free balloon and a White Rabbit item given to you practically from the off, you can't really complain. Because of the easiness of the level, I originally thought that the White Rabbit in the corner kept showing up to give you playing tips, but he actually serves as the game's clock; every thirty seconds, he'll jump in and tell you how long you've got left, then leave. He starts at 180, and when the timer gets to 45 seconds, he hops on again and sticks around, ticking down until you run out of time, when you get killed horribly by the 'time out' enemy, who I only saw once.



One thing that should be very apparent at the moment is that there's a distinct lack of Carroll-esque enemies. So far, we've had what appear to be penguins wearing life-jackets and giant floating rectangles, but now the Bad Mushroom shows up. As we know, Alice used mushrooms in the original novel to grow and shrink, but these dudes aren't for eating- they seem far too hardcore for that, as every single 'shroom on this round is smoking a cigarette. Adding to their bad attitude is that rather fetching pair of sunglasses they're wearing. Evidently, he doesn't have time to be a fun guy, he's a rebel without a cause.

In addition, although less totally bad-ass than the Bad Mushroom, we encounter the Skull Bombs for the first time- whether you shoot them or get near them, they'll send out a spread of bullets at you- and we also meet the roller launchers, which fire a long multi-coloured log at you- they won't stop being fired until you destroy the launcher. We won't be seeing many roller launchers, but you'd better get used to the Skull Bombs, they're everywhere on the later levels.



In any case, this level's very short, and you eventually reach this chequered platform- this indicates the end of the round, and...



That's right, it's Boss Time! First up to bat is... A giant purple witch, who has absolutely nothing to do with Alice in Wonderland what-so-ever. Sigh. Every boss battle in the game takes this basic form- you're on a nearly-perfectly-square platform, the boss character moves around erratically, and you just need to shoot until they die. Some of the later bosses get a little more sophisticated, but in the meantime, this is as complex as it gets. The Witch has absolutely no strategy at all, and just fires tiny little witches at you every second or so, while darting about like a woman possessed. One thing to note, though, is that almost every boss in the game can be taken down by three fully-charged shots... Although making them hit their target is another matter entirely.



Each round ends with Alice jumping into another mirror, and your score getting tallied. To the next level!



... Is that a backgammon board?!



Well blow me down, it is a backgammon board, among other things in the background, including but not limited to; the sky, rows of dominoes, steps that lead to nowhere, and the melting clocks from Salvador Dali's The Persistence of Memory. The second round ramps the difficulty up a tad, mostly through the introduction of the giant orange walls- they'll move up and down, and so much as lightly brushing them sends you careening in the opposite direction, almost certainly to your death. They're not as horribly placed at the moment, but later on...

Oh, and also on Round 2, we're introduced to some new enemies, including- gasp!- the first ones that are actually from the Alice books! Among the small army of penguins (who are almost certainly not the same penguins from Konami's Parodius series) we finally see Tweedledum and Tweedledee! Well, I can only assume it's them. They're on giant beach balls for absolutely no reason, and don't attack Alice with bad riddles- no, they just fire more bullets at you. Joy.



About halfway through the round, we end up at this awkward looking segment, but don't be discouraged, Alice! There's a whole load of ? blocks here, and each of them contains a kickin' rad power-up! Well, OK, the one with the Red Orb is of a lower kickin' rad status than the other boxes (which, in rough order, give you a Blue Orb, a Pocket Watch, a Green Orb, and a Yellow Orb) but this place is an ideal place to try all of the items out. Furthermore, if you keep going and stick to the right, you'll find a pair of Boots and a Purple Orb, which means that Round 2 is the only level in the game that gives you at least one of every single item.

Bonus; if you're a doddering old website hack who's writing about this game, this is the best place to figure out what all these items do. Score.



A little further on, having made your way past a few tricky platforms, aided by your new equipment (which will last about five seconds at this point, and give out just when you need them) you'll end up on a big, wide area, just ripe for the enemy hordes that are about to unleash their fury on you. Even better, they're from the books! Well, sort-of. In Through the Looking Glass, Alice is part of a huge game of chess, and meets all of the pieces, including the Red King and Queen. The Red Pieces make their appearance here- Kings, Horses and Towers- and they don't make things easy for you at all, because they completely ambush poor little Alice, appearing in huge numbers. The best tactic is to hold the fire button down- if a ball you're charging up is popped mid-charge, Alice will automatically start another one, which will help you through the onslaught.



Ooh, it's a chequered platform! That can only mean one thing, right?



It's another boss, and this one also has no Alice equivalent. It's just a giant googly-eyed bird, but there's one thing that sets this apart from the Witch boss from Round 1 - his appearance signals the change from 'delightful and fancy-free jaunt' to 'soul-crushing BULLET HELL SHOOTER'. Alice is but a small girl! She does not know of the horror that is Curtain Fire! Well, OK, I'm exagerrating a tad, but the Giant Chicken Thing does fire a hell of a lot of bullets at you. Fortunately, here's where an advanced strategy can help- if you're holding down the fire button, jumping will cancel the charge, you'll fire, and automatically start charing again when you hit the ground. This little trick allows you to both fire at the enemy and dodge the swarm of bullets heading straight towards you. If you survive the onslaught...



... Your reward is to step into the next mirror, heralding the next round. Yay.

There is much falling that occurs on the next page.