What seems like an unexpectedly low rating at first glance turns out to be more than appropriate for Alice’s Tea Cup Madness. A lackluster presentation, no gameplay innovations, and a difficulty level that seems to be aimed at small children result in a game which is not worth recommending except to the most die-hard of time management game fans.
The plot of the game derives from the popular novel "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll, and both the setting and the extravagant characters surely could have been a great foundation for an endearing game. While the comic strips at the beginning of each location are cute, the characters who actually visit your cafe during a level remain one-dimensional and do not differ notably in tipping habits, patience levelsor other behaviour.
Alice’s Tea Cup Madness features 50 regular levels and 15 mini-game levels on five different locations. The mini-game levels are run-of-the-mill hidden-object scenes and short passages where you have to catch food with a plate while avoiding dishes. Both these mini-games are easy and apparently only serve to lengthen the game and to slightly distract from similar and repetitive regular levels.
Those regular levels are more of the same old "Serve-as-many-customers-as-quickly-as-possible" formula without adding any new twists. You seat customer, take their orders, deliver the wanted goods, and collect the money. You can earn more money by seating customers on chairs whose color matches the customer’s clothes, or by chaining the same actions. But although those typical features of PlayFirst games are included in Alice’s Tea Cup Madness, it lacks the challenge and the fast pace of other time management games.
From the money you earn on regular levels and during the mini-games you can buy upgrades such as more work places, music machines to calm customers in the waiting line, a serve button, and decorations. All these upgrades are exactly the same at each location and have been used in more than a dozen similar games. On top of that you will exceed the expert goal in every level by a large sum easily, so that every upgrade is purchased early on, which makes later levels in each location even easier, but do not offer any more rewards. This also means that you can’t expect an increasing grade of difficulty, which is actually the most important aspect for a motivating game.
The only feature that can be described as slightly innovative, though in fact being much too basic and boring to add any value to the game, is the ability to prepare similar orders all at once by picking up the required ingredient, and drawing a line on the working places. This could have been an interesting feature, but the orders of customers are too predictable to require any strategic thinking of the player. If three customers enter and the first one orders green tea with a mint leave and a spoon, in nine of ten cases the remaining two customers will order the same.
Interestingly enough, two other features of the game probably won’t even be noticed by most players. For one thing, there is a walrus at the entrance of your café. This walrus actually is responsible for throwing out customers who are becoming too impatient, but due to the slow pace of the game and the ability to calm down customers with the music box this will rarely happen, if ever. Apart from that some customers tend to behave rudely as soon as their level of patience becomes too low, which would finally add some variety to the game, but again this feature too often goes unnoticed.
Beside the average graphics, arbitrary customers, upgrades and locations Alice’s Tea Cup Madness cannot even serve with solid controls. It seems impossible to cancel actions, which should be a standard for every time management game nowadays, and Alice can neither carry two items at once, nor is she able to swap goods, which makes the game indeed more cumbersome, which is a dubious honor on its own.
Alice’s Tea Cup Madness cannot compete in any respect with similar titles like the Turbo-series, which clearly is a sign of rushed development, since those titles are much older than this new installment. You might enjoy it if your really prefer easy time management games and do not mind repetitive actions and highly similar levels. Everyone else should rather play older titles or wait for more interesting releases in this genre over the coming weeks.