Movie tie-in video game. Those simple words are enough to send streams of fear into the heart of even the most tenacious gamer.

And with good reason too, for it's now obligatory for our games consoles to be bunged up with rubbish from every big film release.

Which is why Alice in Wonderland on Nintendo DS - a tie-in with the Tim Burton movie - is such a surprising breath of fresh air.

Hold on to your seats, folks, because this particular movie/game coalition is clever, witty and really good fun.

Surprising deppth

Alice in Wonderland is a side-scrolling puzzle game based loosely around the events of the 3D movie. Lured once again down the rabbit hole, Alice must confront the hideous Jabberwocky and do battle, returning victorious.

The game is set in a beautifully cel-shaded Wonderland which oozes atmosphere. 3D models roam around a 2D world, with some rather lovely animation on show.

Perhaps in an odd move, Alice is not directly controlled by the player. Instead it is Alice's guardians who take the reins, guiding the hilariously oblivious girl to her destiny.

Make no mistake, this game is a laugh. The dialogue is charmingly well written and although the storyline is gradually blotted out by a heavy amount of backtracking, it's comforting to see the effort put into the character interactions.

Puzzle me this?

Puzzles are the main staple diet of Wonderland, with some great ideas to be discovered. The majority of the action is controlled via the touchscreen - tapping or holding the stylus down will tell the companions where to go - and each character's unique ability is activated with a combination of button and touch.

The concept is that whenever Alice and co hit an obstacle, one of protectors has the key to bypassing it. As mentioned, each protagonist has their own special move related to their persona.

For example, the White Rabbit can rewind, fast-forward or freeze time, allowing trees to grow at an exponential rate, or stopping moving platforms just in the right spot.

Absalom the catepillar, on the other hand, stretches across chasms creating bridges for Alice to cross.

The abilities are all cleverly thought out, and the level design puts each to full use, with a variety of hidden areas and collectibles to be found for those willing to explore with each new-found skill.

Follow the white rabbit

Exploring the world of Wonderland is also made interesting by the jigsaw system. The party find and retrieve jigsaw pieces in each area, which can then be placed into the world map.

What's fantastic is that pieces don't have a set place. As long as they fit, jigsaws can be removed and replaced by another piece, meaning the world can be completely changed.

A door which you just came from can lead to an entirely different place if two jigsaw piece are swapped. This makes for some intriguing decisions as you attempt to work out the best path to your goal.

Between exploring and puzzling, Alice's friends also need to fight the Red Queen's minions. At set intervals in each area, dark walls rise from the ground and her playing card guards emerge from a whirling portal, before grabbing Alice and throwing her in.

Through a series of timed stylus swipes, each baddie can be taken down and then Alice retrieved from the vortex before time runs out. Unfortunately, in comparison to the puzzling elements of the game, these sections are rather dull and tedious.

Combat regularly feels like you are simply attacking the screen until the problem is solved, plus it's far too easy.

These walled battles also pop up much too regularly. I found myself groaning frequently as yet another vortex came to break up the flow of the game.

Still, despite a flawed fighting system, Alice in Wonderland holds up as a unique and diverse platform puzzler.

If you're looking for something surprisingly fresh, you'd do well to head down this particular hole.