Alice: Madness Returns is played from a third-person perspective. The player controls Alice for the entirety of the game for running, jumping, dodging, attacking, and shrinking.
In combat, Alice gains a small number of weapons that can be utilized in several ways. Her primary weapon is the Vorpal Blade, a decorated kitchen knife. The remainder of her arsenal is somewhat akin to the benign and mundane items that take on a deadly quality in Alice's tainted Wonderland in the first game. The Pepper Grinder becomes a crank operated Gatling gun, used to attack at a distance and pepper pig snouts. The Hobby Horse is used as a sledgehammer to inflict heavy damage and break barriers and defenses. The Teapot Cannon fires tea sieves that explode to cause heavy damage and, like the Hobby Horse, break barriers. By collecting teeth that are dropped by foes or found scattered about the levels, the player can upgrade these items to more powerful versions. Two other weapons cannot be upgraded, primarily because they are more defensive than directly offensive: the Umbrella acts as a shield that can be used to deflect and reflect most incoming projectiles; The Clockwork Bomb is a time-delayed/remote-controlled rabbit alarm clock that does a minimal amount of damage to enemies, but its usefulness is better illustrated as a decoy, as well as a weight to keep switches temporarily depressed.