Over the years I've discovered that the most disappointing games are often the ones that are born out of great ideas. There's nothing worse than getting really excited about a great game idea, only to realize that it's a disgusting mess of game with almost no redeeming qualities. I can put up with another generic shooter or me-too role-playing game, but to see a good idea crash and burn really hits me in the gut. After playing through Fairytale Fights I didn't feel like it hit me in the gut, but rather like I had a cannon ball rip through my stomach and leave me behind.
Fairytale Fights has one of the best set-ups of the year. The game introduces the idea that some of the world's most well-known fairytale characters aren't as inspiring as they once were. It's true, fame is fleeting; just ask Dustin Diamond and MC Hammer. But that doesn't mean that these former fairytale favorites are going to take this lying down, they're ready to fight for a possible return to their former glory. They don't care who they have to massacre, what weapons they use or how much blood they spill, the "heroes" of this story are going to do whatever it takes to live happily ever after.
You play one of four different characters, each with their own unique personalities. There's the young Little Red Riding Hood, the completely insane Snow White, the clothing challenged Naked Emperor and of course Jack, the generically named title character from Jack and the Beanstock. Together they will battle whatever the 'Storyteller' throws at them, ready to remind the entire world that they were stars from the very beginning. I'm not sure why they didn't try one of those "reality" shows hosted by Dr. Drew, but who am I to judge?
The concept of having a bunch of down-on-their-luck celebrities fighting their way through twisted versions of well-know fairytales was enough to make me push all of my other work to the side and load up what promised to be a fantastic game. Unfortunately Fairytale Fights proves that you need a lot more than a great concept to make a worthwhile game. From the moment the game started I was struck by one major problem after another, up to the point where I just threw up my hands and realized that it would take more than a 'Storyteller' to make this game worth playing.
The back of the box promises that Fairytale Fights will be a "blood thirsty hack and slash platform adventure." But that's only the half of it. What they don't tell you is that the game has a paper-thin story, none of the characters are fleshed out, the levels are far too long and the whole game is brought down by an insane level of repetition. And believe me, we haven't even started talking about what makes this game not only one of the most disappointing games of the year, but also one of the very worst.
The core gameplay in Fairytale Fights centers around the two analog sticks. Your left analog stick controls all of your movements, while the right stick is reserved for all of your attacks. That's right, you attack using an analog stick. If this very idea makes you cringe, it's probably because you've played Rare's horrible Grabbed by the Ghoulies or Sony's Jet Li game, Rise to Honor. Both of these last-generation games attempted to use the dual-stick approach, and sadly both failed miserably. But this time it's going to be different, right? Not even close. Fairytale Fights throws away the idea of complex combo attacks and sticks to whatever the analog stick equivalent of button mashing is.
The game plays out like a cross between a traditional platforming mascot game and a twenty year old brawler. You run through the level jumping over obstacles and dodging anything that gets in your way. Along the way you'll end up having to fight, which means that you'll have to face your enemy and push the right analog stick in one of four directions. There are some differences between attacks, for example you can hit the enemies up into the air, smack them across the level and so on so forth. The game suggests making combinations, but this system is about as rudimentary as the original Double Dragon or Final Fight games back in the 1980s.The problem is that far too much of this game revolves around you fighting everything that moves. Sometimes you can run right by the bad guys, but often you will get locked in a room or area and have to fight your way out. To the game developers this means that they can just keep throwing enemies at you all day long and you'll enjoy it. There were plenty of times when I would fight through a dozen bad guys, only to be forced to battle a dozen more. And when all that is over? You guessed it, there's another room with just as many bad guys. All this would be fine if the combat was even remotely interesting, but the simplistic combos and boring animations didn't do much for me.
I'll give Playlogic props for at least giving us a lot of weapons to use along the way. There are four types of weapons that you can pick up throughout the levels (sword weapons, blunt weapons, magic weapons and ranged weapons). In total there are more than 140 different weapons, including some really crazy stuff like a beer bottle, mailbox, flagpole, toothbrush, trumpet, flaming hammer, saw, ice cream sword, sickle, chainsaw, gun, bow and even a beaver on a spit, which is exactly what it sounds like. The problem is that most of these weapons feel exactly like all of the other weapons, so you're not really getting 140+ different experiences.
Even if you somehow get addicted to the gameplay in the first couple levels, you'll end up hating the way it plays by the end of the game. Each level plays out almost exactly the same, with you fighting level-specific creatures and making your way to the annoying boss battles. There aren't any puzzles for you to solve and the platforming is simply an afterthought throughout much of the game. In truth you will be overdosing on the same basic combat action over and over again, until you either turn off the system or give yourself a lobotomy. Either way, you're never going to get the time you wasted back.
None of this would be so bad if it wasn't for the fact that each level is much longer than it needs to be. Many of the levels end up taking around a half hour to complete, maybe longer if you have to deal with one of the game's horrible boss fights. Worse yet, at no point can you save the game when you're in a level. That means that you will either have to beat a level all the way through the first time or turn off the game and play it all over again. I didn't know this going into the tedious fifth level, where I decided to turn off my system right as I got to the boss battle. Nowhere in the instructions does it tell you how to save the game, so I went back to the main town expecting to come back to the action later. Unfortunately I was forced to play through that 30 minute level all over again. And I thought there was nothing worse than playing through the level the first time.
While it may not sound like a big deal on paper, the 30 minute levels are mostly made up of filler. Each level has about five minutes of new ideas crammed into a half hour of agonizing gameplay. Each level repeats the same types of platforming challenges, enemies and background designs. And did I mention that there are almost two dozen levels in this game? It's almost as if the game is trying to make you hate it as quickly as possible.
Oddly enough, it's not the game's difficulty that ends up getting in the way. In fact, if you're just rushing through it the game is an absolute breeze. Even though the enemies can be difficult (especially if you don't have a weapon in hand), there's no real penalty for dying. If you die in a level you will come back to life in exactly the same spot, so you don't even have to backtrack. In fact, the only real problem with dying is that you lose some of the coins you collected. What do the coins do? Nothing important! This means that you can just keep dying and dying until you get sick of the game or beat it, whichever comes first.
To me the real offense isn't the repetitive gameplay or lengthy levels, but rather the fact that this game has so much untapped potential. You get to go through a bunch of fairytale-inspired levels, yet none of them are fleshed out in any way. You occasionally get to see other familiar faces, but even they are only around for a boss fight or two. Playlogic could have just as easily taken all of the fairytale content out and you wouldn't even know the difference. Heck, the story that goes along with this adventure is about as thin as the paper most of these fairytales were typed on. This concept has so much potential, yet I couldn't get over how lazy the whole thing felt. Even the main characters are nothing more than caricatures of famous heroes, which is a real shame given their set-up.On top of all of this, the game has a series of game ending glitches that made me replay these lengthy levels far more than I should have. Remember that level I had to replay? Well, once I got to the boss the screen got stuck on some unimportant object and I couldn't move or fight the boss. This meant that I had to restart the level for the THIRD time. It was at this point where I started to question why I was even playing this game. The gameplay is in no way entertaining, the level designs are some of the weakest I've ever seen and I was wearing a frown the entire time. I had absolutely no reason to keep playing the game; it was sucking my will to live.
And then it struck me, it's the blood and gore that is supposed to keep people entertained. The back of the box mentions the blood and violence multiple times, the cover features it and the whole narrative seems destined to point out how disgusting the game is. And maybe if I was a twelve year old kid I would probably run around telling everybody that it's the coolest game of all time. But I'm not twelve. To me the blood didn't do anything special, it was just the gimmick that made people notice it. The rest of the game isn't as rude and outlandish as the blood would make you believe, so all you are really doing is killing characters and watching them bleed. Oh, and you can slip in the blood. I don't want to forget about the realistic blood physics. The truth is, even if you're the type of person who loves seeing blood, the game is so focused on this one gimmick that you'll quickly tire of the gore.
They say that misery loves company, and this game is definitely proving that point. With the help of both online and offline multiplayer modes, you can bring up to three friends along with you. Think the game will instantly improve with more people? Think again, because all it does is add chaos to the mix. The problems still remain, no matter how many people you drag along with you. You can also play an arena-style free-for-all mode, but this is yet another instance where you're just mashing buttons and hoping for a little luck.
With the right direction and some better gameplay, Fairytale Fights could have been an incredible game. It has the makings of a really clever platformer with just enough mature themes to keep gamers interested for hours. Unfortunately it throws all of that away for a juvenile romp through linear levels, fighting repetitive enemies and wasting a lot of time along the way. The game takes all of the wrong steps to create one of the most unpleasant video game experiences of the year. You're better off going to sleep without reading this fairytale.