Developer: Playlogic Game Studios
# of Players: 1 – 4
Rating: M (Mature)
After a long development cycle it’s finally here, it’s pretty darn bloody and it’s a hack ‘n slash fan’s dream game. That is, provided your dreams are candy-colored and packed with mutated puppets dishing out damage on an epic, nasty scale. Fairytale Fights packs in its entire running time with tons of humor plus more gallons of blood and severed limbs than you’d find in certain zombie-killing franchises. Although the game probably isn’t going to impress those jaded players looking for total perfection and “innovation” seeping out of every corner, it’s got more than enough style to keep those who love the sub-genre playing ’til the cows come home. As a single-player arcade-style experience, it’s supremely hysterical, but can feel a bit lonely after a few hours. However, with up to three friends, the game is a complete blast to play – provided everyone’s platforming skills are up to the game’s deathtraps and occasionally brutal boss battles.
The game takes the Unreal 3 engine places it’s never been before, instantly impressing with some of the most fantastically stylized visuals you’ll see to date. The plot is a total hoot, mixing in gobs of violence with classic fairy tale stereotypes and yanks you right in from the opening movie. The four main characters, all familiar fairy tale legends, have had their stories stolen by Little Boy Tailor, a scarred up crazy that wants their tales for his own superstar story. The four characters set out to get their stories back and anyone in their way is fair game for whatever weapons they can get their hot little hands on. Gameplay is a mash-up of plenty of chase ‘n chop action and classic platforming elements familiar since the days of Mario and Sonic. Colorful visuals and aside, the M-rated content here is absolutely NOT for the wee ones in the family and the game never pretends it’s even close to “family friendly.”
Combat is straight up arcade style fun, as in nicely simple enough so anyone can pick up and play the game without worrying about arcane combos or busting up a controller out of sheer frustration. You move with the left stick and attack with the right stick, which works extremely well with not too much of a learning curve (unless you’re somehow resistant to using the right stick for pulling off moves). Sure, it’s all too easy to whip out attacks in the game, but why shouldn’t it be? “Innovation” doesn’t need to be part of every game’s controls, folks. That particular critical straw man is a stupid reviewer trick that needs to be shut down, as it’s keeping a LOT of people from enjoying games more. Hell, the fact that there’s NO need to spend a half hour figuring out what button presses do what and how fast or slow you need to do them makes the game all the more accessible.
Invite a non-gaming friend or someone who’s interested in FF to drop by and play the game in co-op and within seconds, they’re running, jumping and kicking polygon puppet ass along with you. other than some of the trickier jumps and boss battles, there will more likely than not be any yelling at them for “sucking” hard or messing up your game. In solo or co-op play, pay close enough attention to the cut scenes and background details and the plot will have you falling off the couch laughing as you get closer to Little Boy Tailor’s trail. An offbeat musical number here, a crazy boss battle against conjoined twins there and if you’re hooked into all of the madness on display, you’ll be grinning away like Renfield chomping down of freshly caught flies in his padded cell. Sure, there’s an almost Dynasty Wars-like repetition to the mowing down of piles of baddies throughout the different maps, but isn’t nearly every video game about repeating the same thing over and over in different locations until you come out victorious?
There are a load of weapons to find and use against your foes (or other players, should you keep “friendly fire” toggled on). You’ll have well over 140, categorized into blunt, sharp, firearms, wands and potions. While the selection is vast, most of the weapons are here more for visual variety rather than minute differences in damage. Sure, you can pick up and carry the same swords and clubs through the entire game, but why not whip someone with a rolled up newspaper, broken lollipop or even a thigh bone? The more exotic weapons actually lend more humor to the game, especially when a few like-minded friends are playing along with you. Those wands and potions liven up the action quite a bit by allowing you to freeze, burn, melt, transform or heal enemies or allies, but again, you can make do through most of the game with weapons or even your bare fists if you like.
Killing enemies makes them cough up weapons and coins which can be used to “buy” extra credits in the game if you lose all your lives or spend in magic fountains to get special weapons. You can get pretty darn far in the game using the tons of drops enemies leave, so those fountains might get overlooked unless you really have to have every single weapon type the game has to offer. In general, dying doesn’t set you back too far unless you’re in an area where saving is impossible and you don’t have enough cash or loot to buy more lives. You can also upgrade the heroically posed statue of your character of choice in the town square, but I’d try and save up some loot just in case the game’s trickier bosses and platforming areas are giving you grief.
The great “Salami Violence” feature allows you to carve up enemies into chunks, lop off body parts and even do a bit of creative bisecting. You’ll get frequent close ups of this funny gore that can be distracting when multiple players are going at it, but are always fun to watch. Unless you’re the one getting cut into six pieces in that insert shot. Some of the stuff here puts God of War games to shame, but you’ll probably find yourself laughing outrageously more than being put off by what’s here. Blood sliding for fun and profit? Yup, it’s in here. Slicing up cute widdle bunny rabbits, gingerbread men and other “shocking” non-threatening creatures? yup, it’s in here as well. It’s all big fun and done for laughs, so play along and if you like, don’t play nice with anyone you come across in the game world.
Some may complain that the game is “mean-spirited” but I’d have to let out a big horse laugh at this charge as I throw a swordfish into a giant, surfer trunk wearing mutated beaver boss’ eyeball. Who’s being offended here other than cartoon characters in a fake fairytale world? The game makes NO allusions to reality other than the fact that yes, if you chop someone in the head with an ax, they’ll more than likely spray blood all over the place and fall over in a heap (or two, if your ax is quite sharp). In no way does the game condone violence against anyone but the characters in the game and even the collateral damage is outrageously funny if you’re a fan of black comedy and some of the more twisted cartoons out there. If you’re one of those dopes who tries to make any form of video game violence some sort of crusade against the medium, please go away and read a book or something.
The folks at Playlogic’s internal studio really went to town on the graphics and presentation and as mentioned above, the game truly blows any other Unreal 3-powered title out of the water in terms of visual style. The whole game looks like Candy Land on crack with a 151 proof chaser. When you’re not chopping loggers or losers to meaty chunks, you’ll really want to take in the lovely, eyeball searing environments that practically pop off the screen. While playing the game with a friend, he started laughing and said “It’s like The Wizard of Oz on LSD!” more than once. Having never experienced anything resembling LSD (other than playing Asmik Ace’s ultra rare PlayStation import “dream simulator” named for the drug a few years back), I had to take his word for it.
Overall, character models and environments have a solid, chunky Claymation look to them, friend, foe and not-so furry woodland creatures are all animated in some wild way or another and overall, there’s a solid sense of cartoon life to the game’s levels. You will see a few graphics glitches in spots and once in a while, the game camera will settle somewhere where it’s tough to survive a jump or enemy onslaught, but I’m hoping some of these issues are addressed in a patch (which, like it or not, seems to be the way games have gone this generation).
The maps range from the amazingly fun options village to a supremely candy-colored castle, a massive, mostly dark giant’s home and other awesomely huge set pieces. Going through the asset disk and leafing through the slim game art book that came with my reviewable code, I was amazed at how close some of the detailed production art resembles the final product. It’s impossible to not play through the game and be totally blown away by new sights as each new area is unlocked. Rich colors and excellent level design abound, depth of field is used in very spectacular fashion and if I still scored games individually for graphics, I’d give this near perfect marks for execution. There is a bit of slowdown with four players and a lot of enemies onscreen and as of yet, I haven’t yet played online (I’m writing this review before the game is in US stores). I’ll need to check back in a few days or so after the retail version ships to see how the game plays over Xbox Live and PSN and how many folks are out there chopping away at each other.
Music and sound effects are excellently done, offering up twisted tunes and choice dialog that’s as fun as the visuals. There’s a goofy charm to all the different voices and effects with a nice twisted Saturday morning vibe to everything. In terms of overall content, there’s about a dozen hours of gameplay here, but Playlogic has already released a bunch of FREE download content for the game, including four new characters and some new Arena maps. It’s clear that the company is going to support their baby no matter what reviewers who don’t appreciate their efforts write, but that’s a darn good thing for folks who want to buy the game and are hoping for plenty of cool DLC. I understand the team has quite a few plans for new content, so it’ll be interesting to keep an eye peeled and see what’s coming down the road.
More screens/game art HERE