Fairytale Fights was released on Xbox 360 on October 27th, 2009. There is a planned release for the PC in 2010. This game is a whacked out take on traditional fairy tales such as Jack and the Beanstalk all wrapped up in the world of a hack and slash action adventure game.
In this game, you select one of four characters (who all play similarly) and set out on a quest based on many traditional fairy tales. What you do is anything but traditional and story based. Friends are now enemies, blood and gore abounds, and you kill lots and LOTS of enemies, often with body parts flying every which way. Awesome!
The graphics in this game tend towards the cartoony side of animation, and are suitably colorful and vivid. All of the characters have twisted expressions on their faces that are quite amusing, as if to let the player know that these are the fairy tales we all know and love.
The backgrounds are often non-interactive, but there are many platforms and switches that you must activate to make it through each level. I also like the look of the enemies, with their permanently growling faces and amusing animations. Something I initially missed was how the characters skating around on the blood in particularly inundated areas. This brought a smile to my face and is definitely part of the characters' personalities. It just feels like an appropriate way to relax after a session of slaughter.
The dismemberment systems and the "glory attacks" special power also provide fun visual tricks that are worth trying with different weapons to observe the messy results. More on how this gameplay works later on.
The music is very whimsical with plenty of adventure-like overtures. When you encounter enemies or a dangerous situation, the music suitably climbs in tempo and pace, preparing the player for the challenges ahead. When it comes to boss themes, they are appropriately louder and more bombastic. A family member described the giant beaver's theme as Nickelodeon-like; is that meant to be positive or negative? Regardless, such an over-the-top game as Fairytale Fights has appropriate music.
When it comes to gameplay, Fairytale Fights play much like the classic beat-em-ups of old, like Streets of Rage or Final Fight, except all taking place in a 3D world. The biggest change right off the bat is the way in which the player executes attacks. Unlike past genre offerings, all attacks are mapped to the right analogue stick, similar to Jet Li's Rise to Honor on PS2. It still feels pretty clumsy, given that in this game, once you commit to a direction you can't seem to just tap in another direction to focus your attacks. Doing this requires either jumping or getting hit by the enemy. It's not a big problem, but it does prevent the combat from being as free flowing as it could have been. I would have liked an option to use the face buttons or the right analogue stick.
The reason this system was chosen was to facilitate the use of power up attacks; hold down any analogue direction until your weapon flashes white followed by pushing in another direction. The up prompt knocks enemies into the sky and allows follow-up attacks; down has the player jump and pound the ground with an energy wave. These attacks are great counters to rushing groups of enemies, helpful for crowd control, and help avoid monotony in combat. I'm not sure how the power-up attacks could have with a face button combat setup, making it seem like a well planned out control design. There are tons of weapons in Fairytale Fights, with 3 different categories all having different mechanics. There are blunt weapons like clubs and branches, sharp ones like saws and pickaxes, and guns for long distance attacks. All these weapons have similar combo attacks, but the game's special dismembering system make each feel different beyond their power star ratings.
Your character also has "glory attacks" activated using the Right Trigger. This meter will fill up based on how you defeat your enemies (environmental hazards fill it up QUICK!), how long your combos are uninterrupted, and what kind of attacks you use. Once activated, either side of the screen is foreframed, and you can quickly string attacks from enemy to enemy without fear of foes striking back. If you remember Prince of Persia from 2002, the freezing time sand power works very similarly. Lots of jelly-like blood and gore ensue, with the player controlling how dismemberment works with the control pad (Cut up with up and so on).
The game also features drop in and out multiplayer, allowing up to 3 other players to join the game at any time, much like the classic arcade brawlers like TMNT: Turtles in Time. Arena mode is for battling amongst the player with the standard deathmatch rules. I wasn't interested in this mode, mostly as I was unable to fight any players for the game and didn't bother with online. I guess it is good that the option is there for those who may want it.
Some beat-em-ups can be quite difficult due to limited lives and particularly cheap enemies. While the enemies will try and gang up on you in Fairytale Fights, the game can never be called difficult. This is due to the player having unlimited lives as well as the ability to respawn right when you died.
The different difficulty settings only seem to cause the enemies to do more damage to you. You may get killed quicker, but you'll respawn just as fast. I really hope that there are more enemies in multiplayer, as even 3 or 4 are rarely a challenge with one player; they would certainly be cake with 2 or more people fighting with you.
Replay value is surprisingly low despite the large amount of weapons and several playable characters. This is as such simply because these extras are pretty extraneous. All weapons functionally work the same, and don't seem to be more effective against certain foes than others (which would have been really cool!) All the characters play the same, right down to these taunts.
Playing this through with some friends (with friendly fire both ON and OFF) would be a fun diversion, but it won't make you come back to the game anytime sooner. This really isn't a criticism, as all beat-em-ups have limited replay value. You play with them, love them, leave them, and don't touch them again for months. Such is the circle of the beat-em-up; even the superlative Streets of Rage is not immune. But when you eventually pick them up again, you feel a really special feeling of joy... ok, maybe only I do...
In summation, Fairytale Fights is the kind of game that I would like to see more of: pick up and play gameplay, lots of weapons, and easy controls. Single player is great fun in small does, just as good as classic brawlers like X-Men and TMNT. It is a good thing that video game developers still see the value in producing these games in full releases, not just as potential afterthoughts and quick revenue on the various console download services. To me, there is a big difference in scale and presentation from an Xbox Live game to a full-blown console release. Now, someone please make another Streets of Rage game!
- Ugly Bob