It's not often that games use Fairytales as a medium for their storytelling, but that's exactly what Playlogic has done with their latest title, Fairytale Fights. Instead of looking at the nicer side of children's stories, the game proposes a more frank and brutal interpretation which sees Little Red Riding Hood quite happily wielding a knife instead of her wicker basket. It all sounds rather surreal and that's because it is.
In a shock turn of events, the Fairytale Kingdom's more well known characters have had their fairytale status revoked by the actions of a new hero. He has an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time, and it's made the general public ignore the efforts of their past heroes. Players take control of selected Fairytale characters as they attempt to regain the public's favour and restore their fame.
It's actually a surprisingly good premise, and the game's very adult theme makes it actually quite fun, if only because of its slightly sadistic nature. Snow White loses her fame because the glass casket she's in shatters, causing the surrounding spectators to get shards of glass in their eyes and that's just the start of the game's violence. Although none of the characters ever actually speak, the cutscenes are definitely one of the highlights of the game. They really help to convey how the characters are feeling, while showing off some over the top theatrics at the same time.
The gameplay, unfortunately, isn't one of the game's highlights though. It's essentially a hack 'n slash affair and combat is controlled solely by the right analogue stick. Players face the direction they wish to attack and press the stick in any direction to attack where they are facing. Pressing in different directions will perform slightly different moves, but generally the best tactic is to twiddle it around all over the place for maximum effect. Only being able to attack in one plane without correcting it might not sound like much of a problem, but later on, when surrounded by a group of enemies, it can become extremely frustrating. Once a combo is started, the character moves in that direction, and when surrounded it's actually quite difficult to determine the direction attacks will go in. It's also very possible to just fly off the edge of the level because a combo can't be stopped and this could easily have been averted by putting barriers up. Fortunately these problems don't arise when using guns, as the direction of the right analogue stick denotes where the gun will fire, but guns are rarely featured in the game and actually hitting something is still quite difficult due to the weird depth perception.
The combat is still quite fun, although it does get tedious after a while, especially when unarmed. Using weapons helps to give a bit of diversity, as there are lots of different types, although they all fall into four categories: sharp, blunt, guns and throwing items. Using sharp objects is generally the most effective way to dispatch enemies, as it causes them to be dismembered and every time this happens, the screen shows it blow-up next to the action. It's nice, to start off with, but when the combat gets more frantic it can get in the way of the action, leading to deaths from un-seen assailants. Sometimes there are sections where no weapons are available, or the player has died holding the only weapon causing it to be lost, and they are left to fight with their hands. These sections are probably the most boring as it's so slow - especially against hordes of enemies. Once players have connected with a certain amount of hits, they gain access to a special move, which allows them to beat their enemy into a pulp, or slice them into tiny pieces. It really shows off the game's gore in all its glory, especially when using a sharp weapon. It uses a 1-to-1 system where-by the analogue stick's motions are accurately represented by the character's slicing motion. While it is fun, and gory, it's also a very effective way to clear out a few enemies at a time, so it must be used wisely.
While the combat is the main focus, the game also features some platforming sections. It's essentially based on a 2D platforming mechanic, but with a 3D plane. There is a set camera which slides along with the player, but this means that the actual platforming elements can become extremely frustrating. Jumping between platforms which are at different depths from the screen shares many traits with a leap of faith and actually completing some of the more difficult passages gives a sense of relief more than one of satisfaction. A large percentage of deaths in the game will come from accidental falls or environmental hazards as opposed to combat, which is slightly odd considering the combat is the core focus of the game. It's definitely not helped by the respawn system either. Upon dying, the player has 10 seconds before they respawn, but it's also possible to respawn early. However, when doing so, there is no short period of invincibility, so it's actually possible to die instantly. Given the nature of the game, players want to jump back in to the action and it can lead to numerous pointless deaths, especially when deaths are happening due to environmental hazards. It makes the game exceedingly frustrating and the only saving grace is that players have infinite lives.
The presentation in Fairytale Fights is definitely quirky and engaging. While the platforming elements to the game are extremely frustrating, the art design throughout is generally good and there is a good level of imagination on display. Many of the levels, especially later on, are very well represented and for the most part, are fun to play through. The game does suffer from occasional frame-rate drops, but only when a large amount of jewels are dropped from downed enemies but it's generally quite solid, which is impressive due to the amount of blood that spills around everywhere.
Fairytale Fights' best aspect is probably that it can be played with up to three other friends. However, it might also serve to highlight its faults even more. The option to allow Friendly Fire, while fun, can make the game more of a chore than anything and actually getting all the players through the platforming sections in one piece can sometimes be a real mission. It generally makes it a lot easier to win fights though. Throughout levels players will also collect riches, but after dying so many times, it's quite easy to see the riches quickly deplete on some levels. These riches can be spent in the town, which serves as a hub for the game. It's also possible to play Arena Mode, which is essentially a versus battle and this, along with co-operative play can be played both online and offline.
Fairytale Fights has good fundamentals, but it shoots itself in the foot. The premise of the game and the art design are really good, but the actual gameplay just promotes frustration and tedium. It's probably a game that's better enjoyed with a few friends than alone, but it can still only be recommended in short doses as playing the game with more players can quite easily highlight some of the game's more glaringly frustrating elements.