The better to slice you with, my dear.
In the course of writing about any particular subject professionally—movies, books, vacation spots, video games, cars, politicians, ‘holistic’ healing practices, radical colonic irrigation methods, whatever—it stands to reason that one will occasionally come across a decidedly odd duck, some non-Euclidean peg that doesn’t obviously fit into the usual run of predictable end-user tastes. It’s neither a bad thing nor a good thing—just a thing, one that makes you ponder “Who, exactly, is this intended for?”
[image1]Playlogic’s forthcoming, unique-looking, candy-colored, and rabidly-bloodthirsty Fairytale Fights struck more than one of us here at GR like that during a recent hands-on preview session: “It’s adorable! It’s elaborate! It’s kinda funny! It’s gory as hell! Who the %*@& is it for?!”
Fairytale Fights, true to its name, is a breezy, brightly-colored, meticulously-themed hack-and-slasher for PS3 and X360. Set in a deliberately-‘cutesy’, cel-shaded story-book world whose environments seem at least half composed of actual, literal story-books (stacked books as steps, open-faced books as bridges over streams, etc.), it puts players in the cobbled shoes of a wee little red-haired fairy-tale ragamuffin/heroine (think a way-too-attentive-looking Little Red Riding Ragdoll, possibly jacked up on Cordrazine).
And boys and girls, she is pissed off: Via the machinations of a story-pilfering little snot named Little Boy Taylor, our heroine has lost her own former A-list, attention-getting, fairy-tale status. And by Jacob and Wilhelm, she is going to hit the trails winding through Fairy-Tale Land and open some fools up. Just roll with it.
Actually, there are four fairytale player-characters to choose from, although the choices are purely cosmetic and all go through the same story progression; the world of videogames may not actually need a title in which you ‘get’ to play a figleaf-clad-but-otherwise-naked “Emperor’s New Clothes” little boy. But what the hell, it’s getting one now.
[image2]Fairytale Fights is a real head-wobbler and brings to mind the blood-soaked hack-’em-up mechanics of the comparably cute and gory Fat Princess—although Fairytale Fights goes quite a bit farther in its outrageous juxtaposition of the seemingly-adorable and the undeniably-ghastly.
Here is a game where one minute you’ll walk your tiny red-headed heroine across the stepping-stones of a gently-babbling stream to the relaxed strumming of a soothing guitar, the air filled with ambient twittering birdsongs, as hill-sized giants repose on stacks of massive story-books in the hazy distance. And the next moment, you’re stringing together hit combos in bloody kung-fu fighting with musket-toting lumberjacks, deliberately kicking their limp, rag-doll asses directly into massive, lumberyard circular-saw hazards spinning at the edges of the screen. As the ground under your feet gets redder and redder and redder…
Fairytale Fights features 20 distinct areas and at least 100 types of weapons, ranging from blades and simple melee skull-crushers to hatchets, throwing-knives, guns, poisons, magic wands, and just about anything else you can imagine the environments supplying as convenient death-dealers. Broken lollipops, even. And don’t get me started on the Chicken on a Stick. All the bloody, analog-stick hacking is a real-physics affair, too. While you’re slicing some enemy up, check out the screen-in-screen close-up that details the limb-severing effects of every slash of your blade. Afro Samurai who?
The game will support up to 4 players for offline co-op and 2 players for online co-op. At least, the whole endeavor is supposed to be ‘co-op’; however, one of the first obvious things for new drop-in players to do is start wailing on their fellow player-characters. You may remember some Gauntlet sessions that got ugly and out of control due to hogging or shooting the food… but that venerable classic can’t hope to hold a guttering torch to the potential for player-vs.-player ill-will here. Players will be able to drop into or out of games at will, without fumbling up other player’s sessions… and you bet your gingerbread-sweet ass some whiner is going to ask you to disable that ‘friendly fire’ option.
[image3]Almost every other aspect we encountered in our session of Fairytale Fights is—and I say this with something very much like love—epically and thoroughly wrong. There are the aforementioned playable near-Naked Emperor boy; Goldilocks as a shrill, raging alcoholic; Hansel and Gretel, sweets-gobbling siblings conjoined at the hip… and vomiting constantly; an anorexic-bitch Cinderella. Then there’s the use of small forest fauna, such as rabbits, as impromptu projectile and/or blunt-force weapons; plus, the ability to throw multiple sharp implements and leave them sticking out of your enemies’ backs (only to pry them out later and use them on still other enemies—this works with your own carcass, too).
And get this: In what may well be an industry first (if the designers have their way, which they seem to be hard-lining for even as you read this), players will not only be able to kill characters presented as children, but players can potentially receive one of the title’s special in-game awards for doing so. Well, if they take out enough of the little tykes anyway…
(TEDIOUSLY OBLIGATORY NOTE: Here at GR, we’ve got nothing particular against actual, real kids, you understand. But come on, anything that makes the anti-videogame soap-boxers bleed out their eyeballs as much as something like that is bound to… folks, that’s entertainment!)
All the while, there’s that “Who the %*@& is this for?” factor I mentioned earlier: The meticulous environmental and referential detail to be found at every step—and the rag-doll cuteness of the characters—seem aimed at one type of audience, while the rampant gore is aimed at quite another.
If you were to see the art design for this game—at least, before any of the killing started onscreen—you might conclude that the designers clearly have their classic fairy-tale lore down cold. And from the sheer depth and thoroughness of the artwork both in the foreground and background, they may even love their subject matter—but they sure as hell don’t take it too seriously. If you do, you probably shouldn’t let yourself—and damn sure not your precious little snowflakes—within a 300-meter beanstalk of these irreverent, truly twisted tales.
Now go throw a bunny at somebody. Hard.