Not since that Matt Damon/Heath Ledger flick have I seen such an abusive interpretation of classic fairytales. And I mean that in a good way.
Fairytale Fights takes the "let's make charming children's stories bloody" approach to Brothers Grimm characters and runs with it in a direction that's violent, gory and totally hilarious all at the same time. Built on the Unreal 3 engine, this game features a very large and well-detailed world in which fairytale creatures live and beat the beejesus out of each other with various blunt and sharp objects. It might sound like a bland concept, but so does the original Little Red Riding Hood story – and look what games did to that.
What Is It?
Fairytale Fights is a third person action game for up to four players. In both story mode (which supports local and online co-op) and in the multiplayer modes, players can take the roles of a psychotic Snow White, a bloodthirsty Red Riding Hood, a whacked-out Naked Emperor (from The Emperor's New Clothes) or Jack, who seems like he fell off his beanstalk one too many times. The "point" of the story is to restore the fairytale heroes and heroines to their rightful places after somebody steals their fame. But the appeal of the story is the violence.
What We Saw
I sat down with the developers in the living room of Joystiq's Randy Nelson because not all of us bloggers have fancy offices in which to host guests (plus Randy has an awesome TV). We double-teamed a few levels of story mode and let the developer walk us through some of the less-stable levels.
How Far Along Is It?
The build we saw was still alpha and did not have all of its art, music or cut scenes in place. The game ships for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on October 27 with the PC version to follow sometime next year.
What Needs Improvement?
Win Me Over Early: For whatever reason, there seems to be a general apathy toward violent games that feature fantasy characters. I admit, after seeing that movie Hoodwinked, I was a little skeptical of Fairytale Fights. American McGee's Alice aside, is the concept of being an excessively violent little girl in a fantasy world really enough to sustain a whole game? If the opening cut scenes and earliest levels of Fairytale Fights cannot impress upon me the scope and awesomeness the developer is out to achieve, it hasn't got a mermaid's chance in a Hans Christian Andersen tale even if the later levels are totally awesome.
Faster Response Time On Glory Attacks: When slaughtering your way through levels, you build up a gauge to spend on Glory Attacks. This mode varies in what it does by weapon, but ultimately it triggers a dynamic cut scene where how fast you wiggle the analog stick determines how many times you strike a target with your weapon – breaking bones, severing limbs or what have you. It looks really cool when you do it and there is a Trophy or Achievement in it if you manage to do it well – so it's crucial for the response time between analog stick wiggle and attack to be spot on. Currently, it lags a little and that really takes away from the fun of watching a head fly off a cutesy fairytale creature.
What Should Stay The Same?
The Unreal Engine: The Unreal engine has been put to amazingly good use in the world of Fairytale Fights. Every level looks lush and detailed with tiny things like crowned frogs tucked away in the background for sharp-eyed players to enjoy. The way the characters move has real depth to it as well – making it easy to complete jumps, snag weapons or slide through pools of blood to create artsy shapes all over the forest floor (which also gets you a Trophy or an Achievement).
The Menu Is A Level: Instead of having a boring main menu to select from, the game provides you a starting level that has everything you need. To upgrade weapons and see what you've unlocked, you visit the blacksmith. To improve your stats, you spend money on building a statue of your character in town. The observatory lets you change in-game options – and so on. It's a nice touch.
The Later Levels Are Totally Awesome: One of the levels demoed to us was the giants' house at the top of Jack's beanstalk. Players have to navigate the shelves of the kitchen while the giantess wife makes dinner – constantly reaching toward you from the background to grab ingredients that are part of your linear path. It was very well-detailed level that presented a lot of platforming challenges and a lot of visual entertainment.
Friendly Fire: it's amazing how side-tracked you can get from the story when your co-op buddy "accidentally" Glory Attacks you with a knife. It happened to the developers, it happened to me and Randy and it will happen to you and your buddy – although you may not be buddies anymore after the fifteenth time the bastard does it.
Fairytale Fights is a simple game concept on a complex engine and I think the pairing works well. Sadly, the concept and engine aren't new, so it's going to take some convincing on the part of the game to get cynical players to give it a shot.
Speaking of shots, here's a parting few: the developer is planning downloadable content that adds more characters and possibly more levels, there story mode is about eight hours long, there are over 140 weapons in the game and this might be the first game in a long time that lets you kill children without scoring an Adults Only ESRB rating (though the developer is still waiting for final confirmation on this).