Fairytale Fights - hands-on

Part hack ‘n’ slash brawler, part platformer, Fairytale Fights is an ultra bright, cutesy game with a ton of blood, gore and dismemberment (think Itchy and Scratchy or Happy Tree Friends). We recently got some hands-on time with the story mode, which can be played co-op with up to four players and supports drop-in/drop-out either online or off. And it’s a good thing that hooking up with a friend is easy, because from what we’ve played so far, half the fun comes from not only working together with your friends, but also striking up a friendly rivalry (hint: friendly fire can be turned on or off – we found that we preferred to leave it on).

The levels are quite varied, ranging from lush forest paths to opulent candy palaces. One of our favorite aspect of the level design was the cool use of scale, particularly in the giant’s house level we played. It feels reminiscent of the shrunken sections of Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap;as you navigate the shelves and rafters in the massive house, you can always see the giant and his family hulking in the background, going about their business preparing dinner and whatnot. The bosses can be massive too – we fought a giant, angry beaver that felt like it really took a team effort to take down.

The controls are easy to pick up – use the left analog stick to move your character around and the right stick to attack. You can hold two weapons at once, with one button to pick up and drop weapons and another to toggle between the two you’re holding. There are over 140 weaponsto be experimented with throughout the game, including everything from candy guns to garden gnomes to drafting compasses, each of which falls into one of six weapon types, like slicing, bludgeoning, ranged etc.

The story itself is rather endearingly literary – it’s all about saving books from being burned by the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk. As you go about saving various books (and thereby saving the stories’ characters from vanishing from the world of fairytales), you’re also on a quest to revive your own character from obscurity.

Aside from probably being the most colorful game to date that uses Unreal Engine 3, Fairytale Fights also makes notable use of the technology in a few areas. When your character unleashes a special attack called a glory attack, you’ll get to see your enemy’s 3D model sliced up in real time as you flick the right analog stick in different directions. A lot of attention has also been put into the various liquids in the game (blood, vomit and so on) and one of our favorite fun details is the ability to slide around in the puddles of blood after you’ve cleared a wave of enemies from the screen (we hear there’s even an Achievement for sliding a certain distance). It doesn’t really serve any purpose, but little details like that just make the game more enjoyable, especially when you’re playing co-op and you’re waiting for your friend to finish scavenging the treasure chests before moving on.

Among the four playable characters, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Naked Emperor (from The Emperor’s New Clothes classic) and Jack (of Beanstalk fame), the saucy Emperor is easily our favorite, with his bold minimalist look and cute tummy sticking out. Besides the four main characters, loads of other familiar characters from various fairytales appear throughout, including a tipsy Goldilocks and Hansel& Gretel as grotesque Siamese twins. What’s cool is that you’ll instantly recognize each character even though they’re all a bit twisted.

With all the crazy blood and gore, on paper Fairytale Fights seems like it should feel sadistic and nasty, but when you actually play the game it’s almost the complete opposite. The heavily saturated colors are so vibrant and cheery, that even the blood looks too pretty and bright to be gross. And since the penalties for dying are slight, even decapitating your cohort in a fit of friendly fire can actually seem light-hearted and funny rather than irritating.

Check back later this month for an exclusive trailer and look at the competitive multiplayer modes, and look for our review when Fairytale Fights ships October 27th.

Sep 4, 2009