Once Upon a Time
Publisher: Storm City Games
Developer: Visual Impact
Genre: Interactive Storybook
Release Date: 12/9/2010
For Storm City Games, it’s all about the kids.
To think otherwise would just be cynical, right?
I mean, its not like they would just add some low level animation to some drug store coloring book art in order to charge twenty bucks for four public domain stories.
Doing a thing like that would be taking advantage of the parents of toddlers for a quick and nasty cash grab. Certainly, we have to have more faith in Storm City.
See this video? That is pretty much the entirety of the game. It shows you just about everything you need to see, and is nearly as interactive.
But perhaps I am being too cruel. Let’s go through this thing in detail and see what we have to find.
Once Upon a Time consists of three modes.
The first mode is LISTEN TO THE STORY. You select, or your child selects, one of the four stories and the game tells it to you. The four stories consist of “Three Little Pigs,” “Ugly Duckling,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “Puss in Boots.”
These are done sort of like books, wherein each story takes place over the course of several pages. Unfortunately this story-telling is inferior to similar DS kiddie games. Noah’s Ark, for instance, allowed the player to click on various parts of the pictures on the pages and have something happen. That same game feature the written story on the screen, so the little ones could try to read along.
Once Upon a Time offers neither of these things. There are no words on the screen. The pages are not clickable. You can’t even control when the pages are turned.
As such, it is less of an interactive book, and more of an under-whelming, under-animated DVD.
The second mode of Once Upon a Time is PLAY GAMES.
The first of these games is called the Animations Game. With this thing, you select, or your child selects, one of the four stories and the game tells it to you. The four stories consist of “Three Little Pigs,” “Ugly Duckling,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “Puss in Boots.”
Its exactly like LISTEN TO THE STORY with one obnoxious difference; any time animation happens on the screen, you are supposed to shake the Wii-mote.
You have to shake the remote like crazy to get the game to register it. If you miss a few of the animation, or more likely shake with a reasonable amount of energy, you lose. The game cuts back to the title screen. I guess you win the game when the story is over. But you can just listen to the story and shake the wii-mote randomly with the first mode, so I fail to see the point of this thing.
Honestly, the amount of shaking required to “play” this “game” is pushing the limits of little kid strength and stamina, and seems like it would likely cause kids to crack themselves in the head with the controller.
The second game is a standard “memory” game. Six cards are on the screen. When you make three pairs, you get a new set of six cards. You are only allotted so many wrong guesses before this game sends you back to the title screen. It is more luck based than education based.
The third game is also a memory game. You are shown two cards and then they are flipped over. A third card shows up above the first two. It matches one of the previous two cards. The entirety of the game is click the card on the left or click the card on the right.
Both memory games run ridiculously slowly. It’s as though you were playing these games on a 10 year old computer while running virus scans. They are tedious, even for the most patient of kids.
The fourth and final game is “Puzzle.” You see a picture next to a square with a grid of nine squares. Nine “puzzle piece” squares are on the bottom of the screen. They are smaller than the representative picture, and not very detailed. If you put the pieces in the right place you get a new puzzle. If you temporarily set a few pieces in the wrong part of the grid, you lose and are sent back to the title screen.
With all these mini-games, Once Upon A Time tells you how many points you’ve scored. Unfortunately, this is written out on the screen in lieu of being announced. The game doesn’t keep a record of high-scores, and the target audience can’t read them, so one wonders why they were included.
The third and final mode of Once Upon a Time is TELL YOUR OWN STORY. Here you work your way through the pages of the LISTEN TO THE STORY stories. Putting the cursor over a part of the picture will cause the game to name it. That is to say, point the remote at a tree and the game will say “tree.” Pushing the A Button will cause you to turn the next page; there is no turning back.
The box of this game has labels for READ, PLAY and CREATE. I suppose this is supposed to represent the CREATE portion. Again, I’m not really sure what the game is going for here. Are you supposed to tell this story yourself in your own words? Are you supposed to tell a similar story involving pigs, a small crimson clad child, a footwear-adorned feline, or a cygnet? In either instance, what is the game adding to the experience?
Beyond all that, the controls aren’t responsive. You occasionally have to move the pointer off and back on an object to get it to register.
Visually, the game veers between mediocre and frantic. The illustrations are akin to what you see in an off-brand board book that you could pick up at CVS. The storybook screens are often cramped with too many unnecessary things. The nicest thing I can say about the animations is that they are unimpressive.
I mean, look at this Red Riding Hood picture.
It is particularly frustrating that the cover art for the freaking game box is head and shoulders above the actual art in the game.
Aurally, the game is awful. There are maybe three songs for the whole game, and they are droning, brain burrowing monstrosities. The woman that reads the stories is about as exciting as watching bread toast. Even the few sound effects the game provides are poorly done. The noise for not making a match in the memory game is the same as the noise for making a match.
Seriously? What, you couldn’t afford a BEEP and a BOING?
All in all, this game gives you three modes. Two of those modes aren’t playable. One is listening to a story, the other is looking at the same story while randomly getting words thrown at you.
The mode that is playable gives you four games. One is more or less unplayable. Two lag so much as to be absolutely no fun to play. The last is a bad puzzle game.
Parents, save your money. You can spend five bucks on coloring books and crayons, squeeze way more fun out of those, help develop fine motor skills, and have fifteen bucks left to buy Virtual Console games that can actually be played.
Control and Gameplay: Dreadful
Replayability: Below Average
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: VERY BAD GAME
Short Attention Span Summary
The cover of the game box is the only thing here that has artistic merit. Those characters look cute and interesting. This game, however, is a flat-out waste of money. It does nothing new. It does nothing interesting. It does nothing well.