Dark Parables: The Final Cinderella Collector’s Edition
Publisher: Big Fish Games
Developer: Blue Tea Games
Genre: Hidden Object/Adventure
Release Date: 05/24/2013
Earlier this year, I played Enchantia: Wrath of the Phoenix Queen. I enjoyed the game well enough, and decided to keep the developer on my radar. Turns out, they should have already been there thanks to the reasonably popular Dark Parables series. This series enjoys taking classic fairy tales and twisting them into a dark mystery perfect for this type of game. When I saw that the latest game in the series had been released, I pounced.
TFC is a bit odd in terms of plot. First of all, as the title would suggest, there has been more than one Cinderella. In fact, the one you know from your childhood was actually only the first. Likewise, there have been many godmothers as well. Unfortunately, the most recent godmother has gone bad. It turns out that instead of helping Cinderella, she wants to sacrifice her to revive her deceased husband. As a master detective, it’s up to you to uncover the plot, protect the girl, and save the world. You know, because the world is always in danger by the end of these things.
The story is actually quite nice. While you aren’t given enough time to really develop a connection with the characters, there is more depth than usual. Godmother is almost a sympathetic character, as the loss of her husband clearly broke her mind. There’s another character you meet as well (a well known kid from another fairy tale altogether) who manages to jerk a tear or two from the player, unless they have a heart of wood, of course. The plot constantly moves forward, and has a couple of somewhat surprising twists. There was one in particular I never saw coming. That’s a first. It’s not perfect though. A couple of plot holes are kind of just left there at the end. I have a few questions that didn’t get answered. The final moments also throw a confusing bit at the player. I’m not sure what it was supposed to imply. That bugs me. Still, it was an enjoyable experience overall.
Visually, the game is pretty darn good, at least compared to others in the genre. The designs are quite pleasant to look at, even the human characters. Sure, they don’t animate well, but I’m well past expecting that as this point. Blue Tea loves to create intricate treasures and objects for the player to interact with. Pretty much every emblem or rune that you’ll need to unlock a door is rife with detail and design. It’s impressive, even if it can become a bit overbearing. The only issue I had with the visuals was that they could sometimes look a bit grainy. That was the same with Enchantia, so it seems to be a running theme with Blue Tea games.
As far as audio, the game is a hit. The voice acting, though still below what you’d expect from a AAA title, is quite respectable. There’s also plenty of it, including in side stories that are read like fairy tales to the player after some unlocking is done. The music is suitable throughout, and I even found myself humming along on occasion. That’s pretty rare as well. As expected, the audio effects are top notch to boot. There are few games from Big Fish (at least that I’ve played) that sound better.
Hidden object sequences abound in this game. Like other Blue Tea games, TFC eschews the typical word lists in favor of actual pictures of the items you need to find. Rather than objects, you’ll find pieces that, when put together, create an item that you’ll need to progress elsewhere in the game. Whether or not this setup is superior to the usual fare really depends on your personal tastes. However, it does make these sections a bit easier, as you don’t have to guess at what you’re supposed to be finding. Late game, TFC relies on these sections as fillers. You have to go back and redo scenes to find some new item, and you might do three or four of these in a row. Also, the items you have to find are incredibly similar to each other. You’ll find a number of gem encrusted plaques, feathered metal works, and jewels that create some intricate looking item. A little variety would have been quite welcome.
The adventure sections are incredibly straightforward. I rarely had trouble figuring out what item went where. This is probably because the game is chock full of gates that can only be opened after several different keys have been inserted. These keys can be in the shape of runes, dolls, gems, and anything else you can think of. Your inventory will often be bursting due to the number of key items you’ll have in it at any given time. Often you’ll have items long before you can use them, and are only able to get rid of them in one big swoop late in the game. There was one decorative fan I had for probably two-thirds of the game. It can be a bit much. Still, everything works well and there’s even a nifty map that keeps you from getting lost. A little less back and forth would have been nice, but this is nothing new for the genre.
Of course, the third part of the gameplay trifecta is mini-games. These take the form of a series of simple puzzles. You might need to find a pattern in a large pool of blocks, put together a picture puzzle, or rotate some discs in order to connect two immovable points on the screen. It’s standard stuff to be sure, and none of it was really challenging. The only puzzle I skipped was a slide puzzle, and I only skipped it because I really suck at slide puzzles. My brain just doesn’t get them.
The collector’s edition comes with a number of bonuses. You’ve got the typical wallpapers, soundtrack, and concept art. There are also character bios, and the ability to re-watch cinematics. Thankfully, there’s also some bonus gameplay. You have the normal half hour long bonus chapter, as well as a bunch of extra puzzles to try out. It won’t add that much extra time to your game, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless.
Short Attention Span Summary
While The Final Cinderella didn’t wow me like Enchantia did, it still manages to be a solid choice for hidden object fans. The story is certainly a twist, and has some enjoyable moments if nothing else. While the gameplay has a few bugs, it’s still functional and enjoyable throughout. The collector’s edition offers enough bonuses to make it worthwhile. While not my favorite HOG this year, I can easily recommend it to fans of the genre.
Tags: Big Fish Games, Blue Tea Games, Dark Parables, PC