Sunday 2 October 2016

Game 74: Mixed Up Fairy Tales - Introduction (1992)

written by Aperama

Mixed Up Fairy Tales is a Sierra game, so it's as good a place as any for us to start 1992 as any! That said, it's definitely not the game that most would associate with 1992. In fact, I'd not actually realised that I was signing up for Mixed Up Fairy Tales, a Lori Ann Cole designed venture programmed by (what I affectionately think of as) our own Corey Cole, but had rather expected it to be Mixed Up Mother Goose. Bizarrely, Mixed Up Mother Goose never actually hit The Adventure Gamer in spite of being almost Accepted and was really the initial reason Trickster introduced the term 'borderline'. At the time, Zenic, Canageek and Ilmari were all pretty dubious and Zenic even went so far as to suggest that 'when one of Trickster's kids grow up, they can play Mixed Up Mother Goose and give it a simple thumbs up or thumbs down'. We're now into the land beyond Trickster, where Mixed Up Mother Goose could have just as easily have been played by an infant and reviewed summarily. Fortunately, I happen to have one handy – my daughter is now 9 months old! We all know kids are growing up faster these days with tablets and smart phones, so it's clear she's more or less ready. (I'll possibly do the writeup, and the actual use of the mouse, and the play decisions, but she will hold executive veto of blabbing and loud noises.)

This handy diagram gives an idea of the 'significant stages of learning'.
Hopefully, with the fullness of time, it is now less than accurate.
[Admin's note: 35 and still not wearing a tie - I must be one of those slow learners.]
There's something to be said of the thought that this game really isn't a standard 'adventure title'. The goal is pre-set out in the manual very clearly, with a short page of it devoted to the 'parents' giving an idea of what they're likely to have to be helping their children out with – which I suppose is a nice touch if the player had some rather tech-unsavvy parents. As I had already played Space Quest 1 by the age of 5, I think this game was never truly directed at me.. which is fine. I take no umbrage to playing a game that didn't really have me in mind when it was created. The manual continues by introducing Bookwyrm, a character designed purely for the game to introduce the young players to the stories that will be lampooned and altered. The basic premise of the 'Mixed Up' titles is a simple one – take a well known fairytale and make one tiny alteration which 'ruins' the fairytale/nursery rhyme, leaving it to the player to 'fix' them, e.g. providing the Itsy Bitsy Spider a water spout to crawl up and fall off of to his doom, or giving Humpty Dumpty a wall to brutally crack his head open on. (Olden time tales are kinda brutal like that.) I quite enjoy the way the opening page of the manual actually directly 'speaks' to the player, saying how 'you dream of' et al – it's a nice bit of immersion, particularly for the younger audience they're aiming at.

I trust Bookwyrm, because he has a fez.

I must admit that I was quite enthusiastic as I opened up the manual, finding five fully written stories (albeit rather abridged versions to my mind) of the five tales that are actually being explored in this game. These are (in no particular order) Bremen Town Musicians, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Beauty and the Beast and Snow White. They're minimally illustrated, but the fact that they actually printed up five whole stories over the space of the manual could well have made this almost a worthwhile purchase for the parent of a youth in and of itself. I'd not actually heard the 'Bremen Town Musicians' tale (four old animals near the end of their lives scare a bunch of robbers in their quest to become musicians) before, but the rest were essentially ones I could have made up off of the top of my head. I made sure to read all five of them as they were in the manual to my little one, so that she'd know what was going on. The ones that have been explored by Disney were very much based off of their origins, however, so no talking candlesticks and the like. So, there's a simple premise and I know what I'm getting in for – what else could a kid's game have going for it?

… which you can't really tell for her ornate dress. Or her lack of a left arm.

… COLOURING BOOKS! The box for this game must have been utterly gigantic, containing a 'how to get the game running' insert manual, a story manual, a colouring book and a game – they really packed as much as they possibly could in here, and I am nothing less than impressed. The game itself has a few fun quirks that the back cover explores and as such I do want to cover – the game was designed for 'classroom play', so it was really something they had thought could be played in short bursts. This is the second game that we've explored with this mechanic, though the previous one is notably less an adventure. Randomised gameplay is something that you couldn't normally place into an adventure game, but I can already imagine how this might work – Jack having a slipper where Cinderella has a magic bean, for instance. I'm hopeful that there's a few cutscenes or the like to keep things interesting – because no matter how well put together and beautiful this game might be, I definitely think it's at the risk of feeling a little wooden if all it comes down to is a game of a few quick pixel hunts and zipping by. If the game goes without any real dialogue due to the randomised elements, I'm certainly not expecting this game to do extremely well under the PISSED rating – but there again, the game is designed by people who can make a game about a kooky doctor with a magical island not only work, but spawn multiple sequels – so if anyone can do it, I expect that a game with Lori Cole's name and visage on the back of the box is capable of delivering. Also worth note is that this is one of the few adventure titles I can think of, particularly in this era, where you're not playing a predetermined character – you choose one of six avatars and a name (this is a part of the 'classroom' design methinks, but I still think it's a nice touch if implemented well – as I say, the dialogue could make or break this title for me, and definitely would have done for me as a kid. King's Quest 6 was remembered fondly for its clever play with characters and mythology – King's Quest 5 was remembered for an annoying owl, and those games are essentially the 'next step up' from this to the kids it is designed for in my opinion – if you guys think I'm being a little harsh, just let me know. Otherwise? On to International Space Year!

If people would like to choose a character for me, I'm more than happy to oblige!

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no CAPs will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. As this is an introduction post, it's an opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that I won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return. It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All correct (or nearest) votes will go into a draw. I'd recommend not betting on this game due to its 'random' nature – puzzles will literally be different between playthroughs.

Example Bet (a nice and easy one for 20 CAPs, methinks!):
Pnhtug orgjrra gjb jbeyqf
Zl qrfgval gb erghea nyy gb onynapr
Vagb pbashfvba V nz uheyrq
Pna V nibvq orvat rairybcrq ol znyvpr?


  1. Wait. We never played "Mixed Up Mother Goose"? Wow. I don't know how I forgot that. I have a soft spot for these old children's games and this one has some excellent art and design pedigree. The PISSED rating scheme doesn't always work as well for these games as we might like but I think it'll come out surprisingly well.

    My guess is 58.

    (And I hope someone does its predecessor as a Missed Classic soon! Hate to leave a series unfinished like that...)

  2. 56!! Haven't played this one(/didn't know it existed), but Mixed Up Mother Goose is awesome.

  3. 48.

    As for the riddle... Ncevy Elna sebz Gur Ybatrfg Wbhearl? Naq vs abg, gura Gevyol sebz Gevyol'f Abgrf?

    1. Your first guess was correct. My last was too hard - this was just too easy, methinks. :)

  4. 55 from me, I think it might be too simple to get anything higher.

    Perhaps we should have a colouring-in contest? Print out the picture of Cinderella and colour it in and get a free copy of a Sierra game? What do people think? (or another idea, if people wanted to draw their own mixed-up fairy tale?)

  5. I regret that not enough people will see this comment, but Star Trek: 25th Anniversary seems to be on sale for the next four hours on GOG:

    It might be on sale again, but I just noticed this now.

  6. Let's say 42. Also, I like the ethnic variety of the PCs. How about if you'd not pick up any of the Caucasian types?

  7. You could play the Black girl and name her Malia in honor of President Obama's daughter. This is the type of choice we'd like to have in many more games, but the budgets rarely allowed it.

    I'll pick 50, as I'm afraid this game will suffer under the PISSED system. It will do well on graphics and music, but poorly on inventory and probably on puzzles... unless you adjust the score for its intended audience. As for music, make sure you check out the phonograph in the Bookwyrm's den.

    In my mind, the greatest lack is that we were not able to use voice acting. For a game targeted at pre-readers, it would have been much more effective with someone reading all the text aloud. A CDROM re-release with voices would have been a wonderful upgrade.

    1. My intent is to try and rate it as if I were the target audience. Whether I will succeed or not is hard to say! That said, I will replay the short amount of it I have as per your request- it seems appropriate to honour the wishes of the creator!

      If you'd like to share anything else, I am certain we'd all love to hear it!

    2. I thought we were supposed to rate all the games on the same scale, from a modern adult perspective, to find out how well these classic games hold up today. Rating it from the perspective of the target audience (young children twenty-some years ago) will skew the score.

    3. Reiko is right, but that doesn't mean we should grade down a kids game either. If the puzzles are fun and challenging, that counts. I think Ecoquest did a good job with threading the needle on how we rate games (plus my own "Winnie the Pooh" and Christmas reviews, but I think Ecoquest is a better model for a full-length game).

    4. I'm not saying rate it down inappropriately, but a kid of the right age is going to have a lot more fun with it than an adult will, that's all, due to the challenge being pitched to them. It's not going to be any kind of challenge for an adult, so it isn't a full-length game. My opinion, of course. Aperama will have to make the final determination of that. I'm just objecting to rating it "as the target audience."

  8. I'll guess 40. From what I've heard, Mixed Up Mother Goose was the better game. This one could still be cute, but I think it will suffer on puzzle quality and inventory. Maybe setting, too, because I can't see much narrative cohesion to multiple fairy tales that are mixed up. But maybe it's a better experience than it sounds. I suspect it might be quite fun for kids, but not so much for adults.

    According to Wikipedia, there is a remake of Mixed Up Mother Goose that was released in 1992. Might be worth a Missed Classic or other extra post to compare the two games from the same year.

  9. Interesting to see this one come up as just last week I did a run-through of the Mixed up Mother Goose enhanced remake with my 4-year-old daughter, which she thought was swell. Gameplay seemed to be rather a mid-Sierra take on the early-Sierra Troll's Tale games with items strewn across a large landscape. I would have been happier had she been able to navigate the game's interface herself, but at least she was conversant with most of the rhymes present; in an attempt to avoid infecting her with Princess mania we have been negligent in boning her up on all the fairy tales, so she wouldn't be coming into this one fairly prepared.

    (Incidentally, if anyone has good recommendations for games young girls can enjoy that won't waste their time or fill their heads with rubbish, I'm all ears. Before MoMG we tried EcoQuest but 4 is a little early for that; this week we blasted through Rodney's Funscreen, The Manhole, Cosmic Osmo and Spelunx. Our spree kicked off with an all-Princess Toadstool run through Super Mario 2, but mom has in her endless wisdom asked us to refrain from games about avoiding "being hurt" by "bad guys" and "beating" bosses. This rules out a great deal as you can imagine. Next up on our hitlist are probably KQ4, Freddi Fish, and Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom -- which someone ought to cover as a missed classic here! I imagine that the Humongous catalogue will be figuring prominently in this household for quite a while from here on.)

    1. Hi Rowan. I've been playing games with my niece since she was about 4 so I'll tell you the kind of games we played.

      It might depend on what she watches on TV, but we had a lot of fun with Diego's Dinosaur Adventure (When I say we, I mean I found it repetitive after playing it once but she loved playing it a few times every week or so for about a year)

      Though seeing some of the games your daughter's played it might be a little too simple for her. It's a fun little game with a variety of simple minigames that takes 45 minutes or so to play through once.

      We also played a few Dora games but had a lot more fun with the Dinosaur one.

      Soon after that our first non-kid specific game we played together was Lego Star Wars which works well as when there's hard platforming to be done you simply swap controllers temporarily.

      Then again, these options may count as wasting their time or filling her head with rubbish so your mileage may vary.

  10. I´m guessing 39, but actually I hope it will score higher, because it looks very nice;)

  11. Save early, safe often. Although you can't die, I remember the game crashing a few times due to probably a resource leak.

  12. Why didn't Disney ever make a movie of the Bremen musicians? Singing animals is right up their alley.

    And the dice says 97... well, guess there must be a toddler inside them.

  13. 47!!!

    Also, that cover art reminds me of the original cover art for King's Quest V. I'm guessing it's the same artist...

    I trust Bookwyrm too - fezzes are cool!

  14. 42.

    Fez's are cool just like bow ties