Monday, 10 October 2016

Mixed Up Fairy Tales - Book 'em, Wyrm-o

written by Aperama

A rooster gives my first impressions of the game

It's fair to say that there really hasn't been another game quite like this on the blog as yet. It's not as though I consider it a bad game – hell, I am fairly sure that I would have far preferred it to the 'Wheel of Fortune' clones et al that littered my school computers before my brother managed to trick the school staff into using our copy of Monkey Island on them (er, not that this happened naturally because piracy is bad) but in truth, all of the other games we've reviewed aimed at an 'easier playthrough' or a 'younger audience' really aren't quite on the same level as this one. This game is very much a First Steps to Adventure-styled title, not something that really offers much for an older audience. Amongst the things which simplify it are a system with no real inventory (the panel for inventory says 'your hands are empty' but the only things I have been able to 'hold' have actually been people/animals following me), lots of big text, big sprites that really show everything off in the game openly – you see a frog and using the hand icon on the frog makes it jump, for instance – I will not say using the 'do' icon on the frog, as that is just a bit frightening – meaning that where there have been other titles that perhaps lean upon the 'edutainment' side of things.. we're really into a game that is more an 'experience' than it is a game with puzzles that culminate together to a pleasant outcome. That said, I've been playing it with my toddler on my lap / narrating it throughout, and that feels like a happy medium – she's very much interested in the graphics and music and enjoys the attention of having something read to her like a 'story book'.

This librarian looks angry..

Maybe it has something to do with the fez-wearing dragon who pops out of her books?

The game starts out with a short cutscene whereby our character, Malia (thanks, Corey!) is at a library, looking around for a book to read. The librarian is insistent upon shooing her out so that she can re-evaluate the Dewey Decimal system or some such. A book pops out of a bookshelf as Lincoln blows gum behind her in a very Dr. Brain-ish Easter egg, with Bookwyrm coming out of the book and explaining how he needs her help. It turns out that his book is all mixed up! She's willing, but doesn't want to leave the library. Naturally, Bookwyrm points out that they're going to stay in the library (inside the book inside the library – this counts, evidently) and gets her to join him in the Land of Fairy Tales.

The portraits in this game are really put together quite beautifully

The Sierra gamer in me really wanted to try putting my hand in the fire and get a death screen
– it assumed I was just walking towards it. Disappointed!

And as Corey mentioned – a 'music box' in-game!
 I'm yet to encounter Wagner's Valkyries, but I am looking forward to seeing how they fit it in!

Bookwyrm goes briefly over how we're to complete the game. Basically, there's an unknown force which we soon learn is 'Bookend', a weird... spherical hairy thing that is decidedly not frightening to me in any way, reminding me a little of my mental image of 'Enry the Hermit from QFG1 EGA (basically a 'big blob of hair'). He has been mixing up characters from fairy tales – tying them to trees, getting them lost in the woods and such, and we need to go around and replace them to where the characters would be in the books. This is not a difficult task. After finding one of these characters, you select which fairytale the character is from. The game goes from 'hard clue' to 'medium clue' to 'no really this is where I'm from – you can't fail this as even if you get it wrong you can guess again) and then get to relive the fairytale, fixing up the minutiae which have flummoxed the tale and bringing things to their better known conclusions. I was quite hopeful that there'd be full 'mixed up' things a la the game's precursor – Jack getting a poisoned apple instead of a magic bean – but instead, it's all fetching people from place to place... at least, thusfar.

Lots of little things to peek at as you go, though
– selecting the birdhouse with the 'DO' command has a little bluebird fly around

Calling out Bookend from his 'railway crossing' leads to him showing himself off..
and.. god what is this even supposed to be?

Snow White's 'subtle' clue. She goes from here to talking about the Seven Dwarves
 – then mentions that her name is Snow White..

~ Snow White ~

The 'tale select' screen

So, after exploring for a while, the first fairytale character I ran into was Snow White. At just a glance, I had figured she'd be Snow White before even speaking to her / getting clues – the dark hair is a bit of a giveaway as we're essentially looking for a Cinderella, Beauty, Snow White.. then Jack, or perhaps a giant, or some animals for the Bremen Town Musicians. Regardless, I ran through all of the conversation with my daughter in my lap – she was quite enthralled by it. Ironically, for playing in this fashion as someone playing through with someone who doesn't quite have the ability to play the game herself, having no voice in-game may well have actually helped out – though I can certainly see that as a solo / classroom play, voices would have gone very well throughout as per Corey's mention. Regardless, Snow White wants to go and meet the Seven Dwarves, and she trusts us to take her there. If you're in any strife, you can always go to either the map for a visual idea of where you're to be, or walk back to Bookwyrm and he'll explain the direction we ought to be facing. Realistically, there are only so many screens, so it's pretty easy to work out where we have to go...

The Dwarves are in the southwest corner. Obvious other points are the town to the northwest, Beast's castle in the south and the Bremen Town cottage in the northeast

Not going to lie – I legitimately laughed when I saw Bookwyrm dressed like this

The Dwarves are very happy with Malia, though only the one actually gets a portrait

Snow White's reunion with the Dwarves is a happy one, with all of them slipping away into the cottage when I drop her off. I figured that was that done and went on looking for our next fairytale – but it actually turns out there's more to this. After a little more exploring, we find Snow White in her signature glass coffin, which I found a little heartening as I was kinda worried that they'd be skipping out on any of the more potentially 'nasty' things for the game oriented moreso towards the younger audience. Admittedly, it's not like there's any gore or such. The Dwarves have plenty to say, but it comes down to them mentioning that we need to find Prince Silver, Snow White's dream True Love. We find him.. tied to a tree, of all things. I'd really like to know how weak little Bookend managed to tie up a big Prince – but turns out he did, anyway. We don't actually get to meet the wicked Queen who gave her the poisoned apple ingame – upon freeing the Prince and taking him to Snow White (and Malia being very firm about telling him that he needs to kiss her), the game explains that everyone lived Happily Ever After™ (notably failing to mention the imminent death of the Queen) and we're off to our next tale!

Far more importantly than the dead lady in the glass cotton? Cakeflowers.

Prince Silver is into some weird stuff...

Out of context as this may be, I laughed far too hard at this

This is how we know we're off to our next adventure

~ Bremen Town Musicians ~

The tale of the Bremen Town Musicians is one that I mentioned I'd never heard of prior to setting up to play this game. Basically, it's a tale of four animals forming a street gang and scaring out some robbers in a cottage out of their place to take all of their money and food. In the two versions I've read since hearing of it prior to playing the game, the donkey is always the ringleader, but in this, we run into the rooster first. I'm not sure if this order is randomised or if it's always the rooster that you're going to run into first, but after the game crashed mid-saving the donkey in one of the memory leaks that Kirinn mentioned, I had the same order pop up the second time I had to quickly play through with it after my daughter decided it was time to hop off my lap and start chasing my cat? I'm not sure how this comes up as far as the randomised gameplay.

The rooster is happy to have us spirit him away

After the rooster is the cat. The cat, it turns out, was frightened away by Bookend – maybe the cat is just reminded of a particularly nasty hairball in looking at him (it?). I actually came into what I'd call my first confusing point here – talking to the cat wouldn't lead it off of the tree it was hiding away on. I was almost about to think we needed to fill our 'inventory' (again, I have only seen it 'filled' with characters – I was thinking of bribing it out of the tree with milk or something) but instead, we needed to use the 'do' command on ourselves to have Malia talk to the cat. I later realised I was missing out on a few dialogues throughout Snow White, but at least I had a small 'oh, that's something else I can do!' which I was sure to continue trying out in different places.

I wonder how many youths struggled a little here in classrooms?

This cat looks so sad!

The dog (who is actually named here as Scot unlike the rooster or the cat who go nameless) is the next of our ragtag mob of bandits to be put together. The rooster and the cat have no idea where he might be, but Bookwyrm actually just so happens to have heard what he was up to – Scot was chasing Bookend, because he just found it so fun to chase him around. Makes sense that the bundle of hair is frightening to a cat and a tumble weed to chase for a dog! He takes a little convincing again, though it's really just continuing to push the speech button on both him and Malia until he eventually remembers that he needs to join the rest of his friends at the Crossroads.

The face is clearly Sean Connery, right?

The donkey is the last of the four we need to hunt down. Turns out she's been tied up to a tree (I'm sensing a theme here), and can't find her way out! Being a donkey, I'm somewhat amazed that she can't just chew her way through the rope, but the solution here is pretty obvious – we untie her, I cry as an adventure game has me drop a perfectly good rope and doesn't let me pick it up for later, and we head back to the crossroads to reunite the four for the end of their fairytale.

Her mouth is virtually hovering over the rope

Worth noting – for some reason, they are all very averse
 to going through town, though they're all farm animals in the story

The noises made my daughter laugh like crazy – especially the donkey's 'HEE-HAW'.
Also worth noting – the donkey loads up all of the animals, but leaves Malia to walk!

Reunited, the four of them begin to take the road to Bremen Town. They're all very happy as they make their walk, though Malia does begin to sow the seeds of dissent in their minds as to whether they're actually making the right decision. They love the greenery, but Malia explains that not all towns actually have a great deal of greenery and the like – they have a long speech with one another in their awkward rooster riding cat riding dog riding donkey foursome, only to come upon both the end of the road (it's blocked off by overgrown trees) and a small cabin which looks like it will take the four of them in quite well. They peek in, find the two robbers, a humorous little scene whereby they all 'sing' and have the robbers believing that monsters are coming out of the woods ensues.. and we again get the 'end of tale' screen. I've got to admit – for all that I'm having a lot of fun with it.. this game really doesn't feel like it is in any way designed to challenge. Is this a bad thing? Who knows!

I'm imagining that the blockage is the trees on the right, anyhow

(insert Looney Tunes 'zoom off' noise here)

Play time: 30 mins
Overall time: 30 mins

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 points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. That said, if you'd like to share any information or have anything in mind? Please let us all know! This game isn't really the sort that I'm worried about having spoiled – I've literally already read the book(s)!


  1. This does look pretty! I'd wager that with a bit of an update, it would make a fine adventure game for a kid's tablet device. I felt much the same about "Winnie the Pooh" and "Dragon's Keep" and it's a shame that those old interfaces don't hold up today for kids.

    Seriously, someone should make modern versions of some of these Sierra "Edutainment" titles. I'd LOVE to have this or one of the Lowe games on my son's iPad. And I do NOT let him have any games yet beyond the "Peekaboo" titles.

  2. That's a lovely second sentence! You should enter it into the next Bulwer-Lytton Competition ( "It's not as though I consider it a bad game – hell, I am fairly sure that I would have far preferred it to the 'Wheel of Fortune' clones et al that littered my school computers before my brother managed to trick the school staff into using our copy of Monkey Island on them (er, not that this happened naturally because piracy is bad) but in truth, all of the other games we've reviewed aimed at an 'easier playthrough' or a 'younger audience' really aren't quite on the same level as this one."

    1. My shame (and penchant for run-on sentences) knows no bounds. :)

    2. I think it's just part of your style, Ape. I wonder if we had a contest where we would pick up paragraphs from posts of each reviewer (with all revealing references being blanked), would the readers be able to connect the correct paragraph with the correct reviewer? (Problem is, how to prevent people just googling the right answers...)

    3. I think that would be fun, and nobody would google the right answers as that would defeat the fun. I trust my fellow adventure gamer readers (Don't let me down, people!)

      Though I suspect that apart from some of us other reviewers, most readers probably don't pay attention to who the writer is of each game.

    4. I don't know. I think each of us has a slightly different flavor, but I pay attention to this stuff because I am a reviewer. I hope in some way that we can all be distinctive, but also that we're consistent enough that no one says "it's too bad such and such is going this game, I was hoping for a better reviewer".

  3. Seeing a rooster and a wyrm somehow reminded me of this one novel, The Book of the Dun Cow. Jvyy n qrcerffrq qbt cbxr Obbxjlez'f rlr bhg?

  4. Bookend is a Meep who escaped Quest For Glory right?

    1. Ew, no! Meeps don't have hands, and they're far cuter.