Saturday, 22 October 2016

Mixed Up Fairy Tales - Final Rating

Written by Aperama

Mixed Up Fairy Tales is a game I had quite a bit of fun with. Admittedly, I did augment my experience somewhat by using it as an introduction for my far-too young daughter to watch an adventure game being played, but that's not to say I couldn't have had fun with it solo. The issue with the game, even if I'm to ignore the fact that it was designed for a younger audience and the other things that will doubtlessly be explored in the actual rating, was the way it was designed for 'classroom' play. This is to say that I feel the relatively simple design may have had a double purpose (and I invite Corey to dispute or confirm as necessary). If you have a game that really has lots of finicky interactions, you're going to have a single player hogging the computer for a huge degree of time. Sure, there's still the definite sense of exploration in this game, but there's always the option to go back to Bookwyrm for puzzle solutions and there's never a puzzle that requires more than one item to solve. Whilst this would no doubt infuriate a veteran adventure gamer in their twenties who spent large amounts on this game (I tried to get an RRP for its release but couldn't find one), it'd be considered a boon to a game that an entire classroom of youths would want to get through. This before they were giving iPads to individual kids as they started school, anyhow.

The game design lends itself to being played by lots of different people, not so much the same person/family over and over again

Puzzles and Solvability

I mentioned that I wanted to try and give this game as fair a run as I could, and I am certainly trying to. That said, the simplicity of the puzzle design is definitely not doing it favours under the rating system. What I feel a good adventure game often has to offer in this regard is the 'domino' effect I've spoken of a few times whilst playing games for this blog. The best puzzles are the ones that unlock another couple more. You find the key which opens the door to the maintenance shed, and the screwdriver and hammer inside explain how you're going to open the elevator door panel and how you're taking the nails out of the shipping crate. Whilst this game definitely forces you to work a little for small increments, the story sections have no overlap which is a huge hit against potential points here. The back of the box suggested that items might be in random places, but I found in practice (on a second quick playthrough) that everyone and every item was in the same place. I don't know if this is just my experience/poor luck, as that could have been a mark up.. but as is? The game is unchallenging, but everything was sensible and enjoyable which puts it above Psycho (a notable 1) and gives me what I think is a fair rating, youth or otherwise.

Rating: 2

The repeated reminders as to what we're supposed to do make sense for the target audience – they're just not conducive to a high PISSED rating

Interface and Inventory

Again, I find myself forced to look at things in a negative light no matter how much I might like to otherwise. If this category is purely on what is grokkable and how often the interface 'gets in the way', I can give this a high rating and call it a day. The interface never gets in the way, the exits to rooms are obvious (there's no Leisure Suit Larry 3 'find the lawyer' or equivalent) and the inventory literally works by itself. The issue is that the inventory is only an individual item/person at a time and we never have the opportunity to interact with it, making this a game with virtually no inventory. It works in the sense that it's only what the player character can 'fit in their hands' with no magic pockets carrying half a toolshed within, but it's really difficult to say that this is a strong point. I like inventories brimming with potential, and this is simply not present in Mixed Up Fairy Tales. The interface I find no major faults with. Its simplicity is definitely a strength which is being used even to this day in Telltale titles and the like. I do like additional options however, which do feel a little missed as a veteran adventure gamer. I'm also looking negatively on the single-save system – I can't help myself here. I like saving and testing things out, even if this game gives no requirement to in either length or difficulty.

Rating: 4

'Do' and 'See' are clear and bright as day, but there's just no replacing a full inventory and more.. options, right?

Story and Setting

I am so incredibly happy that the worst of my criticisms are now behind me, because this game is something I could almost literally refer to as a classic. Every last tale that the game explores is put together well enough that not only would most people and their dog have heard of them by an extremely early age, but fit together remarkably well. Using several tales that involve a town and a set of woods was a really good idea, because it never feels like too much of a stretch. After all, why couldn't all of these tales have taken place in the same 'universe'? The game doesn't even try to claim that they have – they're merely in the same storybook, sharing a continuity for being on the same pages which we're exploring from 'the inside'. The way the game is put together is incredibly clever and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The overarching narrative of Bookwyrm vs Bookend was also clever, though I would have loved more of that original story. Scratch that – I wanted more in general, as everything felt like I could do with more. This is a very good place to be in my opinion.

I also really enjoyed Bookend, even if the character was just a little bit creepy to look at

Unfortunately, the fact that so much time is spent upon stories from elsewhere means the game never gets the full 'experience' per se. Every story feels just a touch rushed, picking up just on the key elements of what has been laid out in the manual. I'd almost have preferred more detail in three stories than spreading out to five, I think. I might also have liked a little more conflict offered in some way. Not a 'fight' or anything, just something to create a little more tension than 'the stories are all going to be stuck!' That said, this is really more nitpicking than anything. It's put together wonderfully, and deserves praise.

Rating: 7

The stories stand up on their own even without foreknowledge – but they definitely benefit from it greatly

Sounds and Graphics

This game is freaking beautiful! I definitely feel that 1992 is the year where we go from 'good for its time' to 'just plain good'. Even today, while some people may prefer a particular art style or the like, it's hard to say that anything of this game is anything less than visually stunning. Even with the relatively limited colour palette offered to them, the fine people at Sierra outdid themselves here. There's no screen which feels carbon copied from one another. Admittedly, they probably had a deal more time to work on things here – the game only offers what I'd call somewhere between twenty and thirty screens, with only a couple as 'filler' (random potential areas to encounter characters and items I suppose). Everything is quite tightly designed and has its own purpose, but it all looks utterly gorgeous.

It looks so good I can even forgive it having a maze

The game only uses a few sounds – animal bleats and the like, the sound of the Giant falling off of Jack's beanstalk – but all are clear, obvious and delighted my young one as she heard them. The music came out really well on emulated Soundblaster (I had to choose between it and the sometimes less than stellar Roland MT32 emulation) and each song was not only recognisable but usually fit the mood being created. The choice to use only classical pieces was one which I feel worked out well in this instance, though many other games might well feel pained for this. This also means that they missed out on the chance to put together a couple of memorable ditties of their own, which I feel almost disappointed over due to how beautiful they managed to make all of the game's imagery. I could literally see this game on a modern tablet being played by a 4-5 year old with them utterly engrossed in both the visuals and audio in spite of its age.

Thirteen tracks, all of them memorable even if some couldn't do much more than hum Ode to Joy or the Valkyries at a pinch via names alone

Rating: 8

Environment and Atmosphere

This game is somewhat evocative of the imagination of a preschooler, which I'm certain was an intentional design choice. Everything is bright, colourful and presented with something to keep one's interest piqued. The simple choice of using short, descriptive sentences to assist in descriptions is one that fit this game to a T. The idea of saying that the flowers smell like favoured foods constantly made me smile. That's what this game does – it makes you smile. The relatively short number of screens did make the game feel 'tiny', though, which may have been a design choice. I definitely would have liked a couple of angles and the like which might give a better idea of scale in all game screens like Beauty's cottage did to Prince Charming's castle, myself. I've sat at my computer for three minutes trying to mull over other negatives – there really aren't many, outside perhaps of the game being somewhat monotone in its feel. I'm not saying it didn't fit, but maybe having Beast be a little more frightening at first might have added to the game? I'm spitballing here.

Simple sentences with good structure that read well. Certain people would do well to learn from this game.

Rating: 7

Dialogue and Acting

Unfortunately, I feel that the game is again let down here by its target audience. Everything in terms of the dialogue is cleverly put together, I won't argue that. A good portion of characters do feel as though they have their own 'voice' even without actually having been acted out by a person. The issue is that all of the dialogue is in short bursts. There's only one conversation which lasts more than a handful of lines, where I would really have loved more. I understand why, but I can't be fully merciful. I might also use this opportunity to say that I kinda hate the text boxes in this game. The colour scheme is simply not appealing to me. It reminds me of a CGA colour palette. I loved me some CGA, but with the stunning and beautiful backdrops, seeing this light blue-green on dark blue in huge letters for half of the game makes me sad.

I agree, Bookend.. we're talking about the same thing, right?

Still, this design choice isn't one I really plan to hammer down upon. It's functional, even if it really does detract a little from the otherwise beautiful visuals. The dialogue not having more 'meat' to it is a definite issue, though. I'd also have had more characters like the Rooster, who doesn't really need to be voiced in order to immediately picture the voice of mentally. Going from the rooster to the cat is a big letdown, with no Eartha Kitt stretched 'r's and the like against the rooster's cockamamie speech. Admittedly, this makes it far more readable, which I'm certain was far more important to the notion of making a game aimed at preschoolers. As I say – design choices aside, it feels a little bit of a missed opportunity. (My narration of the cat was far less wooden, I must protest.)

I was almost surprised not to find more puns, but what can you cock-a-doodle-doo

Rating: 5

Final Rating

So, adding up (2+4+7+8+7+5) is enough to have this game rate at 55 – which is quite a touch higher than a lot of people felt the game might hit. However, there is the little thing of discretional points to be discussed. Unfortunately, while this game is short, I still had several crashes to 'desktop' (to Dosbox's command prompt) which I feel is enough to have me subtract a point, particularly given Kirinn mentioned it in the opening post suggesting that this isn't at all uncommon. Still, 54 isn't bad for a game of this genre to my mind! Andy Panthro guessed the unadulterated score, so he wins the CAP prize upon the game readily. On to Hugo!

Mixed Up Fairy Tales CAP Distribution

100 points to Aperama
  • Blogger award – 100 CAPs – for blogging through this game for our enjoyment
30 points to Voltgloss
  • Adventurer's Assistant award – 30 CAPs – for assisting Joe in his explorations of Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective
20 points to Andy Panthro
  • Psychic Prediction award – 20 CAPs – for only just barely missing the winning mark on a technicality
20 points to Corey Cole
  • Industry Insider award – 10 CAPs – for providing us with some neat little tidbits on the game's production
  • Naming award – 5 CAPs – for suggesting the name of our character
  • Grammer's Defenderer award – 5 CAPs – for reminding struggling writers, that, they sometimes, overdo, things
5 points to Kirinn
  • Save Early, Safe Often award – 5 CAPs – for reminding us all of the dangers of adventuring unprotected
5 points to Laukku
  • Deep Analysis award – 5 CAPs – for likening the simple line of the game's story to Anna Karenina


  1. >which puts it above Psycho (a notable 1)

    Psycho got a 0 in that category.

    1. Ah! You're correct. I skimmed the master list looking for comparisons to a game with puzzles that all fall into place more or less of their own volition (and somehow looked in the wrong column at the 'I'). In hindsight, LSL5 is probably a better comparison, so I could possibly see it as dropping to a 1, though in truth it could also be compared to a game with an in-game 'hint' system. The more information you ask for the easier things get. I never felt unhappy with the progression though, where I'm fairly sure Alex was livid at the approach in LSL5.

  2. CAP scores updated: Aperama rose to the fourth place in the Leaderboard!

  3. Munt 2.0.0 released!

    They've fixed some of the issues I mentioned here.

  4. Yep, this one could definitely have benefited from a bit more QA. Unless whatever resource leak is caused by an unexpectedly fast computer speed, in which case they wouldn't have caught it anyway. I still like Mother Goose better somehow than Fairy Tales.