Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Mixed Up Fairy Tales - Malia in Wonderland (Won!)

Written by Aperama

I know – one play post and we're already to the end. This is not a typo or a trick. Unfortunately, the truth is that this game is simply.. well, simple. It's not like I didn't enjoy it! I enjoyed reading Game of Thrones, but I don't need every novel to go several hundred pages. That said, I can't really pad it further I feel. Outside perhaps of giving more detailed synopses of the stories contained than the games actually give, as they're all told from the first person of an outsider in-game? This makes it far more interactive to a player, yet does remove certain intricacies that we can gain from having either multiple points of view or a tale being told from afar. When you're the one getting the magic beans, unless there's something noteworthy which happens during the journey to do so, there's really not a lot to say about Jack's quest up the beanstalk. Why? Because Jack is still the one climbing, not the player. King's Quest 1 takes the opposite approach, knocking out Jack and putting you in his shoes, where this is very much about the story of origin first.

Well, okay, mostly the story first..

The main reason I don't want to look at the background of the fairytales is that I just feel like there is so much history behind each of them that it'd derail the discussion of the game. However, I'd like to point out a few more things that I've learned throughout the second half of my playthrough. Firstly, the game allows multiple fairytales to be explored at once. I simultaneously had Jack, Beauty and Cinderella all badgering me for things. That said, unlike a standard adventure game where you could pick up a pumpkin, magic beans and a rose all at once, this game limits the inventory space to one item/person. This makes it impossible to powergame your way through if you for some reason wanted to play for speed rather than to enjoy yourself, but this does at least let you be somewhat efficient with your screen-wandering.

Handily, stopping to smell the flowers is encouraged

~ Cinderella ~

After a failed career as a gravedigger and zookeeper, Malia takes up gardening

As such, while I technically did some of these things all at once – the game only having a single save file making it impossible for me to go back in the same game and do them purely individually – I started with Cinderella. As per the broadly accepted telling of the story, we find Cinderella moping about in her garden. Turns out that her stepmother and stepsisters (who she doesn't expressly call 'wicked', but we can all agree that they probably are nonetheless!) aren't letting her go to the Prince's ball! Just as we're talking to her about her woes, she's visited by a fairy. Turns out that her Fairy Godmother is hanging overhead, and that all she needs are some simple things to make Cinderella a grand entrance to the ball. I was a touch flummoxed here as the castle of Prince Charming was literally the next screen over, but I do understand that adding random screens simply for scope would have been to the detriment of the game overall.

In my head, the Legend of Zelda 'success!' noise just played

They skipped the 'find a pair of rats' sidequest I was half expecting

I really feel bad for saying this, but this appears
 to be 'lining up for a swift kick to his Charming testicles'

Fetching the pumpkin is a relatively simple thing. We head over to a pretty stream with an apple tree and a huge pumpkin sitting out in the open, which we can comfortably pick up. There's also an apple hanging off, which I grabbed thinking to begin my typical adventure game hoard.. and we eat it. Oops. Thankfully, this doesn't come back to haunt us in any way – I think this is just a subtle way of encouraging kids to eat fruit, which is A-OK in my book. (Bookwyrm will predictably give us directions if we can't find the pumpkin, but the game only has so many screens anyhow.) Taking the pumpkin back to Cinderella and her fairy godmother, she is magically transported into a carriage, where her drab peasant dress becomes notably less so and she has her hair done up. Walking a screen to the left, we run into Cinderella and her Prince amidst their fabled 'lost slipper' scene, where the Prince calls out for her.. and then, Bookend snatches up the slipper just before the Prince gets to it! I'll admit this really got me into the swing of things, as it was really exciting to suddenly end up in a 'chase scene'.

Admittedly, the chase was less than exciting if I wasn't really in the mood for it..

Worth noting the way the game literally lights up when we fix the story here!

Two problems I've always had with this story: one, what if Cinderella didn't have bizarrely shaped feet and another girl just slipped it on? Two.. why didn't this slipper change back to her peasant-y sandals/shoes/whatever they started with? (This is a problem with the story, not the game, though.) Regardless, after Bookend proclaims that the story will now 'never end', we abruptly pick up the slipper, take it back to Prince Charming, who travels the 'enormous distance' of one screen to his right, runs into Cinderella..

This seems a very poor manner of deciding one's marital status

~ Jack and the Beanstalk ~

The age-old question – how can you find Magic Beans when you're grounded?

The answer? Ask Bookwyrm!
Jack's problems are probably the simplest to fix, in truth. His dilemma is pretty much the one I'd expected he'd have – turns out that after selling off the family cow for some magic beans, he's in just a little bit of strife with his mother. The real problem? Some ugly, short and hairy thing spirited the beans away before he had time to plant them! Sure enough, turns out that this is Bookend. They're not exactly in the most sensible of places. I'd really like it if a few of these items were a little better hidden. I'm not saying make a pixel hunt, but showing Bookend put the slipper into the foliage instead of the middle of the ground would have done a lot to create a simple puzzle. Similarly, maybe if the magic beans were 'mixed up' with another puzzle? I really would have loved it if finding the pumpkin was rewarded with some magic beans that were perhaps left with Cinderella by a decidedly unsavoury individual, and don't think this would have made for too difficult a thing for the younger audience. However.. sure enough, the beans are found, returned and Jack immediately plants them.

Oh sure, now you think about what your mother says

You didn't mention this treasure earlier, Jack. Now how's about a finder's fee?

Jack, evidently not the most fantastic planner in the world, discovers that upon frantically scrambling down the beanstalk for the nth time with the assorted treasures of the town, the evil giant who stole all of the aforementioned treasures is coming down the beanstalk. Who'da thunk. He went home looking for his axe, only to discover it missing. Instead of running around like a crazy person trying to find it? Malia, you're up! Naturally, I considered waiting to see if they'd have an 'easter egg' death a la Monkey Island. I did not explore this though, instead rushing away to find the axe at the pressure of the child in my lap. Bookend didn't do a great job of hiding it – he could have even stuck it into the side of a tree instead of jabbing it into the ground. But he didn't. Jack chops the beanstalk upon being given his axe and as I'm sure you can guess..

~ Beauty and the Beast ~

Urgh. Even in a children's game, Sierra can't resist mazes

Beauty is standing in a cottage just south of the castle. I do approve that in this screen, the game gives a little bit of a perspective as to the 'distance' between screens by showing the castle off in the far distance even though it's traversed in a remarkably fast fashion, which does address my earlier critique somewhat. She's looking for her father, who went away for a few mercantile dealings and hasn't been back by for quite some time. Turns out he's standing out the front of the castle of the Beast (not that he knows this to be its title, mind) looking in desperation for a rose for his daughter, as he promised her one in his travels. I do feel that this does highlight a slight weakness of the 'abridged nature' of some of these tales – Beauty's request is perfectly reasonable in the proper tale as her sisters ask for everything under the sun and she asks for a really humble present, whereas here we only see Beauty and her father. Still, turns out a maze is far easier to traverse when it's all exposed on one screen for you!

After Beast demands Beauty as payment, he is completely
clear to Malia that he only means well. I liked this being addressed.

And before we even get to see her dropped off, she's already trying to get back to the mansion!

Retrieving the rose only causes pain for Beauty's father. The castle's owner, Beast, who had already not only left treasure but taken him in over a horrible night, is furious. He demands repayment in the father's permanent company – he mentions the reasoning behind taking the rose, but mentioning Beauty only has Beast more intent upon a different form of company still. He decides he'll have Beauty as his live-in companion instead. Beauty's father runs, agreeing to the demand. This again makes a character seem a little more selfish than they actually are – the original story has Beauty's father intent upon rejoining Beast upon dropping off the treasures he's given and Beauty selflessly volunteering herself. Again, this small change does somewhat alter the dynamic, but the game still does make a positive out of it by having Beast insist he's not going to hurt Beauty. Figuring the natural progression would lead to Beauty and her father's cottage in the town, I started my way there. The game doesn't let me get this far, however – mid-way to town, we run into Beauty, who is already trying to find her way back to Beast's castle!

I can fathom being creeped out, but maybe not frightened by this approach

You'd think she'd be able to see over the hedge – she does seem notably taller than it!

The route to return isn't exactly fraught with danger. See, turns out that she's got a fair idea of how to get back, but every time she tries to make her way back to Beast, this horrible thing called Bookend keeps popping around and scaring her away. Thankfully, Malia isn't afraid at all of Bookend. (I am, just a little.) With her by Beauty's side, she's more than confident enough to make her way past him. Given he's virtually just saying 'ooga booga', this isn't too surprising. She runs into Beast, finding him near death for he was missing her companionship so much – he asks her to marry him, and after the short conversation she had with Malia she realises that her answer is yes. Upon this revelation, he turns into a handsome Prince as per the story – and, you guessed it..

~ A Tale of Book's End ~

Just when I thought it was all over...

Before I have any of you think that the game ends at five stories being fixed... no, no. As we leave Beauty (or whomever the fifth story should end with anyhow), Bookwyrm is out and about. He heard someone crying for help, and immediately decided to run out to find out what had gone wrong. Problem being, there was nobody there – and when he found his way back into his cottage, there was no more Book of Fairytales! If Bookend really makes his way away with it, nobody will ever hear these stories again! (I might suggest he's being a little bit melodramatic, myself.) Thankfully, we've a fair idea of where Bookend's hideout is, given we bugged him right at the start of the game in his cave..

“Well. That escalated quickly.”

Bookend threatens to burn the book when Malia asks him nicely for the book back. Bookwyrm responds to Malia's call and similarly puts a polite request out. When Bookend insists that he's not going to go per their request, Bookwyrm transforms into a gigantic dragon who barely fits in the cave! Bookend, frightened, throws the book to Malia and bursts out crying. It turns out that Bookend was only ever doing these things for a simple reason.. Because he can't read! Malia immediately works to fixing that problem. She points out immediately that Bookwyrm would be more than happy to teach Bookend to read. With that, Malia is free to return to the library – and she has a fair idea of which book she's going to be checking out! And with that, we have the end of Mixed Up Fairy Tales!

Play time: 30 minutes
Overall time: 1 hour


  1. This looks like such a charming game, even if it is short. I have a soft spot for children's adventures and I might even pick this one up to play through with my son some day.

    Do you think you (or anyone else?) might be interested in doing a Missed Classic of "Mixed Up Mother Goose"? It seems such a shame for us to have an official rating for a sequel where we never played the original... ;)

    1. I've considered it. Beyond that I shall not say.

  2. I never thought Cinderella had strangely shaped feet. Maybe in one version she did, but I thought her feet were just small, so the stepsisters' feet were too big for the slipper. In one version, one stepsister even cut off her heel to try to make her foot fit.

    1. In all versions of the tale I've ever heard, not only is every available bachelorette invited to the ball, but every one from there is checked by the Prince in his wild search. The stepsister visit is just one of an implied many. I know, the shoe is 'magical' or whatever excuse you might use, but all I can say is Cinderella might have better married a cobbler than a prince!

    2. Assuming that prince is only interested of adult females, it is perfectly reasonable that Cinderella just has the smallest feet of all bachelorettes in the country.

    3. The idea of tiny feet being delicate, and only belonging to the sweetest and most gracious of ladies, runs through many cultures. For centuries, upper-class Chinese girls had their feet bound up at a young age so their feet would stay tiny ("lotus feet"). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foot_binding

  3. >Because he can't read!

    Wow, that such a deep villain motive.

    1. It is, in fact, the major point of the game. Reading makes people happy. Illiteracy is bad and makes people unhappy. The player should learn to read so he/she will have a happy life. (A game for preschoolers shouldn't be too subtle, after all.)

    2. Some classic novels are not much better - I recently finished Anna Karenina, at the end of which Levin apparently discovers in a rather non-sequitur manner that the Meaning of Live is to live for God. (The novel has numerous other more nuanced messages, but that one stood out as especially eyeroll-worthy.)

    3. Well, Tolstoy was pretty Christian in his later years and I think he had experienced some sort of conversion before writing Anna Karenina, so that kind of ending is just to be expected.