the writings of a mind

Title: Fairy Tale about Father Frost, Ivan, and Nastya
Genre: Adventure
Big Word: Pumpkin
Strap: Pop another stepmother on the fire, would you dear?

Once upon a time there was a brave and handsome games journalist called Prince John. Prince John was a good prince, fair and kind, just and balanced, and wise beyond that of all in the Kingdom. But sadly John’s wisdom was not recognised by his father, the evil King Kieron, who hated Prince John with terrible jealousy. King Kieron believed that if he let Prince John shine, the people of the Kingdom would cry out for John to be their King, so instead he kept John in a deep dungeon filled with dodgy European adventure games.

Fairy Tale about Father Frost, Ivan, and Nastya, for that is what it is called, is a game borne out of the fairy tales and mythology of Russia, made in the Czech Republic, and now claimed to be aimed at children. Using the rather traditional narrative device of opening with a grandmother reading her grandchildren a bedtime story, we soon diddlydoo our way into the tale, playing an archetypal fairytale heroine, Nastya. She’s oppressed by her wicked stepmother, bullied by her horrid stepsister, and forced to do all manner of chores under the threat of her hair being pulled out. We’ve all been there.

Then just as your settling in, the game starts over again, this time with you playing Ivan (pronounced ‘Yvonne’ apparently), a bullish ‘hero’ abandoning his mother to find himself a bride. (Of course, later on the two tales cross over). And it’s all in the most traditional of traditional point-n-click adventure stylee – the man will give you the V2 rocket once you’ve recovered his lost catfish from the Bulgarian embassy, or whatever.

The aim was to create a game suitable for entire families to play – you know, just like in your house when you all gather around the monitor, holding hands, laughing together like the people pictured on the boxes for board games. However…

No child is going to play this – children like proper games, not half-hearted attempts to teach them ridiculous morals in a painfully sanitised world. And even if you were the parents who wanted their child to be absorbed into this reality, maybe a friendly fisherman returning a snuff box to our young heroine Nastya, shouldn’t say, "I’ve finished the tobacco. It was a great help to me. Now I can breathe more easily." Nor perhaps the inclusion of "life-restoring" vodka.

It’s full of nasty errors, incorrectly placed hints, nonsensical dialogue ("I am quite eager, and wonder what could be in these sacks."), spelling mistakes (log written as "clog"), and the most tedious conversations ever concocted, causing me at more than one point to /scream/ at the monitor, begging it to stop. Although possessing some redeeming features, employing the rarely seen techniques of good-old adventure gaming, there’s just nothing that can make up for the mind-numbing boredom experienced throughout.

The poor, intelligent, attractive Prince John looked through the bars of his cold prison, with a tiny bud of hope in his heart that one day, just maybe, he would live happily ever after.

Margin note:
Fairly Pale

I really want to share this conversation from the game with you, to give an idea of the lack of care that’s gone into translating things. Nastya is talking to her best friend in the market place: "Mina darling, do you know where I can buy a diadem?" / "Sorry, I’ve got no idea." / "Fine, I’ll try that." That will be a ‘ho’ and a ‘hum’ then.

 Traditional adventure gaming, using traditional folklore, making traditional mistakes.


Tech Specs:

Publisher: Cenega
Developer: Bohemia Interactive Studio
Price: £30
Minimum System: P200, 32MB RAM, 210MB HD
Recommended: PII 300, 64MB RAM, 420MB HD, 8MB SVGA card
Multi-player: No
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