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About the StoryLittle did you know that when you went to bed that night, and your mom had kissed you good night and left you room, that you would embark on an adventure beyond your wildest dreams. An unexpected visit of a wizard sets things in motion, a kingdom in peril, an evil queen to be defeated, puzzles to be solved and YOU are the only hope.
84th Place - 26th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2020)
With Just Another Fairy Tale we also have a traditional fantasy plot: An evil queen rules the land, and a good wizard has reached out to you in a dream to ask for your help. Youíre only a child, but you set out on a quest to return a magic compass to the wizard and save the land.
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The overall setting and structure for JAFT are nothing close to original Ė the player character is a ten-year-old whoís contacted by a wizard and transported to a fantasy land to save it from a wicked queen Ė but some good old tropes are good and old for a reason. Entering the world is at first like entering a warm bath, as you pick clean a homely cottage in the woods and then enter a dark forest for some light adventuring. The writing is undistinguished, but fits this high-fantasy story with a pre-teen protagonist just fine.
There are a few things that distinguish JAFT from the countless other stories with similar premises. First, thereís a note of whimsy and humor Ė Iím thinking especially of the puzzle involving the trolls (Spoiler - click to show)(theyíre from Poland, so of course when theyíre turned to stone by the sun, they transform into poles made of petrified wood) and a punny bit of business involving a magic clock. Several puzzles also have alternate solutions or offer multiple paths through the game, which is very helpful given that I found the difficulty level of the game quite high.
On the negative side, there are two primary issues I had with JAFT that wind up reinforcing each other. Many puzzles rely on what Iíd call pixel-hunting design in a graphic adventure Ė there are many progression-critical objects that can only be found by methodically examining every single word thatís mentioned in a description, and even some that arenít (Spoiler - click to show)(for the former issue, Iím thinking primarily of the sprig of thyme, where you need to examine one specific piece of the hedge despite there being no reason to think to look there; for the latter, all of the hidden spots on walls that donít draw any attention to themselves).
The related issue is that ďnear-missĒ solutions donít wind up generating helpful nudges to the right track, but rather parser confusion. I had to go to the walkthrough to get through the aforementioned bit with the trolls, because something I was expecting to be there wasnít, and the responses to trying to interact with it didnít lead me in the right direction, even though what was going on should have been obvious to the player character (Spoiler - click to show)(that is, I kept trying to X TROLLS or X STATUES to no real effect, even though apparently there were a bunch of undescribed giant troll-shaped wooden poles lying in the clearing). Dialogue with characters similarly felt very fiddly Ė there was one puzzle (Spoiler - click to show)(talking then listening to the wind to get the dragonís name) that I couldnít get to work even when I was trying to just type in the walkthrough commands. And there were several guess the verb/guess the noun issues that stymied progress.
Combined, these two issues meant I felt like I was groping my way through JAFT, unclear on what I should be doing or how I should be doing it or whether I was close to a solution or miles off. Again, I think the basic concept is solid, and some of the puzzles do have some promise, but thereís some significant polishing to be done to make the experience of playing the game fit the charming, winsome mood the storyís trying to create.
The reason I did not get very far in two hours is mainly down to the verbs. Perhaps Adrift has a different set of standard verbs than Inform and Tads; a lot of the ones I'm accustomed to were not recognised, and when I finally gave up and had a look at the walkthrough, the solutions surprised me. I was reminded of the challenges Jason Dyer writes about when playing very old games. In these games, you need to forget any expectation you have about which verbs will work and which will not. In a sense, Inform games have made me very comfortable with a certain way of interacting with parsers, and I'm not really equipped with the lateral mindset for something completely different.
As far as I came, I found the story to be quite okay. It's very stereotypical, but also cute in a way. The moments in which it shines are whenever it is obvious that you are a little boy, and a rather obedient one at that. A feature I enjoyed -- which sometimes was necessary, but only occasionally implemented -- was being able to examine elements over a distance. In the end I think I might have enjoyed it more if I had consulted the walkthrough earlier and gotten a bit further, though that would also have been counter to my instincts.
This was the first game on my personalized list, but I thought it was charming and wanted to take it slow.
This is an ADRIFT game, which means it comes with that ADRIFT style where precise verb noun combinations are needed and Informís and TADSís automatic feedback systems arenít in place. So you have to poke around.
This is a fantasy pastiche (with an especially funny moment where the game loads music by Peter, Paul and Mary and invokes the wizard Google) where you are teleported to another world and asked to bring a compass to a wizard.
While the storyline resembles a fantasy teen novel, the game itself is well-adapted to parser fans. It has traps you can fall into without knowing for sure if they are traps, and requires careful experimentation and searching, but it also has multiple puzzle solutions.
I had hoped to do most of the work on my own, and asked a few early hints, but ended up heading to the walkthrough around the bank segment. Given more time, I probably would have just left this open for a month and poked at it.
I definitely donít prefer ADRIFT or Quest games for their systems, which often frustrate my gameplay style, but I have grown accustomed to their style, and they work remarkably well for menu-based systems (ADRIFT more than Quest).
This game was charming overall, and I had a good time playing it.
-Polish: The eternal bane of most ADRIFT games.
+Descriptiveness: I thought the game was well-described.
+Interactivity: I was often frustrated, but when I took it very slowly, it was fun.
+Emotional impact: I found it charming
+Would I play again? Why not? From the other scores I can see this early on, I might be in the minority, but I got a kick out of this game.
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