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*Achichooo!* now where's that feather blown to?, April 25, 2022
The intro of Fairest places the player firmly in well known fairy tale territory. You're a prince with two stepbrothers. Now blow on this magic feather and do weird questy things so they don't grab your kingdom out from under your royal arse.
The world in which you are supposed to do the questy things is cleverly put together. The map I drew looks far smaller than how the lands I travelled through felt. A few cutscenes where you run and tumble behind a magically fluttering feather and a strategically well-placed but temporarily cordoned-off bridge give the feeling of a very large space. (Can you guess why the bridge is cordoned-off?)
The questy things themselves come in threes. As such things do in fairy tales...
Three times you are presented with a princely objective, and must overcome obstacles to attain it. The puzzles are not hard. Aside from flailing about a bit trying to guess a character's name (no, not (Spoiler - click to show)Rumplestiltskin, although he does play a part), I managed to get through the game without much trouble.
The mildness of the puzzles left me with more brainspace to admire the narrative itself. As you guide your high and mighty princey-wincey through the story, you encounter a veritable hodge podge of fairy tale ingredients. Sometimes these are drawn pretty reliably from the source material, other times they're just a passing shout out to a well known trope or tale. ((Spoiler - click to show)Like the town of Hamelin. I was a little sad that the piper and the children from that tale were not included....)
Regarding the source material, the author manages to simultaneously go forward and backward in time with her interpretation.
-Although there is no material unsuitable for children in the game, there are however plenty of nudges and winks to the ancient folk tales with their grim horror and cautionary content.
-At the same time, the familiar tropes (gender roles, destiny by birthright) of the genre are questioned, criticized and sometimes outright ridiculed.
The depth of implementation is astonishing, as is the immersive power of this game. Both of these are intimately connected to a very clever layer of meta-story strung through the story. Without elaborating too much, I'll say that it reminded me (almost chillingly so) of a key moment in Michael Ende's The Neverending Story.
An extraordinary feat. Fantastic game.