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"Once upon a time in a fairytale kingdom far far away... all is not as it seems!" Truer words are tough to come by, as Jarrod, Justin and I attended Playlogic's behind-closed-doors briefing expecting a family-friendly fighting game starring the gingerbread man. We were all way off the mark.
Fairytale Fights is a brand new property from Playlogic Game Factory, in development for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC. As a host of fairytale characters who quest for fame and fortune, rescuing damsels and retrieving magical relics along the way, players must battle through the game's side-scrolling stages. There's a degree of three-dimensional depth to move around in as characters run left or right, meaning that you'll have to line up jumps, avoid traps and attacks accordingly. More importantly, it gives Red Riding Hood and company extra room for violent wanton cruelty and monkey decapitations. Yes, monkey decapitations.
We were under the impression that this was a bubbly, cheerful game until one of the developers walked up to a bear in the first level and cleaved it in half with a pick axe. Then our perception of Fairytale Fights shifted from one of a cutesy kid's game to a humorous beat'em-up riddled with slapstick violence. With over one-hundred weapons to choose from, there's ample opportunity to maul enemies in ridiculous ways, spraying blood and gore everywhere with each strike. This isn't Disney-like by a long shot.
The developers walked us through a number of levels, including a rather notable giant's house where the action takes place in the rafters. Similar to other stages we saw, there are nice touches like mouse traps and plenty of cool details in the background. They also showed us a boss fight with a discontented beaver, fought from the planks of a fallen bridge floating on the water. The game draws heavily on its source material, so the majority of players will feel at home in each environment. We won't spoil which stories step in to the limelight though. Instead, let's discuss the game's focus: fighting. A lot of care has gone into making the combat satisfying. This is evident when looking at the two technologies that Playlogic Game Factory developed specifically for Fights.
The first is called the "volumetric liquid system", which allows blood and whatnot to behave like its real-life counterpart (with some stylized flair, of course). Essentially, so much blood is in this game that the developers made it possible for us to slide in it and smear pools of the red goop across the ground. Blood sprays more and more gratuitously from player-controlled characters and NPCs as attacks reach a fervor and powerful combos are unleashed, creating floods of hemoglobin to play around in. At times the screen looks like a Slip 'n Slide from fairytale hell. Other liquids are similarly exciting. For instance, dumping a bottle of acid on opponents melts them down like warm ice cream. "I don't think anyone has seen something like our liquid system", one developer told us. Well yes, it's quite the novelty.
Secondly, the demonstrators were proud to elaborate on their dynamic slicing system, coined "Salami Violence". Players have full control over the manner in which they cut up enemies, as each model is fully textured and animated in 3D. Arms, legs, and other body parts can coat the floor as fluffy bunnies and evil children are sliced up like green onions. Using a slicing weapon fills up an on-screen meter that can be used to unleash special "Glory Attacks" wherein a window displays next to the action, framing a close-up of your character devastating the enemy with a series of attacks. Glory mode allows for more precise strokes, which is great for all the... errm, artists out there.
The volumetric liquid system and dynamic slicing are Playlogic Game Factory's unique ways of utilizing Unreal Engine 3. They've used it to create a world that's lively and rich, with a simplistic but pleasing art style. The layered textures are also neat. As enemies are diced into pieces, their innards become exposed, revealing skeletons and even brains. Other players can join in at any time on or offline, as Fairytale Fights lets additional people drop in and out of player-versus-player battles and story mode. The developers couldn't pin down an estimated length for the game when we asked, but they said to expect a fairly sizable adventure. The onslaught begins this autumn, so be sure to check our review when the game drops onto shelves. Till then, we'll
slice see you online!