Traditionally, Little Red Riding Hood is an endearing young girl who loves her grandmother. Not a disturbed and cackling sprog wielding a twelve-inch serrated kitchen knife. And her name definitely shouldn't derive from the fact that her clothes are soaked in blood, having disemboweled a group of lumberjacks with said knife.
Such is the world of Fairytale Fights, which takes a number of cutesy characters and submerges them in alternative fairy stories where everyone doesn't live happily ever after. In fact, most don't live at all.
This is a 3D platformer and fighting game, with a huge amount of weapons to wield (over a hundred in fact), and cartoon style graphics which are almost as sharp as those implements. The inside of the Candy Witch's castle looks positively edible, the halls adorned with glistening lollipops and golden syrup rivers which have to be leapt across, Frogger-style. What's more, the environments aren't just eye candy: it pays to keep a close eye on your surroundings.
That's because dotted throughout the levels are various traps. You might not notice a small hinged section on a bridge if you run blindly across it, but you'll certainly notice when it swings open and you plunge to your death.
Fairytale Fights throws in some twists like this: in another section the bladed claws of robotic cats chop down, with a timed run necessary to make it through. Further on there are more mechanical cats, except this time their arms extend further from their sockets as they come down. We didn't notice this at first, mis-timed our dash as a result and got splatted. Being observant certainly helps.
But the traps, timing and jumping puzzles aside, Fairytale Fights is really all about the fighting (which is why it isn't called Fairytale Jumps). Using your fists or preferably a weapon - there are five grades of lethality, from stick to sword to bloody great scythe - you get stuck into multiple opponents like a whirling dervish with the right analogue stick. The left stick moves the character and the right stick launches an attack in the direction you're facing. Holding the stick powers up an attack.
It's a bare bones and simplistic control scheme, yet it still manages to be clunky because you attack in whichever direction you're oriented. This means you might jab the right stick at a baddie, but because you're not facing him, you'll slash at the thin air in front of you.
Matters are made doubly difficult when the automatic camera view zooms out, because the characters become quite small and it's tricky to tell which way you're facing, or indeed even see yourself when multiple monster are crowded around. It would have made more sense to us to have the player turn and attack in the direction the right stick is pushed.
On the bright side, the gory combat is nicely realized, with limbs cleaved and blood spurting all over the shop. It's even possible to slide around on the blood pooled on the floor, like some sort of supremely psychotic ice skater. And these sorts of antics are highly entertaining to begin with. However, when you've bludgeoned your way through the six-hundredth gingerbread man in a row, with the only variation between them being that some are a bit bigger and some have long wiggly arms, it becomes less of a hoot.
While the initial levels have a bit more variety and interest to them, the game soon settles down into some rather repetitive and overly long sections which seriously drain the fun from Fairytale Fights. Some more inspiring boss fights punctuate these drawn-out levels, granted, but this still didn't add up to enough to hold our interest for all that long.
Particularly when we encountered a few frustrating bugs, such as getting stuck on bits of scenery and falling through the floor of a lift which meant we had to restart a whole level and lose an hour's worth of play. Trundling down those long, gingerbread-filled halls all over again was certainly no teddy bears' picnic.
Ultimately the game feels rather repetitive and somewhat pointless. Aside from completing the levels, the main objective is to grab as much of the cash dropped by the dead monsters as you can. However, the only purpose these earnings serve is to build a statue of you. Adding some sort of character upgrade scheme might just have given Fairytale Fights an extra hook to keep the player coming back for more. Well, that and an injection of variety into some of those levels.
It's a neat concept and the game started off quite promisingly, but the ending wasn't a fairytale one for us. There are some well implemented boss fights, and certainly some mileage in the limb-rending carnage. However, the dodgy controls combined with some awkward camera viewpoints, plus the overly repetitive levels, slowly sap much of the joy from the experience.