STAFF REVIEW of Darkest Tales, The (Xbox One)

Wednesday, November 9, 2022.
by Peggy Doyle

Darkest Tales, The Box art Indie games with cute characters will always get my attention. Add in fairy tales and I’m even more intrigued. Put a dark twist on those fairy tales and I’m all in! Videogames are no stranger to the concept of dark twists on fairy tales, there are many of them. The newest to tackle this genre is The Darkest Tales from Trinity Team and 101XP. What happens when the heroes from your children’s stories are twisted by their thoughts and deeds?

You play as the adorable, although grumpy, protagonist named Teddy. If you couldn’t figure this out, he’s a teddy bear. After spending some time locked away in his toy box, he is awakened by a fairy named Lighty (who dwells in the nightlight) telling him that the little girl who owns him (Alicia) is trapped in her own mind and needs to be rescued. She is being kept, locked in her own nightmares, by a sleep demon. Teddy must now become Alicia’s knight in shining armour and rescue the little girl. Lighty gives Teddy a pair of scissors to accomplish his task - defeat the nightmares and help wake Alicia.

Teddy starts out wielding this pair of scissors that he breaks in half to create dual wielding blades. As you work through the story you will also unlock a bow, boomerang, axe, harpoon and great sword, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Each is also able to be upgraded via the skill tree. As you kill enemies and collect skill orbs throughout the game, you will fill the skill tree up. It levels your health and weapons at a fairly steady pace and doesn’t feel too grindy. In addition to the skill orbs, you are able to locate ability orbs that will give you bonuses. Some of these include having a longer dash or dealing more damage when you are at lower health.

As you uncover new weapons and abilities, you can play with them to uncover different methods to move through the game. Some of the abilities can only be equipped one at a time so you need to decide what to use and when is the best time to equip a particular ability. Each new area requires you to learn new ways to traverse it. You’ll encounter Red Riding Hood, Peter Pan, a giant, Sleeping Beauty, and Maleficent to name a few of the characters. You’ll fight gingerbread zombies, giant insects, wolves, bears, dwarves, and a whole cast of fairy tale creatures.

Combat is only one part of this 2.5D platformer. Unfortunately, the platforming isn’t as fun as the combat. Some of the levels are rage inducing and ask for near perfection when navigating. This is almost impossible at times, primarily due to the inconsistencies with Teddy’s controls. The beginning is fairly simple and straightforward, as Teddy can jump, run and attack using his scissor blades. Then you’ll open a dash, double jump and grapple hook to swing from. As you open these other advanced movements it starts to become less cohesive and smooth. Teddy will often not let go of the grapple hook or throw it when you hit the button. This means he will miss, or the timing will put you square in the danger zone.

The same goes for the double jump. The double jump only works well when you hit the second button tap when you’re at the apex of the first jump. You have a very small zone to have this work, so it ends up being pretty finicky and frustrating. You would think simple double tapping would get a double jump but it’s not the case. It is fairly counter intuitive compared to other platformers I’ve played. The Darkest Tale also seems to have some fairly inconsistent difficulty spikes. Perhaps that’s just on me though.

Each level has a shattered window (mirror?) that allows you to jump to any other level you’ve completed. Each level also has save points where you can change your equipment and skill combos.

Visually, The Darkest Tales is striking, it looks like it’s taken directly from a children’s storybook. Each level has a different theme, focusing on one fairy tale. You’ll have the Woods from Red Riding Hood, a giant and their beanstalk, Neverland with Peter Pan, even an underwater level where there may be a little mermaid. It was beautiful and yet disturbing to see how the developers twisted the children’s classics I grew up with. The level designs were creative and varied, and at an instant you could tell what story they were from. The watercolour aesthetic was a perfect choice for this storybook game.

A strong vocal performance from Yong Yea as Teddy was a highlight. He was gruff, grizzled, angry and cranky. Exactly how he should feel after being discarded in a trunk and forgotten about. The dialogue between characters was well done, each character having a sort of sinister side that I wasn’t expecting. The developers could have made the dialogue between Teddy and others squeaky clean as a lovable teddy bear, but it’s clear from the start that Teddy has some serious issues with being abandoned and takes that out on poor Lighty from the beginning of the game. The soundtrack was enchanting and foreboding, haunting and beautiful.

If I could pick one issue I had with the game besides the mechanics listed earlier, it’s that there is no map. Early in the game this isn’t an issue as the levels are fairly linear. However, as you progress through the game and the levels become more complicated, you have more ways to traverse them and it’s easy to get turned around. This became one of the more frustrating moments as I did find myself from time-to-time backtracking, or after falling from a platform, not being exactly sure which way I was supposed to go.

Overall, The Darkest Tales runs about 6-9 hours, and despite some technical issues, I enjoyed it immensely. I would have liked to have seen something new with regards to gameplay, but sticking with the classics has a sort of comfort to it, and that also plays into the toys and fairy tale feeling. The characters were delightful, the artwork was spectacular, the music was enchanting and the tale - Twisted.

**The Darkest Tales was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.3 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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