So, a few months back, my wife and I sat down and watched all of Disney’s CG “Tinker Bell” movies, and quite liked them. Naturally, I wound up owning a copy of the associated video game once it made its way to Steam, and it has been lurking in the depths of my backlog waiting to bubble to the top ever since.
It’s a very interesting game. Not so much for the complex storyline, mind you – the plot is limited to “this fairy is mildly sick, collect the components for a cure” and “this fairy would like to bake a cake, collect the ingredients for a cake” and so on for about four hours until the whole thing wraps up with very little fanfare.
What I found interesting is, while it’s obviously aimed at very young children (at least, as long as they can read – there are no voice-overs), the game play uses a lot of concepts from traditionally complex game genres, particularly MMO quest design.
As mentioned, the plot is broken up into “here is a task, please accomplish it” segments, each of which ends with the fairies moving the year ahead another season.
Let us not delve too deeply into how baking a cake might help with the passage of seasons.
Most of the early tasks teach you how to play a variety of mini games, each designed to showcase a particular fairy’s talent. Tinker Bell fixes things, Silvermist makes dewdrops, etc. They also teach you to pick things up off the ground, which is littered with assorted leaves, flowers, grasses, and so on, all of which come in a good half-dozen different colors.
This game is brutal on the color-blind, by the way.
As the game progresses, it becomes much more about fetch quests, the fairies sending you for items have longer and more complex lists of things they need, and those things aren’t always immediately available. Once you learn which forest clearing is most likely to have seeds, for example, you can go there and have a reasonable expectation that you’ll find seeds. They may not be the particular variety you need for the quest, but you can pick them all up and wait a few minutes for respawn.
You can also switch between characters and trade between them, and this is where the game actually gets pretty complex for its intended age group. For example, Fawn has an early quest involving fixing beehives. As a quest reward, she’s given honey.
A few seasons later, Rosetta needs to collect ingredients for the cake baking fairy I keep mentioning. One of them is honey, and that can’t be found on the ground anywhere. You need to switch over to Fawn, fly to the same screen as Rosetta, and give her the honey before Rosetta can finish her quest.
Likewise, if you need to clear a screen of items in order to get respawns, the items all wind up in your current fairy’s inventory. This inventory is persistent, so you can hold on to items for future quests that might use them, or trade them to other fairies who need them to complete their part of the story.
It’s not really a masterpiece. If you like the Disney Fairies movies, you’ll probably like it. Likewise, if you have kids who are fans, they’ll probably enjoy it – as long as they can read along with the instructions and aren’t too easily frustrated.
But, in addition to those two obvious audiences, I think it makes a pretty good reference for anyone interested in game design theory… though you may need to grit your teeth and deal with some aggressive cuteness, if that’s not your sort of thing.