Genre: Sports Adventure
Publisher: SCEAbr> Developer: Idol Minds
Release Date: November 16, 2005
I’ll cut to the chase, because, honestly, I really don’t feel like talking about this game any longer than I have to. It consumed my life force with each minute I controlled its onscreen characters, and even thinking about it has a mild draining effect.
To get ay possible enjoyment out of Neopets: the Darkest Faerie whatsoever, you’ll need to be a Neopets fan—and I mean a big one. The game’s full of them—they walk the streets, they wander the countryside, the whole planet (aptly named Neopia) is completely populated by them.
However, know this: For every Neopet that you see in this game, a full hour of good gameplay was sacrificed. And you’ll be seeing a lot of the little buggers.
The story centers around a country bumpkin named Tormund, who goes into town to deliver a package, and becomes a knight through several accidental circumstances (which will be completely spelled out and honestly, didn’t look very accidental from where I was sitting. No, really, his package was delivered. He could have decided to just not go to the knight’s training arena—but that would have stopped that game’s progression dead in its tracks. Still, I digress). Along the way, he’ll meet a female mage by the name of Roberta, and learn of the Darkest Faerie, who’s using the planet to further her own dark desires. Lots of fighting happens along the way before her ultimate defeat, or so we’re led to believe, at any rate. As will be mentioned later, there really won’t be a whole lot of fighting that isn’t part of the game’s script—the upshot to having no random battles in this game is that there are hardly any random enemies to fight at all.
The story’s charming—if generic—enough, at any rate; however, as I’ve already said, if you don’t like the Neopets, be prepared to get no enjoyment out of experiencing it.
There are a whole lot of reasons why you, like I, will probably never see Tormund become a knight, or even meet his partner. The first is the control, which falls flat no matter how patient you are. Stick control is loose—Tormund moves slow when you want him to be fast, but when you want to be precise, the guy’s practically greased lighting. This game also has the worst ladder-climbing mechanism in the history of video games. Combat is the very definition of haphazard-most battles are close due to the game making it quite hard to defend after attacking. The magic system is somewhat interesting, but nothing we haven’t seen before; mainly a stripped-down version of what you can see in any Final Fantasy game released so far.
There’s also the gameplay structure, or lack thereof. A little ways in, Tormund runs across his first subquest. See if you can follow along with me here, though even I have trouble at times:
Tormund is about to accidentally (long story) become a knight. The only thing standing in his way, however, is a sponsor—someone to vouch for him. Fortunately, one of the town’s legendary knights is in the tavern right now! Going to the tavern will reveal that before said legendary knight will do anything, however, he needs to overcome his severe depression of losing his prized sword. So the sword must be found, but it turns out it’s been shattered and scattered in the area outside of the castle. After gathering the pieces, you must take them to the blacksmith, whereupon which you’ll find out that the hilt is missing. The hilt’s whereabouts is in the possession of the person responsible for having the sword shattered in the first place, and to find it, you must pay him 100 currency while he is in prison. Only then can you unravel this complicated set of quests within quests—however, if you spent your current cash on provisions upon first entering town, then good luck finding any more cash, as enemies up to this point have been exceedingly scarce! You can, however, earn more currency by hunting down even more subquests!
You can see now where the frustration arises. I have never seen such pointless layering in my life, nor such a transparent attempt to add hours to shallow gameplay. When a game forces you to hunt down a walkthrough or strategy guide due to its own bad design… well.
The game looks about as basic as one can get—things are bright and colorful, but low poly—you can almost smell the middleware. The game sports some rendered full-motion video cutscenes, but they seem to be encoded with the same software used in PSX games, right down to the graininess and lack of framerate. On the whole, the game looks wholly unimpressive, if one doesn’t count the number of Neopets which roam around towns at once.
The sound, too, is just as unremarkable. In fact, as I write this review, I’m hard-pressed to remember any sort of background music. The voice acting, to the game’s credit, works fairly well, but then you find out that so many of those NPC Neopets will only emit random grunts when you talk to them instead of actually saying something that might give them personality (they do get text prompts to go with those growls, but that’s it).
Also, Lord help me, I can barely remember any sound effects, either. I know they were there… somewhere.
When all is said and done, Neopets: The Darkest Faerie is a budget game being sold above budget price, fully riding on the coattails of its franchise in order to make its money. Its gameplay mechanics are at best, boring, and at worst, snooze-worthy. If you enjoy Neopets, you may want to give this one a tentative rent, but that’s the most that I can suggest to anyone. Outside of this, the game is whollly uninteresting, and in some cases, insulting.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to wash the taste of this game from my mind with a rousing round of 187: Ride or Die.
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