Last week I broke one of my only rules and left my wonderful readers hanging. I’m not proud of my decision, not because the game was too long, but because it reflected poor planning on my part. But now I’m ready to fully present you one of the most beautifully drawn and written pieces of Visual Fiction I’ve ever seen.
When it comes to freebie games, one mustn’t expect too many bells and whistles. After all, when the person creating the game isn’t getting anything back for their work, they can’t invest too much time and expense. The best of both worlds comes from projects that are kickstarted, I.E creators get the money up front and use it to create the game. Cinderella Phenomenon was a Kickstarter project, but I was still expecting it to be low key since it was still available for free. I did not expect to be hit with a game the professionals would snatch up in a heartbeat. Cinderella Phenomenon is dynamic and dramatic, proving you can do a lot with a freeware title.
What if the fairy tales we know and love came from a dark place, or even darker than they do now? What if they came from a place of pain and suffering and then continued to cause harm?
Four years ago, a great war raged between witches, humans, and fairies. The once peaceful kingdom found itself disturbed when a traveling bard decided to put the wonders of the kingdom to paper. But in his stories, witches were always creatures of evil and fairies forces for good. This caused so much resentment from the humans that they hunted down the witches and burned them at the stake. Those who survived let their anger and hatred corrupt them, along with the mighty power of their magical crystal: The Tenebrarum. Along with near endless destruction, the witches created the Fairy Tale Curse, twisting the stories humans loved so much and making the humans work to break them, if at all.
The Crystal of Hatred and Anger corrupts us all
The leader of the fairies defeated the witch leader with the fairy crystal, the Lucis. The people of Angielle now have a prosperous existence under King Genaro and his new wife, Ophelia. They are less thrilled about their crown princess, Lucette, the famed Ice Princess. Lucette grieves the loss of her infamous mother, the only person she believes was ever honest and loving to her. Consumed by grief and lies, Lucette cannot see the wonder and joy of her kingdom. So, mischievous but “good” witch, Delora, curses Lucette with the Cinderella Curse. No one remembers she is the princess and she’s forced to live in poverty. She cannot break her ragged bonds until she accomplishes three good deeds, a feet much harder than it sounds for someone so mal-raised.
But Lucette is not the only freshly cursed soul; there are others who find themselves cursed by the Brother’s Grimm. Hoping to ease the suffering of those cursed, the Lucis bearer started the Marchen tavern, where they can eat, have fun, and work on breaking their curse. Here, several people have stepped up to help Lucette break her curse, but it’s up to you whom she decides to try on for size. Furthermore, all is not well at the palace. Alliances are strained as greed and evil push some to commit horrific deeds. Will Lucette find love in her Riches to Rags story, or will true evil rise and cause great tragedy?
The main plot of the story is basically the same: Lucette must unlearn her terse, antisocial behavior and learn how to be a good person. But the rest of the plot, involving intrigue and drama, changes depending on which love interest you choose to follow. They make you pick which boy strikes your fancy about one-third of the way in and the rest of the story forms from there. Each one technically involves the same story, just written and presented differently each time. This switching around makes the story more vivid and dynamic.
Alas, only three paths are available in the beginning to avoid spoilers. But, if you finish two of them, you get to see the other two and put all the pieces together. There’s even a recommended order if you want.
So how do you win your universal and fairytale love? Every so often in the game you’ll be presented with a choice. The choice doesn’t really shift the direction of the story, but it is essential that you pick the right one. You’ll know you’ve made the right call when you see a little crystal twirling in the upper-right hand corner. You’ll only know a little after the fact, so, make sure to save as often as you can. Get all the right choices and you’ll get your Happily Ever After, and all the cheese that comes with it. Make one wrong move and you’ll likely be beset with a bad ending.
This is your only way out
The romance and wish-fulfilment aside, the actual story is very clean and sharp. It is heartbreaking to watch Lucette make her situation all the more worse with her blunt and defensive habits, even more so when you realize that she just can’t help it. Even the tiniest of characters have a full, robust feel about them, and each side-plot is entertaining and given enough time to dance. Though you better get the tissues ready, because the good endings are still prone to some heavy tragedy.
The only concern I have is that, sometimes, the main plot feels like it has to wait for the romance to really kick in, which does make things drag just a little. But the game itself is so funny, I doubt the average player will mind.
The art in this game is some of the prettiest I’ve ever seen. It’s colorful with lots of variety in the backgrounds and character designs, each one very unique. There’s a heavy emphasis on a pretty, bishoujo style, which may be detrimental to a few, but I found it charming given the story.
The scenes are all very dynamic, with expressive sprites, CG’s that shift and change as the story progresses, and other effects during regular gameplay. I’m seeing this game do things that I didn’t know the Ren’Py engine was even capable of. Even something simple as Mr. Broom fascinates me.
Someday, Mr. Broom, you will pay
Waltz is a street magician with a talent for stories. His Neverland curse has trapped him in the body of a small boy, but it hasn’t stopped him from performing magic tricks and puppet shows to make the kids smile. He’s sincere and kind person, always ready with a joke, but there’s something sad behind those pretty eyes. Is this child hiding something from the princess?
He is indeed, though it’s not as exciting as I hoped for it to be. Still, while it lacks a grander reveal, Waltz’s story is very warm and inviting. It’s also a bit spoiler laced, so, I recommend playing him last.
Fritzgerald Aidan Leverton
Fritz, as the princess calls him, is/was her personal knight. He’s watched her grow and suffer for the grand majority of her life, all while protecting her whenever she needed him. He’s the son of the knight captain and seems to be suffering from a curse unawares. Despite this predicament, he’s loyal and willing to do whatever it takes to help Lucette breaks her curse. But, as the only person to be truly nice to Lucette in the beginning, is Fritz the harmless puppy he seems to be, or something far more predatory?
Fritz’s path is a good middle-path, but also the path that shakes things up. The majority of the game is spent at the Marchen, while Fritz’s path provides a new homebase and a new major plotline. It’s great if you’re starting to find the other paths a bit stale, but not so much if you’re looking for a story that’s fluffy and cute.
If you are, however…
The fairytale folk found Rumpel all alone with a blank journal. The poor fellow can’t remember his name, what his profession is, and why he was even cursed to begin with. The Rumpelstiltskin curse can only be broken by recovering three memories from his journal, the last one being his real name. Recovering information should be easy, however, when you’re as charming and flirtatious as he is. Ah, but is it truly wise to spread this much flattery around, or does Rumpel need a little tough love to reign it in? Furthermore, will his old life come out from the shadows to bite him?
Rumpel’s path is a fun one, because it feels very counterintuitive. Rumpel reminds me of Tamaki Suoh in so many ways, mostly because I feel something very genuine about his flattery. But I am not the kind of person to be blunt and terse, so this path was difficult.
Beauty – and perhaps gender – is in the eye of the beholder. “Miss Karma” is seen as the most beautiful, elegant, poised creature in all the kingdom. However, turns out “she” is really a “he”, with a Fairy Tale Curse he refuses to talk about. He only insists that it requires him to cross-dress to avoid complications, something that causes mass confusion and broken hearts a plenty. Still, if you like them confident, spunky, and intelligent, then Karma will be your favorite.
The over-dramatic, rather heroic young man turned out to be my favorite at least. His noble nature and his fairy tale curse were the best, and I love how similar he and Lucette really are. It’s the most relatable of the bunch, I believe, and I’d gladly do it again.
Rod Benedikt Widdensov
Last but certainly not least is Lucette’s stepbrother, Rod. Odd choice aside, Rod’s curse has robbed him of his ability to speak. He can only communicate through an enchanted rabbit on his shoulder. He’s rather cold and distant as a brother, and even more so as Lucette starts developing some scandalous feelings for him. But Rod is not interested in Lucette breaking her curse, as she was cold and awful to him and his sister, Emalalgine. But can spending some time with her estranged family melt Lucette’s heart? Melt it enough to fall head over heels?
Rod’s path is… a bummer. Based off the Little Mermaid, it naturally has to have at least a hint of darkness and melancholy. I rather enjoyed learning more about Lucette’s stepfamily, but know that this path is prickly. Rod is angry; Rod is cold, and you probably deserve every barb he throws your way.
I adore this game from its crystalline beginning to its melancholy end. The game is a slow cooking title, and it’s very hard to get to those good endings. But if you really try, if you really buckle down and play to win, you’ll get one of the best stories I’ve read on Lemmasoft. It will require some patience and about a week to carve out, but it’ll be worth it in the end.
Next Game: The Blind Griffin
Does the game look interesting to you? What’s your experience with freebie games? Feel free to comment below and don’t forget to like and follow for more content.