OK, first review on my new/resurrected blog and it’s a great one to start with.
As always I remind you this is my personal opinion only.
I’ve recently plunged into the world of indi games and quite liked what I have found. While I wait impatiently for the expansion of one of my favourites (Loren Amazon Princess- which I will talk about in another post…) I have been looking for quality alternatives.
Cinders immediately got my attention for its artwork. I saw the advertisement pop up in my inbox and knew I had to give it a try. So I played the demo and decided to get the full game within five minutes.
Cinders is a retelling of the famous fairy tale Cinderella. You remember that one? Girl with ugly sisters and harsh life (for no apparent reason) catches royal Hubbie and lives happily ever after.
Cinders is not like that…
This is more a visual novel than a game. The artwork throughout is stunning and reminds me strongly of baroque oil paintings. It seems to be set around the same regency type time period too. The images are not static however; there are subtle touches of animation in the background. Doors and windows swing open, candles flicker, water sparkles and birds fly. The characters themselves display varied facial expressions that suit the dialogue. I must admit the moving eyes creeped me out a little at the beginning… it was like the eyes in a painting following you. Gave me flash backs to many a bad horror film… So apart from bringing out a little of my paranoia the art is one of the strongest features of the game.
Cinders attempts to get to the people behind the fairy tale. Why was Cinders treated so harshly by her family? Why were her family so desperate to catch themselves a Prince? Why the hell was a ball held in the first place? Royalty should not need to go fishing to catch a wife, right? The game addresses all of this and much more. At the heart of the game is the story of a family in crisis. The player is presented with a mind boggling variety of choices that not only decides the fate of the family but forms the overall character of Cinders herself.
You can make cinders a dreamy idealist who simply wants to skip through fields of sunflowers hand in hand with her one true love… or she can be cunning and more manipulative than her scheming stepmother… or she can be a lazy whiney girl who blames her woes on everyone but herself…She can be angel or demon depending on player choice or any of the shades of grey in-between.
The plot line and dialogue flow nicely and there are quite a few twists and turns in the storyline. There are four main endings you can work towards, but many variations of each. Also with each ending unlocked a trophy image is added to the main menu meaning that to see the main menu image properly you have to complete all the endings. It’s a clever little idea that certainly had me furiously trying to figure out how to get a certain ending just so I could add a glass slipper or candle to the menu.
That leads me to the one frustration I have. The lack of save slots. Perhaps I am being dense and there is a way to increase them but I have not figured it out. 8 save slots is simply not enough for a game this complex. I found myself restarting more than once as I realised I had made a wrong choice some time ago and had already saved over that part of the game. This is a minor niggle but one I feel needs addressing.
I normally play games like this with a bit of cynicism. They are usually geared to whichever romance option you choose. Again Cinders surprised me. The story is the main focus for this game and on my first two play throughs I felt no compulsion whatsoever to settle on any of the available men. Again this deviates from the fairy-tale, Cinders can end up alone or with someone other than the Prince. I liked this feature and enjoyed exploring the other possible routes. I must admit the banter between Cinders and her childhood friend Tobias had me giggling at the computer. I felt a bit sorry for the poor Prince. He misses out on the same amount of screen time as the others, but perhaps that is the point. He is the traditional choice that we all know from the story so the other options would have been at a disadvantage if they were not well developed as characters.
I found myself truly pitying my “ugly” sisters even though they were vile to me/cinders. The game slowly peels away the layers and shows you why the other women in Cinders life are so hostile. You can choose to mend relations or choose to get revenge. In all honesty I could relate so strongly to the sisters I always found myself trying to do right by them. The Stepmother was another matter. I could sympathise with her, but I resented her for constantly chipping away at her daughter’s self-confidence. The fact I became so protective over “the girls” shows just how far this game pulled me in.
Next, the music. It fits the game beautifully but never was so intrusive that it would pull me from my reading. A little haunting oboe here, saxophone there but never once did it clash with the game events. The ticking sound that indicates dialogue speed can be annoying but it is easily turned off. I found myself turning it back on because I eventually decided it added to the game. It’s hard to convey tone in a game that has no voiced dialogue. The dialogue sound gives an indication if someone is speaking quickly, drawing out a sentence or even at times I found myself thinking a character was whispering or shouting and it was all down to a little ticking noise that can be heard as the dialogue is displayed. This is another subtle feature that shows how much thought has gone into this game.
Finally the price. I have heard whinges that the game is too expensive for an indi game. To those people I say you clearly have no idea how much work goes into a project like this. A game such as Cinders requires a mind boggling amount of time to put together. Artists, writers, composers and coders etc need to eat and deserve to be paid properly. A complex game with so much replay value deserves to ask for a fair price to cover the expenses. Also the developers need to stay in business so they can make other intelligent games that shine amongst most of the dross out there.
If we have to boil this down to something quantifiable I would give it 4.5/5. Not quite full marks because of the save niggle but otherwise this is a beautifully crafted game that has consumed my PC time over the last week and a half. I even took my lap top to work so I could play it at lunch! (Of course I did not play it when I was meant to be working! What are you implying?)
If you wish to buy the game then it is available at