At Home Game

The FairyTale Files: The Cinderella Murders

Review

Game Description

“A Glass Slipper Murder? Lady Treville and one of her daughters are found stabbed in the royal gardens by a glass slipper. The prime suspect is the mistreated stepdaughter Cinderella – she had motive and opportunity. Could it be that simple?”

Personal Experience

The Society of Curiosities games I’ve played this year have been uniformly excellent, so when I found out that they were doing a series of Fairy Tale-themed games, I was onboard immediately. Earlier this month they released the first of these chapters, The Cinderella Murders, which I was very excited to pick up and play through.

The excellent aesthetic design was visible from the moment I took the game envelope out of the shipping envelope; emblazoned on its cover was a really cool, bramble-inspired design, with subtle call-outs to both this mystery and the future installments:

Inside, the art is even better, featuring a style that feels like a colorful take on Charles Addams or Edward Gorey. The artist, George Grimmsbery, really knocked it out of the park, lending the game a charmingly macabre atmosphere from start to finish. This charm extended to the web interface as well. Society of Curiosities have adapted their excellent bot-style messaging system well here, re-skinning it to look like you’re writing back and forth with your ground agent in an enchanted storybook.

The game advertises itself as medium difficulty, and suggests that it should take between 45 minutes (for experienced enthusiasts) to 90 minutes (for newer players) to complete. I found that estimate to be spot on, taking me a hair less than an hour to successfully j’accuse the guilty suspect.

The remaining three chapters in the Fairy Tale files should be released throughout the rest of the year and, if this level of quality continues, I’m in for quite a treat. I can’t wait to revisit these grim tales!

Narrative

Society of Curiosities have created a fun, inviting, and macabre Fairy Tale mystery adventure, smartly blending a classic Fairy Tale with a modern detective procedural. It works exceptionally well and, given the gruesome endings of the classic Grimm’s Fairy Tales, I’m shocked that something like this hasn’t been done before. (Let me know in the comments if it has!)

The writing is playful and creative, complementing the artwork well and filling the non-visual aspects of the game with fun little easter eggs, puns, and a variety of fun, fairy-tale folk with problems of their own. I really enjoyed the more modern take on the main characters, making them feel less like naive, Disneyfied characters and more like Real Housewives of The Fourth Kingdom.

I really enjoyed the solve aspect of the over-arching mystery, as I felt like I had a fair amount of agency in interpreting the clues and solving the mystery. The game plays a chime sound anytime you solve a puzzle or move to a new location, but it might as well have been this sound, as I moved from location to location gathering clues, interviewing subjects, and determining alibis. Compared to the other crime-solving game I played recently, The Inheritance, I appreciated that this one less hand-holdy and trusted me to interpret the evidence and come to the right conclusion.

Normally, I cover the hint system under Puzzle Play, but this time I’m covering it here, because it is integrated in a really fun, thematic way. To access the hint system, simply type “Mirror Mirror” and the game will automatically present clues for the current puzzle you’re on, providing a progressively hintier set of drop-down-to-reveal clues until you choose to reveal the solution. Both the narrative and mechanical execution of this system are home runs, easily making this the best hint system I’ve ever seen in an at-home puzzle game.

Puzzle Play

As mentioned above, the puzzles aren’t necessarily the most difficult puzzles I’ve run across, but they were all a delight to solve. There’s a decent variety of them, and no two felt similar. Each puzzle was solved before it wore out its welcome and all of them felt well-tested, fair, and exceptionally well-executed, leading to a buttery-smooth solve experience.

During the game, you are guided through the puzzles and given access to components by the in-game puzzle guide, which is essentially a flavorful chat bot. I want to take a moment to call this out, because this is something the Society of Curiosities truly excels at. Their guide had personality, made sure I always had an idea of what to do next, and—most importantly—always understood what I was saying. I never had to worry about what format my answers were in as the guide always correctly interpreted my answers. I even tried varying my answers from puzzle to puzzle from succinct to more conversational, and never had a problem. There’s no doubt some AI-enabled wizardry going on behind the scenes that makes this part of the experience feel, appropriately enough, magical. It will make me side-eye any future game I play that requires me to contort my answer into some prescriptive format in order to proceed along.

There were two puzzles that required some color identification, though I don’t think it will be a problem for colorblind players. One required being able to distinguish between two types of colored glitter. Fortunately one of the glitter colors was more metallic in nature, so, even though I had a hard time telling which color was which, I was able to distinguish between them through the metallic reflectivity of that color. Another required distinguishing between colors on buttons, fortunately in this case there were secondary attributes like button shape and number of buttonholes that helped in differentiating them. Two of the buttons were identical except for color, but I was able to distinguish between those two fairly easily. I’m not sure if Society of Curiosities intentionally used a colorblind-friendly palette, but doing a quick colorblind simulation on the puzzle it looks like it should be good:

Simulated Colorblindness on Buttons, with other puzzle elements removed.

Recommendation

While a bit on the shorter side, there’s a lot to love in this game. The puzzles and game world the Society of Curiosities have created here were a joy from start to finish. At $22 it feels like the exact right amount of content for the price.

This would be the perfect game for anybody new to the hobby and looking for a great first game or even for an enthusiast looking for a relaxing hour solving some really thoughtfully designed puzzles.

Details

Type of Game: At Home Puzzle Game
Date Played: 2021-04-29
Price: $22
Company: Society of Curiosities
Website: https://fairytalefiles.com
Team Size: 1
Colorblind-friendly: Yes*
Outcome: Win

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