Cinders is one of that strange breed of narrative heavy "games" known as Visual (Interactive) Novels. Unlike what passes for what is better known as games by the wider public (and the gaming community), the Visual Novel resembles it's namesake, the dead-tree novel, more than the action and mechanic focused gameplay of "true" games.
Published in 2012 by little known Polish indie developer, MoaCube, Cinders is a retelling of the Cinderella story. The Cinderella story is most well known in the Western hemisphere in its Disney retelling, which in many ways is a much tamer and glossy version of the story than its traditional roots. The skeleton of the familiar story still exists in this retelling, but the interactive element of the video game genre allows the player to branch out the various paths to lead to different outcomes for the protagonist and support cast.
I do like to try these games out, due to the fact that I do sometimes crave tightly woven stories... but also, as I think that these are the sorts of games that will interest one of my girls when they get a little bit older!
The traditional skeleton of the story still remains, Cinders is the adopted step-child of a "mean" stepmother with two step-sisters who make her life a complete misery. There is a Prince, and various other supporting cast members who flesh out the interactive novel.
However, that is where the similarity ends.... as the characters are fleshed out more believable motivations rather than the "evil vs good" stereotype that have infected much of our popular entertainment. For instance, the step-sisters and step-mother are not inherently motivated by evil or the desire to make Cinder's life a misery, but are instead driven by the desire to survive and succeed in a world which favours the dominance of the patriarch. In fact, this is a defining feature of many of the female characters (including Cinders) in this game... that they are seen to be either subservient or else they are manipulative or "in-league" with the Devil.
So, a simple retelling of the traditional story with a more realistic view of power dynamics results in a quite engaging variant of the Cinderella story... one that is much more compelling than the Princess waiting for Prince Charming version!
The game essentially revolves around lovingly drawn characters and static backdrops... and your entire focus is upon the text field where you read and follow the story. It is a leisurely style of gaming, and at times, you will be required to make a decision or choice that will irrevocably branch the story. These choices will affect your relationships with the characters around you.. and perhaps also affect your own personal circumstances.
There are a handful of different locations in the gameworld, which are pretty tightly scripted as to when you can visit them. You spend much of your time between the residence, the town and the magical lake and forest in between. The palace only opens up in the end game (surprise surprise...) for that penultimate crowning moment... where all your choices start to coalesce into tangible consequences at the royal ball.
... and that is the entire gameplay loop in a nutshell. There are no sophisticated mechanics, just the reading of the narrative and reacting to certain decisions that are placed before you!
Visuals, Sound and Performance
I love the art and sound design of this game... everything just looks and feels like it is out of a real fairytale! Despite the lack of animation and with static backgrounds for the scenes, it is amazing how much you can read into the character faces and poses. This is a real testatment to the artist who created these scenes and character models.
Performance-wise, pretty much every computer that was made in the last century should be able to run this. If you can run Windows with Notepad at the same time... you can probably run this!... even if you have to close Notepad....
I do love these Visual Novel games as I'm quite heavily attracted the tightly scripted and developed story-lines that can be told when the player is limited in scope of action whilst allowing some limited freedom to affect the eventual outcome of the plot. However, I do often find that I'm not tempted to follow the various branches to see what happens when you make various different choices... in many ways, I find it tedious to replay games to make choices that I wouldn't really agree with... just to see what happens.
Some find this lack of completion to be a real irritation and find it necessary to "collect" all the endings... however, I do find that I feel much more invested in the characters and their story outcomes if they are the choices that I agree with, and in many ways, the story that emulates real life choice making (tough choices, only one possible time to choice... no following branches) is the most satisfying. Things happen, and that is the way it is, a consequence of your choices and unforeseen events and situations... rather than trying to forever backtrack and wishing for a different outcomes
DELL XPS15 (9560)
RAM: 16 GB
GPU: Nvidia GTX 1050