The appeal of a fairytale based RPG Maker puzzle game was a foreign one to me I’ll admit, but that’s not to say the idea didn’t grow on me as I made my way through ARK -the lost fairytale-. From the jump, the deadly puzzles and bizarre world drew me in with an air of mystery and creepiness that begged me to delve further into the horror.
Game Name: ARK -the lost fairytale-
Developer(s): Narrator, STORIA
Release Date: August 10, 2014
The game features a simple story about a little girl named Nui who is on the search for her rabbit doll Caroline. This search for her favorite stuffed animal leads her through a daunting mansion filled with nightmares and some unlikely companions.
Accomplishing the first couple puzzles provided the sort of trial and error I quickly came to realize would be prevalent throughout my time with the game, and while frustrating, proved to be satisfying once solved. Afterward, however, I was met with a slight sense if aimlessness, not quite sure what to make of my next steps through the game. That too passed, however, and I was once again free to move onto the next challenge ARK had in store for me.
I continued trudging through the hedge maze, reading books and saving my game at the various adorable bunnies who excitedly hopped about as I approached until I came upon a sprawling dinner table. The game’s next set piece and puzzle provided plenty more opportunities for some trial and error, and of course, that meant game over screens galore. This theme was not only relegated to this section of the garden either as I was presented the task of sneaking past several daunting anthropomorphic playing cards. I found that this broke the monotony of the puzzles I had encountered so far, and offered a fair- if not simple challenge.
I also found that ARK was able to build tension in a way I hadn’t previously thought very possible for the game until this point. Sure the death screams of the main character were unsettling, but I found myself frantically searching for hiding spots in decrepit houses as I ran from a ghastly assailant I thought I had previously outrun. This was quickly resolved however and I was once again backtracking through a part of the garden I had already passed through and solved.
The following interactions with a wolf and huntsman helped the game’s fairytale roots shine through, and only helped cement the reality of the game’s world in my mind. The tension began to build again during a brief chase with the bipedal creature leaping from its bed and nipping at my heels, but I couldn’t help but worry if this was a theme that would prevail. It was of course to my relief when at this point I was allowed a change of scenery.
I finally felt like I was back in the groove of enjoying the tension the game was building on when I found myself assaulted by the ominous sounds of mysterious ticking clocks and pianos, both of which helped me become more immersed in the unnerving tapestry the game was weaving. I enjoyed the moments of this that I experienced, but I don’t feel like it truly took me anywhere as mere seconds later I returned to clicking through dozens of text boxes. Don’t get me wrong though, I was definitely becoming much more engaged in the game at this point, interested to see what new room each corridor would deliver me down. I suppose I simply grew tired of nitpicking through every item and every book to see if it was worth my attention.
The pacing of the game felt off at this point, and even though my heart was racing as I heard footsteps slowly approach the blood-soaked dungeon I had stumbled across, I was quickly thrown back into the reality that was the guessing game of the mansion. After more backtracking that aimlessness returned and I didn’t feel any pickup in the pace for a while afterward. Every once in awhile a set piece or new area would capture my attention, but only for a fleeting moment. I suppose this helped the game do a good job at lulling me into a false sense of security and then surprising me with another monster or threat, but it wasn’t security in the sense of finding success. Rarely did I feel like I was actually accomplishing things, and instead was simply surprised because nothing had happened in a while.
Change of scenery was, however, an exciting experience as I was finally able to see more of what the game had to offer. That excitement was paired with the fun of deciphering which puzzle corresponded with which popular fairytale and yet the title doesn’t seem like something with much replayability to it. Once you’ve played the game and seen what it has to offer the first time you’ve essentially seen the entire thing, despite there being multiple endings based on a few different factors. This doesn’t necessarily detract from the overall experience provided though, as it doesn’t feel like a game where replayability should’ve been shoehorned in. The puzzler tells the story it needs to and delivers what it does without overstaying its welcome by begging to be replayed.
All in all ARK -the lost fairytale- succeeds where it ultimately needs to but falls short of truly being a standout gem in its genre. The mechanics felt tight and consistent, and the tension that amasses over certain areas of the game really helped build the atmosphere of this bizarre and unsettling fairytale nightmare. And yet this doesn’t completely make up for the fact that the game feels like a bit of a slog throughout much of its playtime. The sense of tension, while high and on point when it’s present, isn’t felt enough in ARK, and at multiple points, I felt like the game took far too much time between set pieces.
Review Disclosure Statement: ARK -the lost fairytale- was provided to us by Narrator for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
While ARK -the lost fairytale- offers tension and suspense, those staples of horror games are too broken up by long stretches of wandering. The game offers consistently sound gameplay, as well as some entertaining puzzles and set pieces, but falls just short when it comes to being a truly great horror puzzler as it feels like it strives to be.
- Does a good job of building tension
- Eerie environments and puzzles
- Trying to identify each fairytale helps the game feels more fun and unique
- The monotony is seldom broken
- Backtracking- and lots of it
- Many puzzles felt too reliant on trial and error