Monday, February 18

Review: Cinders [Nintendo Switch eShop]


As a child of the 80s I really loved the old Choose Your Own Adventure books. The ability to make decisions that would affect the outcome of the story, and then going back through to see what would happen if I’d made different choices, was really appealing. That said, modern indie games that go for the same concept and play out as visual novels haven’t tended to make a strong impression on me. That changes, somewhat surprisingly, with Cinders, an interactive novel based on the classic tale of Cinderella but that offers far more than that elevator pitch would imply.


The main thing to know here is that if you’re thinking this is merely taking something like the Disney version of the story and running with it you’d be sorely mistaken. While the major players: the stepmother and stepsisters, the Prince, and Cinders herself are all here there’s a slew of additional characters, including a very different interpretation of the Fairy Godmother in particular, to deal with. These additional characters like the mysterious Madame Ghede and the head of the guard, Perrault, specifically afford you very different alternative options to consider as you walk through the game and make things far more interesting.


Above all what makes this game special though is the depth and quality of its characters. There really are no paper-thin and simplistic people to deal with, in general Cinders does an excellent job of exploring why people act the way they do so while you still may not choose to sympathize with your stepmother (and you may choose a grim end for her) you may better understand the pressures she faces that motivate her behavior. In general the dialogue is smart, insightful, and very much paints the female characters, Cinder in particular, as being equal to their male counterparts. I don’t recall ever having played a game with such strong and smart women across the board, and that instantly made it interesting and even entertaining to read along with and make choices throughout.


Pretty well instantly upon finishing my initial version of the story I was compelled to start up and try another path as there are quite a number of key decisions I can imagine would greatly affect the outcome. While my choices lead to Cinders becoming Queen, and very much the equal of her husband, they also made her a bit cold and loveless, which given some choices I’d made ended up being a realistic end. That ended up being the kicker for my enjoyment I think, the element of finding success but at what cost that permeated parts of the game. Overall, if you’re a fan of interactive fiction, strong characters, and choices that carry consequence I’d say this one is well worth checking out.

Score: 8.5

Pros:
  • New characters introduced to the classic story offer some very different potential outcomes
  • As a whole full of what feel like very “real” characters rather than the simplistic one-dimensional archetypes you may be used to
  • The female characters, in particular, are strong and well-written

Cons:
  • Playing through again to change your choices can take a while, though it can be well worth it seeing how differently things can play out
  • If you do happen to be looking for a storybook happy ending this may not be the title for you