We've seen a fair share of puzzlers on DSiWare, so any time a new title from the genre is released, it's generally met with a cautious approach, especially considering the number of mediocre releases we've seen so far. Having initially made its rounds on the PC and Mac, A Fairy Tale makes its way onto DSiWare and brings all of the cute puzzling fun of the original release to the small screen of Nintendo's portable.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more simple gameplay design than the one found in A Fairy Tale, as it makes use of the "match-two" approach made popular in many other puzzle releases. You basically click on a tile and then click on another tile of the same color to remove both tiles along with any other like-coloured tiles that are touching them horizontally or vertically. As you remove tiles, the fairy potion bottle on the top screen will slowly fill up. Your ultimate goal is to fill up this bottle before the timer runs out. If you're fast enough, you may even earn a gold or silver medal, depending on how much time is left when you finish the level.
While the premise of the game might seem rather simple and shallow at first glance, you'll soon find out that there is quite a bit of strategy once you start using new power-ups and techniques. By knocking out entire rows of blocks, you can initiate combos that can remove large numbers of tiles all at once. This is not only a great way to quickly fill up the potion bottle, but also earns you big points as well. As you progress through the game, you'll be given new power-ups to make use of that range from simple masks that can take out horizontal or vertical rows of blocks to special tiles that cause earthquakes which will shake loose large numbers of tiles from the lower rows. There are even a few specialty items like locks that must have a corresponding key tile in order to unlock, one more facet that makes knocking out tiles even more challenging.
Controls are executed via the touchscreen and are simple and well thought-out, with a gradual learning curve that makes the game so simple yet addictive. Combine all of this with a few interesting twists like the fairy tale storyline playing out as you make your way through the 100+ levels and the enjoyable fairy mini-games, and it's a decent package overall.
Since this is a puzzle release, there aren't a lot of flashy visual touches, but the simplicity of the playing field and how easy the various tiles and power-ups are to differentiate from each other is appreciable. The cute fairy tale theme the game makes use of does add a nice graphical touch to the game and does so without getting in the way of the game's rather tidy and functional interface.
Relaxing would be a great way to describe the audio package in A Fairy Tale as the musical tracks are all very subtle and smoothing. While the tunes don't exactly have a very "fairy tale" quality to them, they do a nice job of staying off in the background and allowing the unique sound effects to take center stage. Many puzzle titles tend to place very little emphasis on sound effects, so it's nice to see a game really make good use of them for a change and it provides a nice audio presentation to carry the action taking place onscreen.
A Fairy Tale never tries to be anything more than what it is — a simple yet addictive puzzler that somehow takes an extremely simple premise and molds it into a very strategic and engaging puzzle experience for gamers of all ages and skill levels. This lack of ambition might bother some, and the tame difficulty could put off seasoned fans of the genre initially, but it's a title that any puzzler fan should definitely check out.