Dark Parables: The Final Cinderella
It used to be, a girl would dream of her first ball, dancing with princes and wearing a beautiful gown, a gift from her fairy godmother. But now a glass slipper doesn't lead to a dream come true and, instead, the maidens themselves are being turned to glass as The Godmother searches for "Cinderella", the legendary pure-hearted maiden. Dark Parables: The Final Cinderella twists familiar stories of happily ever after into a morbid nightmare where cursed dresses are only the beginning of the trouble. Once again, detective, your mission is to uncover The Godmother's plot, find Cinderella, and protect the world from havoc in this detail-saturated hidden object adventure from Blue Tea Games.
You first task is to explore a strange castle, so you'll need to get the pieces to an emblem that will help you proceed—all without being seen by the giant monster attacking the castle. Use your changing cursor to help your eyes scan the area for clues and tools, then keep track of incomplete details so you can return to them later with the requisite items. Much of the focus of your adventure is to gather objects, either in pieces or whole, to unlock more treasures and open new areas. This leads to a large array of those fragmented hidden object search scenes of Blue Tea Games' signature style. There are occasional minigames varying from ones used before in other Dark Parables as well as a few original puzzles; while some are harder than others, they're always logical and not abstrusely complicated.
Although you don't have a journal specifically, some found objects unlock new parables explaining the backstories. Increasing the ways you can use items, you also must outfit a set of dolls to yield important items and advance your progress. Because of the nature of your assignment and the tasks involved, you'll travel back and forth quite a bit. To help in this, a map shows areas of interest and locations where main objectives need to be met while a hint button will point you toward more immediate goals. More assistance, such as sparkles, faster hints, or the ability to skip puzzles are customized in the difficulty settings.
Analysis: For fans of the Dark Parables series, The Final Cinderella is no disappointment. Everything you like about Blue Tea Games' presentation, story telling, and fragmented object searches is just as satisfying in this latest installment. In a side by side comparison to previous installments, the graphics in some stages seem more grainy yet this still stands out as one of the most gorgeous games you'll ever lay eyes upon. The whole adventure in scope doesn't feel as epic or grand as that in Red Riding Hood Sisters, though. It feels as if there are too many hidden object scenes. They're lovely and enjoyable as always with bright colors and aesthetically pleasing compositions, yet those who prefer more story and adventure over searching may wish they were less frequent.
The story itself is a dynamic fusion of Cinderella, Pinocchio, and a few nods toward several others. Surprisingly, it doesn't turn out to be cliché or predictable. Although the focus is decidedly on finding objects and solving puzzles, the story is deftly interwoven with the adventure so it never feels extraneous or tacked on. In that vein, with so much going on—poisoned ball gowns, armies of puppets, mirror portals, and a morbidly dysfunctional family—the plotlines can seem contrived and not fully developed. Even so, it's fun, almost campy, with superb voice acting and well-written cutscenes. The end result? The Final Cinderella remains entertaining throughout the roughly 5 hours of playing time; it's full of remarkable, color-saturated visuals and the gameplay is the perfect level of relaxing and challenging. If you've played the others and loved them, you can be confident this one will satisfy just as much. If not, give the demo a try: The Final Cinderella is a great representation of the quality and magic that make Dark Parables such a joy to play.
Currently only the Collector's Edition of this game is available. It contains bonus content not found in the standard edition: additional chapters, extra puzzles, a built-in strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.