Fairune: a world where illusion is reality. Long ago, three spirit icons sealed away an evil scourge at the center of the realm. One day the icons disappeared and monsters overran the peaceful lands. But hey, a monster wouldn't bother a girl in a dress, right? Your help is needed, o' chosen one, so go over to that pavilion, grab that sword and, in that strange spot there, use a bit of mana to create a healing zone. Now you're ready for an action-puzzle RPG adventure that may look derivative but plays on a level all its own.
Urara-Works' programming joins with Skipmore's retro-style artwork and clever game design to create an experience that is equally nostalgic and original, lovingly poking fun at the hack'n'slash of Legend of Zelda-type RPGs. Although navigation using a d-pad is typical, the attack buttons are replaced with an inventory and pause button. Instead of fighting the monsters you encounter, you walk over them, defeating them instantly. If they're at your level, they'll knock down a point or so of your health while delivering an experience point in return. Since there's no hack'n'slash, there is no need nor possibility to "grind" skills beyond your level, putting more emphasis on using your wits to accomplish goals, which makes sense as a large part of this adventure is solving puzzles. Your main task is to find and return all three of the spirit icons, enter the depths of the realm, and conquer the evil scourge that dwells there. Along the way, you'll encounter other puzzles, need to discover and utilize inventory items, and figure out how to open new pathways toward your ultimate goal.
Because the world of Fairune is large, diverse and extremely maze-like, there is more challenge than just figuring out a few puzzles. You'll have to strategize a bit, keeping track of your health and knowing where your healing zone is at all times. If you do die, the penalty—walking from the grave near the pavilion to wherever you need to be—varies in length but is never game ending. Weaker foes are easily crushed yet you earn no experience from them; stronger enemies will drain your health while remaining impermeable to your walk/attack. In this way, pathways are often blocked because you simply cannot move through until you have advanced in levels. This lends an occasional avoidance aspect to the game, especially when you encounter a maddeningly difficult, perhaps even unfair series of boss battles at the end.
With very little textual explanation and no hint button, playing Fairune is challenging: you'll be teased and tricked, but you can't argue with the logic once all is said and done. While the gameplay is slightly different, Fairune is very similar to Synopsis Quest Deluxe in personality and style. That personality, that sincere humor is what makes it so fun. You will both love and hate Fairune, shaking your mobile device in frustration at some tricky puzzle then, feeling rather accomplished once solved, happily engaged in your next quest, plunging through to the finish but never wanting it to end.
NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPhone 4S. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.