(BLOGGER’S PICK) Cinders Game Review and Developer Interview

April 21, 2013 in Blogger's Choice, Cinders, Game Review, PC, Visual Novel Game

A different yet wondrous and visually gorgeous version of the Cinderella story where YOUR decisions decide how the story unfolds

Cinders
A Visual Novel Game Review 
developed by: MoaCube
 
Image was taken from official website
Notice: Interview with the developer at the end of the review (I really think ya’ll should check it out. The answers were really interesting)
 
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What exactly is a visual novel game:¬†It’s like a comic, story, or manga book where the story branches out depending on the choices you make on certain scenarios. How the main character’s story unfolds literally depends on you. There’s usually multiple endings and many outcomes so there is a high replay value. I recently just discovered this genre and I got really hooked into it but I only found very few that are actually good in terms of story and art. Actually, aside from Cinders, all the ones that I found were anime-styled otome games Note: the big and well known otome games are mostly in japanese so fans usually translate, create, and share an English patch for them. Otome games are also visual novel games, the only difference is that otome usually targets the female population and has a story that ends up in a romantic relationship between your character and other possible 2D hotties (Cinders also have different possible hunks she can end up with but it’s not the main purpose or story of the game). However, it seems like the developers of many famous otome games tend to create funny yet heartbreaking stories. I teared up on the visual novels/otome games I played from laughter and tragedy. Sadly, there’s really only a handful of good ones in terms of character depth and story development.

 

What got me interested in Cinders:¬†I was searching for something different from games I usually played (Shooting, mmorpg, etc.). As I mentioned, I recently discovered the visual novel genre, but after playing some, I started to look for a visual novel that stands out from the rest. Many of the sites I stumbled upon were praising Cinders so I gave it a try. First of all, I really love the pre-Disney versions of popular fairy tales of today. I actually like the Grimm Brothers version, the ones before they had to tone it down for the younger audience. Having said that, I saw that Cinders was a version that’s far from Disney’s version so I got intrigued. Then I saw the beautiful art style, and it immediately took me back to my childhood. I used to have this huge (and expensive) story book that had the revised versions of fairy tales by the Grimm Brothers (it’s the toned down versions that I mentioned earlier), however, Cinders art is much more intricate and magical. I was pretty much hooked in after that.


First Impressions and Gameplay

I’ll try to keep it from having any spoilers, I’m actually on my second gameplay and the story branched much differently from my first gameplay

Note: I purposely tried to not read too much info about the game. I avoided comments/reviews that mentioned anything that may reveal how this version of Cinderella differs from the Disney version (or any other versions that I’m aware of) because I wanted to see how well the story was written for myself. I mean yeah it’s pretty and all, but if the story can’t live up to its’ part in the game, then I would personally feel the game is hollow and a waste of money. Plus, being the book worm that I am, I’m also picky and I ain’t afraid to admit that.


Graphics’s Art Style:¬†Eeep…it..it moved!¬†

Usually, in visual novel games, the art they have there doesn’t really move so they’re usually still-pictures. Cinders, however, uses motion graphics with their gorgeous painting-like artstyles, which I loved because it actually made me feel like I have a story book in front of me that’s alive if that makes sense. If you look at it closely, the devs really put a lot of detail into them. From the dancing flames, to the moving rays of light, I found myself trying to absorb everything. I saw the characters’ background basically come to life so to speak, and even the characters themselves have some motion graphics going on like when their mouths moved and when their facial expression changed as they spoke.

I wish I can show how gorgeous this scene was because it was brought to life with motion graphics in the game. It was magical to my inner child.

I wish I can show how gorgeous this scene was because it was brought to life with motion graphics in the game. It was magical to my inner child.

 
While we’re on the subject of characters animated by motion graphics, there was an incident that scared me a little, though some might find it as a nice touch. I know some may find this silly but while I was deciding on what choices to make, I at first thought that I was hallucinating from lack of sleep (I ended up playing until 5 am) because the evil step mother’s glaring eyes were definitely aimed at Cinders, however, when I looked back up at her face, she was dead on staring daggers at me! So I stared at her longer, and I saw that her eyes indeed move side to side, which for me was a little unsettling. Yes yes, after playing for so long how could I not know, but that’s because after playing the game for quite a while, I never noticed the eyes move before so I was really sure that the only animation the characters had were facial expression and moving mouth. The movement of the eyes were too subtle for me to notice…Let this poor embarrassed girl make excuses to make herself feel better since I did foolishly scared myself. Plus…it reminded me of those creepy old pictures where the eyes move as you walked past them (like in horror movies or one of those attractions in theme parks). Of course that’s just me, others find the moving eyeballs cool (shiver).

 

Carmosa the step mother! dun dun dun!!! She was staring at me as her eyebrow does a Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's infamous eyebrow raise combined with a facial expression of having doo doo under her nose.

Carmosa the step mother! dun dun dun!!! She was staring at me as her eyebrow does a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s infamous eyebrow raise combined with a facial expression of having doo doo under her nose.

Music and Detail to Sound

Oh man, the game really has great music that indeed suits the different scenarios of the game. It enhances the emotional impact on some of the scenarios. I also noticed the detail in background noise. For example When I visited the bar, I was greeted with the sound of moving objects, murmuring conversations, and clattering plates. At nighttime, I was surrounded by the mating melodies of crickets trying to get lucky, and while on a morning stroll, I was accompanied by the chirping of birds by the lake. Honestly, I know I keep repeating myself but this really is the most detailed visual novel I’ve ever played. Although this one lacks voice overs that many visual novels have, Cinders makes it up by detail in sound. ¬†Some may think it’s not a big deal, but little details like this create a strong foundation for games in this genre. Having said that, for me, their attention to detail sets them up a level from most visual novels if I compare Cinders as a whole package with others from the same genre, so I really gotta give kudos to the devs.

Decisions Decisions…

As the title said, how the game unfolds depends on your decisions. You will be faced with many instances where Cinders morals are tested. It will also affect how the characters grow, act, and react towards Cinders and situations that happen to them, so in a way, it’s not all about Cinders.

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The game does have numerous outcomes so replaying the game again and again would probably show you different things if you choose another path for Cinders on your next playthrough. I mean just look at these numbers! so much possibilities how the story would go! (I got this from their official website)

  • Cinders script is 436 pages long
  • contains 155k words
  • separated into 135 scenes
  • holding 829 scenarios
  • featuring 120 player choices
  • with around 300 options to pick
  • altering 50 profile variables
  • which fork the story in 254 places

Is that a lot? Yes, yes, it is. I’m actually really impressed. This game has more “branches/forks” than the other visual games I’ve ever played, hands down.

Cinders in the middle and her two step sisters (Sophia on the left, Gloria on the right). I can't stop looking at Gloria's umm...bountiful "future". Admit it, you probably stared too!

Cinders in the middle and her two step sisters (Sophia on the left, Gloria on the right). I can’t stop looking at Gloria’s umm…bountiful “future”. Admit it, you probably stared too!

Well Developed Characters and Character Progressions

I must say, I love the characters progressions in the game. Depending on the choices you’ve made, you get to really understand why each character ended up the way they did. Heck you may even feel sympathetic towards the characters you probably wanted to pimp slap in the beginning. Again though, weather or not the story will show you certain scenarios/sides of the characters will depend on what decisions you choose. I find this enjoyable because when I played the game again, I didn’t know what new things I would see and learn.

Another interesting character. You can pretty much tell you don't want to mess with her. Is she Good? is she Evil? Maybe you should try to find out *shameless hinting*

Another interesting character. You can pretty much tell you don’t want to mess with her. Is she Good? is she Evil? Maybe you should try to find out *shameless hinting*

 

The characters themselves are truly an enjoyable cast. I kept thinking how the characters were made with great depth. It’s hard for me to fully explain, but from time to time, when you read reviews, some of them would write that the story or characters in the game were pretty shallow or hollow. That statement is a complete opposite of how the characters are in Cinders which was why I opted to use “great depth” to describe them. For example: certain characters, when I established a good relationship with them, the vulnerability and growth that I saw from characters were, I believe, greatly expressed through dialog and change of facial expression and music. I got emotionally invested in the characters. I felt like the characters’ struggles and triumphs were conveyed so well that I found myself trying to be in their shoes. I was carefully thinking about the choices I must make and kept asking myself, would I feel the same way as them if I were put in a similar situation? I really like that the characters were very…human. The characters, main or supporting, were able to make an impression on me. Personally, Sophia is one of my most favorite because of her evil twisted sense of humor.

Cinders: "And contrary to your REAL children, I am not afraid to think and speak for myself!"

Cinders: “And contrary to your REAL children, I am not afraid to think and speak for myself!”

I’m a raggedy but strong, independent, red-haired woman….betch.

Since we’re still in the character topic, let’s talk about the heroin in this game. The first thing I noticed with Cinders (this game’s Cinderella), was that she wasn’t the timid martyr usually depicted in other versions. Sure she still gets the abused and mistreatment, however, she snarks back and stands up for herself. She’s also not very gentle and depending on how you want her to act, she can possibly even be a little bundle of darkness. I’ve read from some people who played the game that they do appreciate feisty Cinders, however, some of them said that she exudes TOO much “strong, independent, woman”. I actually do see what they mean, but I don’t think it’s too much because there were valid reasons why she acted in that manner. Also, as I mentioned, it all depends on your choices, my first playthrough, my Cinders was strong yet understanding and insightful. The second playthrough, because of choices I’ve made, she was a bit of a brat that I wanted to shake. How Cinders grow up as a woman rests entirely in your hands yo~

Cinders Got Game, Daayyuummm….

Yeah, I did mention that you can get yourself a hunkaboo in the game that doesn’t need to be the Prince, so you have other options on who to romance. Actually, I’m pretty sure you can flirt with all the possible candidates if you wanted to (I was more of an eye on the price type of Cinder. Once she had her sights on the guy she wants to hunt…er woo, she 100% only had him in her crosshatch). I always found it funny when Cinders was basically man handling them with words and the fellas get all abashed. So cute. I was going to put a picture for this, but I really don’t want to spoil it.

Witty Dialogues That Made Me L.O.L and Go Aww You Poor Thing

I love love love the dialogues in this game. I laughed so much. Also the banter between conversing characters were indeed witty and smart. One of my most favorite was when Sophia pissed Cinders off by insinuating she knows that Cinders had a side job that people would usually find in red districts. Of course, not everything in the game is humorous so I did find myself feeling torn and pity for some of the characters when they start having inner dialogue or self explanations. Heck, sometimes, I found myself surprised because I would start feeling, as I mentioned earlier, sympathy. I can’t say too much without possibly ruining the stories. However, having played this game two times (going on my third), characters act and react differently on certain scenarios and choices so not everything is set on stone.

Cinders: "Come inside before anyone sees you! Do you want to be a reason for domestic violence by provoking Carmosa into ripping me to pieces?" <-- I couldn't stop snickering

Cinders: “Come inside before anyone sees you! Do you want to be a reason for domestic violence by provoking Carmosa into ripping me to pieces?”

 

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 Final Verdict

I was pleasantly surprised with this game. I really never thought I would enjoy it as much I did and would keep replaying it. Everything was put together marvelously from the uniquely gorgeous motion graphics artstyle to the character depth and development. I was faced with so many moral obstacles that I would take a long time deciding on how I want to progress in the game. I’m going on my third and I’m not tired of the game yet. The good thing about it is that it gives you a signal when you’ve hit a new branch/fork in the game so if you don’t want to read the dialogues you’ve already read before you can just keep clicking til you see the signal and experience new scenarios. I was really absorbed into the game. I also like how even though the situations and decisions were, as I mentioned, very “human”, I still had a sense of being inside a fairytale book. I also really appreciate this version of Cinderella, especially the fact that depending on what I decide, MY Cinderella’s personality would get affected. I would honestly really recommend this especially if you’re a book worm or just want to try something new. The game is pretty pricey for some people, but I personally feel it’s worth the money especially since I’m going on my 3rd try and since it IS still a novel, I know I would go back to playing this game from time to time again.
Price:
$22.95 (PC/MAC), Free (DEMO)
Website:

For more game reviews: Game Breakdown Reviews: Released/Beta/Alpha

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INTERVIEW WITH THE DEVELOPER, 
Mr. Tom Grochowiak

 

What inspired you guys to start this project?

We wanted to make a visual novel (the name of this genre of games) since quite a while. We’ve played a lot of indie developed ones and loved them, but most gave a bit of an amateurish vibe and didn’t really offer much choice in shaping the storyline. We started to wonder if it would be possible to release a VN that would be more up to modern indie game standards, and with all the choices left to the player. Gracjana (the artist) came up with the Cinderella retold concept. I added the feminist angle. When we launched our indie studio, this was a natural choice for our first project.

 

Were there any roadblocks or challenges upon production? if so what were they?

Oh yes! Cinders was meant to be done in around half a year. Took a year and a half. Turns out — big shocker — that writing a script the size of two average novels takes plenty of time. Who would have thought? We’ve had problems finding a writer who would be able to dedicate that much effort towards a single project. The significant delay made us have to stretch really thin (we lived on our savings) to survive and eventually launch the game.

 

Were any of the characters revamped attitude inspired by anyone in real life?

Yup. The character personalities and their issues — especially in the Cinders’ family — are based on the people I know in real life. I’m not telling who’s who, though. I want to keep my friends :).

 

Did you guys use to work for another game company?

I worked for CD Projekt RED on The Witcher for a while. Then I moved to Codeminion — a small independent company making pretty cool casual games. That’s where I’ve met Gracjana and we quickly became good friends. The company changed its focus after a few years and our whole development team was laid off. Instead of looking for another job, we decided to give indie a try.

 

Visually, it seems like you guys were aiming for the traditional story book like art, having said that, how was the experience of putting everything you guys planned into art?

It was lots of fun! We knew what we wanted, so things just fell into place one by one. Gracjana is an amazing and very efficient artist. We also have that level of rapport, where what she draws looks exactly like what I had in mind, without us even talking about it too much.

 

What did you guys hope to bring to the gamers with Cinders?

We’ve had several goals. We wanted to make a game that’s personal as oposed to epic. Focused on problems one can relate to instead of being another story of saving the world from alien threat (we love classic games, but some alternative is always nice to have). It was also important for us to create a mood that the players can sink into — really feel like they are inside a fairytale. And, above all, we wanted to make a game where you actually shape the story and the protagonist’s personality with your choices.

 

Did you guys have any concerns while making this? What I mean is, were you guys worried how well people would accept this kind of game where most gamers look for games with the “best” graphics, great action, gore, etc.¬†

Not really. Visual novels are a pretty established genre, and we knew we’re targetting a niche. Besides, gamers are not stupid. Almost everyone loves awesome graphics and the exhilarating joy of fast-paced action. But it doesn’t mean they won’t appreciate something different every now and then :).If anything, we were afraid how the visual novel community is going to react to the game’s art style, as it’s not anime, which is usually the case in the genre. The game also touches some serious issues and we were worried if we can pull it off without sounding overly preachy or simply pretentious.