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Publisher: Red Marble Games    Genre: Arcade
Min OS X: 10.4

Fairy Treasure
February 1, 2008 | Jeremy Tirrell

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At its core, Fairy Treasure, by Red Marble Games, is an Arkanoid clone, but it is a very polished one, with a consistent theme, tight mechanics, and a real sense of progress.

Fairy Treasure's gameplay is in keeping with its predecessors Arkanoid and Breakout. Players control a paddle at the bottom of the screen and attempt to clear the play field of bricks by deflecting a ball into them. The game also exhibits the genre's indicative features: various level layouts, multiple power-ups, and assorted enemies that damage the paddle or otherwise hinder the player from clearing the screen. Nevertheless, Fairy Treasure makes these customary elements engaging by placing them in a comprehensive context, and by demonstrating a high level of polish in gameplay and visuals.

Like its forbearer Arkanoid, but unlike many of that game's progeny, Fairy Treasure offers a basic plot. A troll has stolen a fairy treasure cache, and the player is tasked with navigating down a river to the troll's cave to reclaim it. Although its fantasy setting is somewhat clichéd, it does provide a framework that makes the power-ups, enemies, and levels all feel like part of the same universe. Even the sound, which is otherwise unremarkable, complements the game's overall setting and tone. As importantly, moving through the game's many stages gives the player a real sense of progress. An overworld map shows the player drawing closer to the game's end, and the stages become incrementally more difficult, as new enemy types are introduced and the brick layouts become trickier. An important element of this gradual ramp-up is the inclusion of special blocks, such as keys, gears, and warps, that make later levels more like puzzles that must be solved by hitting specific bricks. Although this aspect could be developed more fully, it helps set Fairy Treasure apart from generic Arkanoid clones.

Minor gameplay and graphical touches also impress. For example, the game resumes gradually after it is un-paused, giving the player a moment to locate the ball in the play field. Also, when multiple balls are active, they rebound off of one another, demonstrating that the game's physics engine is slightly more comprehensive than run-of-the-mill clones. Also, graphical touches abound, from the translucent trails that follow the path of the ball to the wing-shaped UI meter that gradually fills as the player collects gold coins. The whole presentation of the game exudes attention to detail, which is beneficial, given that Fairy Treasure is operating in a well-worn genre.

Despite these positives, some design elements prevent Fairy Treasure from being as strong as it could be. One main hindrance stems from its relatively low challenge level and prolonged length. Similar games, such as Arkanoid and Bust-A-Move, gradually ramp up the difficulty so that much practice is required before a player can reach the end. Also, these games tend to be short enough to be completed in one sitting by an expert player without the experience becoming repetitive and tedious. In short, these games encourage mastery. This is not entirely the case with Fairy Treasure. There are three difficulty settings, but even at the most difficult setting the player is allowed to continue a game from where it ends. As such, Fairly Treasure is less about mastery of the play mechanics, and more about having the time and resolve to keep plugging away. The game contains over 120 levels, including bonus rounds, and it takes a fair amount of time to complete. These factors reduce replay incentive, because the divisions between an amateur and expert player are unimportant, and the game cannot be finished comfortably in one sitting. Also, despite the importance of plot at the start of the game (two screens are devoted to exposition), its ending is anti-climatic. There is no culminating boss battle, and the story ends without a satisfying resolution. The player views a victory screen, enters a high score, and returns to the start menu.

Technically, the game runs well, either in full-screen or in a window. However, the numerous graphical effects, which cannot be turned off, will likely cause framerate drops in modestly-specced Macs. This is unfortunate; it would make sense if classic games were thoroughly playable on older Macs. Also, Fairy Treasure does not seem to support gamepads nor keyboard control. This makes playing on a laptop touchpad rather difficult, which is also a drawback, because this kind of simple, stage-based gameplay combined with the game's autosave feature seems ideal for play on laptops during spare moments.

It is difficult to provide a numerical score for Fairy Treasure. Essentially, it is just a refinement of a type of game that has been around at least since Breakout appeared over 30 years ago. Fairy Treasure may not be able to offer the complexity and richness found in more modern game types, but as a classic gaming experience, it excels. The game's designers have paid attention to how the ball, brick, and paddle genre should look and play, and Fairy Treasure is the better for it, despite a few questionable design choices and some technical gripes. The generously-timed demo should let prospective players know if this kind of gaming experience matches their temperament.

• Classic ball, brick, and paddle gameplay with a comprehensive theme
• Over 120 levels
• Polished gameplay and visuals
• Autosave system

• Limited challenge and long length hinder replay value
• No gamepad or keyboard support
• Framerate issues on older Macs

Fairy Treasure
Publisher: Red Marble Games
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