For those of us who were traumatized in our youth by fairy tales, Fabled Legends: The Dark Piper arrives on the scene just in time to remind us of those haunting little yarns of death and destruction at the hands of stepparents and, in this case, pedophilic flute players.
A little backstory might be in order to set the stage for this review. The story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin first surfaces (verbally) in the late 13th Century and expands into a full written narrative sometime in the 16th Century. It concerns a town in Germany that gets overrun by rats. The town elders make a deal with a “rat removal specialist.” This individual lures the rats out of town with his flute music.
The rats follow the piper to the river where they are promptly drowned. Think of the piper as a sort of Teutonic-and-rodent version of an Indian snake charmer. When the piper returns for his agreed-upon fee, the town elders, well, stiff him. The piper’s special form of revenge involves luring away the town’s children in the same fashion as the rats and holding them hostage until several times the rat removal fee is handed over.
Now that I’ve made sure we are all on the same emotionally scarred page, Fabled Legends: The Dark Piper bases its story loosely on the foregoing. The scene opens with the town of Hamelin celebrating a “Pied Piper Festival,” where townsfolk casually and cavalierly question whether the story “really occurred 100 years ago or so.” Suddenly, the piper appears and visits disease-infested rats upon the city. (Guess that whole kidnapping thing wasn’t payback enough.) You, acting as an inspector, must save the city and stop the piper before he cuts a swath of destruction across central Europe.
The action takes place in and around Hamelin and the graphics are rich and detailed. Interactions with the piper and various citizenry keep the story moving. The audio is unexceptional, and I really think they missed the boat by not including some creepy “pipe” music, sort of a casual games version of Peter Lorre’s whistling in “M.” The inspector’s notebook with a list of objectives was particularly handy, as was the town map to help orient your movements.
I did think Fabled Legends: The Dark Piper was a little light on mini-games and puzzles. When it comes to Hidden Object Areas and mini-games, I much prefer a 1:1 or even 2:1 ratio. The mini-games seemed much fewer and farther between to me and Fabled Legends: The Dark Piper isn’t even really heavy on hidden object areas. Most of the activity felt like the tried and true “pick up and sock away” inventory items, which can be a bit tedious. How many times can you run to this area and back again picking up bolt cutters and chisels before you are just over the whole thing?
That being said, I recommend Fabled Legends: The Dark Piper for those who appreciate a game with heavy scene interactivity, more so than hidden object areas or games.