Hairy Tales Mac Review
Hairy Tales, a well-received iOS puzzle game, heads to the larger-screened platforms of Mac and PC. A debut title from Arges Systems, Hairy Tales wears its influences on its sleeve. From the same zany art style that we’ve seen in the likes of Crash Bandicoot, to the game mechanics, it is essentially a 3D, top-down cross between Chu Chu Rocket and Lemmings, which is never a bad thing when done right. Hairy Tales is a game big on influences, but in adhering to these inspirations does it manage to craft out its own identity, or does it flounder in homage?
The game stars the Hairys – a group of fairies who look like a hybrid of the Troll dolls and The Twits – who are attempting to rid their world of corruption. This corruption is cleared by picking up and carrying the blue, shining crystals to each portal. It is a vital tool and, as such, is always conveniently situated in a place of precarious means. The Hairys can’t do this all on their own – they need guidance. They are so excited that they don’t seem to watch where they are going, often leading them directly to danger, or their doom. They also have a special gene whereby they all look exactly the same… However, it is up to you to lead them to safety. This is done via the movement and strategic placement of hexagonal tiles to lead them on their way.
Each level features a variety of obstacles and various ways to aid progress through the level. Tiles can be rotated, and some of these have fences, which, via strategic rotation next to an adjacent tile with a fence, can combine and create more fences on a single tile. There are also plenty of threats in each level. These are often dispatched via collection of a variety of pick-ups that enable certain abilities, such as the (strangely) purple garlic plant that repulses an enemy such that it disappears. But all of these pick-ups are in a precarious place, just like the blue crystal.
Control is initially quite simple and requires little instruction. If you wish to move a tile, hover the cursor over the tile, click, and drag. To rotate a tile, hover the cursor and click. This is a simple mechanic, but where the puzzle factor comes into play…the arrows and fences are positioned via a combination of tile placement and timed clicks. These eventually dictate your path, and hopefully things are planned successfully enough to ensure safe passage for your Hairy.
Things sound simple in premise and are often effective, until you get to the latter levels on each stage. The game takes place over 72 levels on three game worlds, providing plenty of content for you to play through – which you will. The game has a lovely allure and welcomes you to its world for around the first 10 levels of each world. Then things get difficult – for the casual gamer, insanely so. Personally, I do like the fact that things increase in difficulty; there just seems to be an issue gauging and therefore tactfully introducing more difficulty. As it stands, Hairy Tales seems to switch up the difficulty ten-fold, which is a shame. If it was paced a little better the game would be so much stronger.
Hairy Tales is light on HUD intrusion and general information, barring the pretty vague Hints given by the icon (a question mark) in the lower-left corner. Not much else is said. I played through the first world, reaching what turned out to be a boss; it’s a shame that not enough occasion was granted to signify what would be coming up. In hindsight, the game could have benefited from a hints system that guided repeated failure – and this will happen. This is all due to the occasionally unresponsive controls. Sometimes when moving a tile to ensure your Hairy has something to dictate the next stage of their journey, they walk through the tile as it is being dropped. For a game based around quick reactions and moments of intensity, such input issues – which could be overlooked on a smartphone touch screen – become a problem here. It relegates the game from something I would otherwise want to play for an hour or so, into a few minutes here and there. But for that short-burst play and keeping the mind alive, it achieves that aim rather well.
Hairy Tales is built on the proprietary tech of the Unity engine. It is a wonderful platform, the mobile equivalent of Unreal tech shrunken down to smaller devices and one that is being increasingly used in the desktop space. Producing some wonderful titles such as Shadowgun, Bad Piggies, the list goes on. But each title looks fantastic on whichever platform it ends up on. Hairy Tales looks pretty good and runs very well. It may not win any awards for creative design, but what it does, it does effectively. It seems the Unity engine was intended to showcase wonderful examples of cel-shading, and the derivative art style aside, Hairy Tales looks quite lovely on the enhanced screen in its adaptation from the smartphone.
Audio-wise, the game is nothing to shout home about, what is here is simple, effective and inoffensive for the most part. The melodies feed into the setting, and only after repeated playthroughs of a level does the audio from the game begin to grate – especially the sound emitted when yet another Hairy plummets to their death.
They say that first impressions are of utmost importance, the moment when the meeting of one person or thing results in the forming of a mental image or representation of that person/thing. Reviews are a culmination of that first impression and hopefully result in positive lasting impressions. Hairy Tales is indeed something that sets an impression, in a different way. It impersonates many games before it without showcasing what makes it truly unique, a constantly repeating occurrence of déjà vu. But that does not necessarily make it a bad thing. Charles Caleb Colton once wrote:
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
Also, Mae West famously said:
“Flattery will get you everywhere.”
The thing is, I don’t want to be flattered. I’d like to feel that even if homages were being paid to the ones that came before, that ultimately this was being taken in a different direction and that, as a result, a stamp signifying its own identity was branded on the finished article.
Hairy Tales extracts, absorbs and presents elements of other games from times gone by, but sadly doesn’t necessarily make anything its own. Add to this the poor pacing with the sudden upswing in the game’s difficulty, it can all sound really negative. But at the end of it all it is a good game, and it is fun. It is unfortunately a little too safe and slightly underwhelming as a result of not doing anything radical with the game mechanic. That being said, I would still recommend if you’re a fan of frantic puzzle games, to give this a try especially at the very reasonable price point (£2.99). However, I would like to see more of a risk when adapting to a larger platform next time, Arges System. Good effort, but not defining enough.