Going casual: Dark Parables: Jack and the Sky Kingdom

The first game series I think I can accurately describe as "sumptuous."

“Dark” or “modern” interpretations of fairy tales are not a new thing. From the Fable comics to The Wolf Among Us to American McGee’s Alice to Once Upon A Time to a whole host of other adaptations, there is apparently money to be made in this twist on our childhood stories. They made Hansel and Gretel into a big-budget action movie, for crying out loud!

It’s amusing, because the original fairy tales themselves are plenty dark and uncomfortable on their own. Putting ‘modern’ spins on classic morality tales apparently means making them out and out disturbing. Another trend is to put the fairy tales in a shared universe, of sorts; like combining “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” with “Snow White and Rose Red."

But can an adaptation do a modern, shared-universe take on the classics while still being, for lack of a better word, kid-friendly? Does every adaptation have to be so deadpan and cynical? The Dark Parables games answer the latter question that with a resounding “No.”

Despite the shadowy implications of the name “Dark Parables,” these games are some of the brightest and most colorful games you will ever play. They are so beautiful in a Rococo way that they’re almost gaudy. Think Candyland if it were designed by Faberge. Whoever the art or visual team is on this series, they need to be working on AAA games, tout de suite.

You play as the Fairytale Detective, charged with investigating the real figures from fairy tales when they encroach upon our world. In Jack and the Sky Kingdom, a mysterious land in the sky, the one visited by a certain beanstalk-climbing adventurer, has broken up and is raining debris on the land. You have to find out what’s going on.

The game is good, but it’s also not your standard hidden-object game. You won’t be finding random loot so much as the pieces of tools you need and then reassembling them. If that sounds confusing here, it makes sense in-game.

Granted, the story has all the depth and complexity of an actual fairy tale, but it weaves together “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Rumpelstiltskin,” “Tom Thumb” and elements of a few others (characters from previous games The Exiled Prince and The Red Riding Hood Sisters make surprise cameos). You will have to do a little foliage climbing of your own in order to get to the Sky Kingdom. If nothing else, this game will make you feel nostalgic for childhood tales in a way no other “modern” adaptation has yet managed.

I'm the daughter of a veteran who spent my childhood in Killeen. As of 2013, I have a degree in English from the University of Texas at Austin. I'm a critic of books, films, television, and video games. Find me on Twitter: @rachel_knows

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