A little more than once upon a time…
In the land of magic, where a beautiful fairy queen reigns supreme, mystical waters babble, and haunted forests enchant, there are real-world problems: housing shortages, rent increases, lining of the mayor’s pockets with gold. If reality invading your imagination’s sanctuary makes you cringe, you can relax—the real magic is the quirky storyline, perfect pace, and varied tasks—all of which makes Build-a-Lot: Fairy Tales a fantastically entertaining time-management game.
Just as you probably heard your first fairy tales from a book, the game opens with Storybook mode. Once upon a game, the Fairy Queen invites you into her hollow for the tutorial level (okay, that’s a bit of a Pinocchio—you can actually revisit the individual tutorial levels in the journal at any time.) She cares deeply about her fantastical residents so she wants to make sure that you are well-trained in “creating” and upgrading structures before she entrusts you with the realm’s residences.
The tutorial is optional and the Fairy Queen is kind enough to let you click through her dialog if she’s not speaking fast enough for you. Once you’ve mastered the basics, she sends you off to work for the mayors of the realms (storybook characters who include the Nutcracker, the big bad wolf, the frog prince and other familiar faces) who are as near as the meadow and as far as the forest. The storyline is serial in that each chapter has a contained story that further develops the light overarching story.
`The level format of Build-a-Lot: Fairy Tales is very similar to past games in the Build-a-Lot franchise: your goals are outlined at the start of each level by the mayor. You will direct your personnel (hard-working fairies) to create structures with harvested or bought resources and then modify and upgrade those structures to turn a profit through rental income or house sales within the given time limit. There may also be a goal or two introduced during play to shake things up a bit and throw you off track. A few fun new additions include a renegade dragon that delights in setting your creations aflame (this functions similarly to your house falling in disrepair), which you must quickly extinguish and the creation of whimsical constructs such as a troll bridge and flying machine.
And There’d be no time management if there wasn’t a deadline—there’d be, well, free play, and where’s the fun in that? The Deadline meter at the top left of the screen shows you how much time you have remaining. If you manage to complete the level while meter is in the blue, you will earn the blue Super Speedy ribbon. Your level results are recorded in your journal, and every level you’ve played is accessible from there as well. Makes it tempting to replay every level until your book is plumb full of blue ribbons! The other way to access levels you’ve already played is to play Casual mode. From there, you choose the level from the chapter or “storybook” in which it took place.
While the mechanics in Build-a-Lot: Fairy Tales have been honed over time and many games, I am left with the same real complaint I’ve had about most of the series: there’s a dearth of effective or interesting consumables. Although the levels are well balanced, they’re geared to one or two styles of play. I would like the opportunity to purchase or earn one-time use boosts to increase strategy or enhance my style. The only thing close to a consumable was the Quick Fairies boost available from the Fairy Toadstool, but even that didn’t feel very significant. I’m also left with one not-so-real complaint: the fairies looked exactly like butterflies. I wanted fairy works—magic wands or enchanted hammers, fairy dust, an occasional close-up animation of my flitting work force. The butterfly effect just felt sort of… cheap.
All-in-all, Build-a-Lot: Fairy Tales is a fun reskinning of previous games. Fans of the series will no doubt recognize the new twist or at least new look of old mechanics and appreciate the fresh, fantasy setting. The music and sound effects are also a perfect fit for their functions, so it’s very easy to immerse yourself in the game and lose track of all time, save the dreaded Deadline meter. HipSoft gives you plenty of options for replayability; from the Journal, Casual mode, Expert campaign, and Quickplay. They’ve ensured that spending your personal gold will bring hours and hours of delight… if you can stand a little deja vu.