Now, it’s fair to say I could have been a little more sceptical about the tagging, what with its also being listed as both “Family Friendly” and “Nudity”, but that wasn’t going to deter me. I could also perhaps have perceived it as a sign when, midway through installing, the particular hard drive switched itself off.
It turns out that while some of the tags may have been the result of cheeky monkeys, “Survival” is horribly apposite. But rather than the far more insignificant preserving of an in-game character, Disney Princess: My Fairytale Adventure is about your own desperate survival.
The first threat is the scant options menu. There’s nothing to be done about the ultra-low resolution, but you are mercifully allowed to switch the music on or off. When it comes to the ‘controls’ section, it doesn’t so much mean “options”, as it means, “they’re these, and they’re insane.” There is no way to switch to a controller, for which the game was blatantly obviously designed, and despite requiring mouse use throughout, the way to back out of this screen is by pressing Shift. Of course.
As the game begins, you’re required to decide on a haircut, eyes, clothes and accessories for your princess. I did my best to make mine as gothy as possible. It didn’t work too effectively. Thrown into the garden of the castle, your princess accidentally turns the enslaved sprites who forcibly tend her gardens into mischievous imps – what a to-do! To do something about this, you’re going to need to chase around after them, and to do that, you’re going to have to use the arrow keys.
SURVIVAL TIP #1 Right handers, clear a large section of desk to the left of your keyboard, so as to be able to have your left hand on the arrow keys. Left handers, feel smug.
Okay, fine, arrow keys to move. Do that (move a bit) and you’ll receive the cry of, “YOU DID IT!” and a sparkly spin. But don’t let it go to your head, as immediately comes, “To jump, press the Spacebar.” Wait, what? Left hand on arrow keys, right hand on mouse, and now my, what, elbow on the spacebar? But yes, that’s how it’s to be.
SURVIVAL TIP #2 Grow a third arm.
Once the imps in the garden are taken care of, things take a turn for the worse. The castle in which you live has a Portal Room, containing gateways to the worlds of faintly recognisable Disney princesses, like Ariel (who wasn’t a princess) and Rapunzel (who wasn’t a princess). The imps have only gone and stolen the crystals they have above their doors that don’t appear to affect if they work or not, so through each you must go, encountering strange, jaggedly polygonal forms of Disney characters, and gathering gems that allow you to open chests that allow you to pursue those all-important goals: getting new clothes, and new things for your bedroom.
SURVIVAL TIP #3 Accessorise.
Throughout the game your guide is a remarkably passive-aggressive narrator, who in her pursed-lipped snippy voice says things like, “You MIGHT want to go see Ariel in the sunken ship,” over and over until you do as you’re told. The rest of the characters are voiced by nothing-at-all-alikes of the actors who portrayed them in their respective films, squawking inane babble at you in unskippable sequences. “Oh no! I’ve lost my magic sparkle hipflasks! Can you collect them for me?!” they might bluster, before you’re required to not do anything of the sort, but instead move awkwardly around the 3D environments with the arrow keys, trying to aim your magic wand at imps and pressing ‘M’. “You found them!” cries the rambling imbecile, as you stare at your hands, wondering what you could be doing with your life.
SURVIVAL TIP #4 Stab a screwdriver into each ear.
It’s true that this isn’t a survival game in the sense that your character will die if you don’t persistently keep her alive, but rather in that you’ll definitely not want to live if you keep playing. You can see why the Steam community have labelled it this way. However, as with all good survival games, you can customise your living space with chaise longue, vases and rockeries, as well as grow things in your garden. Not to eat, admittedly. But if the flowers get sad, then your garden isn’t a happy place.
SURVIVAL TIP #5 If you’re a princess, hire a gardener.
That this game was originally released in 2012 (although has only just appeared on Steam) is something I had to check on a few times. It genuinely looks like it’s from the early 2000s, the incredibly low-res textures sitting awkwardly on what could play comfortably on a PS2. The controls are a special disaster, as if created by a furious programmer, sick with the world, sick with humanity, determined to bring in misery via the only pathetic path available to him/her. And while children are unquestionably idiots, even their simple brains will find this repetitive misery more than they’ll be willing to cope with. It’s a spectacularly horrible game, and one I absolutely could not survive more than a couple of hours. There’s more princess fun to be had in DayZ.
SURVIVAL TIP #6 Don’t play Disney Princess: My Fairytale Adventure.
You can read more Survival Week articles over here.