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Neopets: The Darkest Faerie
Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Idol Minds
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Adventure/ Platformer (3D)

Graphics & Sound:
Neopets: The Darkest Faerie takes those collectible creatures that started hitting the American market a couple of years ago and puts them in their first action adventure game.

Visually, The Darkest Faerie fits the mystical, fantasy-like world you would expect to see from the settings described in the toy line. You will travel from dense forests to large castles to swamps and deserts. Each area looks different enough such that you can easily identify where you are and what you were doing, even if you've put the game down for a few days.

Each of the models, from the main characters of the story to the petpets you meet along the way, resemble their plush-toy counterparts. Basically, any fan of the toys will feel like this game has done the line justice.

As for the game's audio, the background music got the job done and stayed low-key and out of the way, but was ultimately forgettable once your turned off the system. The voice acting, on the other hand, was very well done and really helped to progress the game's story line.


Gameplay:
Neopets: The Darkest Faerie gives you control of two characters. One is a young Lupe-Knight named Tormund who has found himself unwittingly trapped in this adventure when he is asked to bring a package to the castle. The other is Roberta, who is the niece of the land's two kings. All her life she has been trained to follow her family's footsteps and rule -- but she has secretly been tutored by the royal sorcerer, Seradar, in various magical techniques.

Now, with the release of an ancient evil known only as The Darkest Faerie, Roberta must team up with Tormund and travel across Neopia to stop the evil faerie before it is too late. The duo will sneak, climb and swing their way across various landscapes. On their journey, they will meet characters and enemies alike that collectors of the toys should be able to easily recognize.

Though the game becomes a bit of a button-masher when you are controlling Tormund, Roberta's magical abilities try to counter that effect by making you think about which spells should be used against which enemies. In a Poke'mon-like manner, spells are associated with a specific element type and each element is strong or weak against its opposing force. But this game's system is a bit simpler and somewhat unintuitive. There are six magical alignments: Fire, Water, Air, Earth, Dark and Light. But instead of building a Rock-Paper-Scissors system like in Poke'mon, each alignment is only opposed by one other and all you have to know is that attacking with that type won't do as well as another attack.

For instance, attacking a water creature with a fire spell won't be as effective as an air or earth spell. This is pretty intuitive since water puts out fire. But if you attack a fire creature with a water spell, it is also not very effective. This is where it got a bit counter-intuitive to me. I was expecting a system that would have fire being weak against water which was weak against another element, and that element being weak against fire (like in Poke'mon), but instead you just have to know which pairs go together and know not to use the opposing type.


Difficulty:
Neopets: The Darkest Faerie is a game that might pose some tough parts, but is generally easy to plow through. You will find yourself running from area to area casting spells or chopping away at enemies, until you reach a boss or puzzle that will take a few minutes to actually get past.

The Darkest Faerie doesn't necessarily offer anything original in the way of gameplay, so there isn't much of a learning curve involved if you've played other action-adventure titles similar to this one.


Game Mechanics:
Neopets: The Darkest Faerie has an easy to get used to control scheme that should come natural to veteran gamers. You attack with the Circle button, block with your shield by holding down the L1 button, jump with the X and interact with the world with the Square button. The Triangle button is used to activate one of the items in your inventory using the Quick Select Menu (a system that lets you quickly use health, magic, special or curative restoration items while in the heat of battle).

An added twist to the game, and something that helps to make this a Neopet title instead of just some generic action/adventure game, is the use of petpets. These are creatures you find throughout the game. These wild animals will follow your hero when you feed them something from your inventory. Typically these animals have some special ability that will help you as you go into battle. For instance, you will run into Noils, Mortogs and Turmacs -- which, if they like you, will increase your health, make you tougher or increase your luck. There are many different petpets found throughout Neopia and part of the fun of this game is finding the right animal to help you prepare for your next fight.

Neopets is a fun action-adventure title with enough different mechanics like the petpets to make it more than just another generic game with a licence. Fans of this genre should definitely give The Darkest Faerie a chance, but if you aren't sure, then it is worth at least a rent before you completely discount it.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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