Cinders is a new visual novel by MoaCube, creators of Bonfire, Magi, Co op, and the upcoming Solstice. I’m a fan of both the genre and fairy tales, so I was excited to see this pop up on Steam. The game was actually released in 2012, but is a new addition to the Steam library.
Watch the trailer:
Cinders is a witty young woman living with an overbearing stepmother and her two daughters, as if she was reenacting a certain well-known fairy tale. But unlike its protagonist, Cinders is not afraid of taking fate into her own hands. Even if it means breaking the rules.
At first glance, this might seem like a simple re-imagining of Cinderella, but with four distinct endings with multiple branching paths within those endings, you can end up somewhere very different than the traditional happily ever after. To go into detail about the plot would be spoiling, so I will not, but I was quite pleased that I didn’t have to get married to the Prince if I didn’t want to. The game also starts in media res, so you know that eventually circumstances will lead you to the palace guard knocking on your door. I haven’t found all the endings yet, and I look forward to doing so. You can also skip over parts you’ve already read when doing this, which takes quite a bit of the tediousness out of subsequent replays. My only complaint is that sometimes the writing can feel stiff and overly formalized.
Graphics and Sound
The artwork was created by Gracjana Zielinska and is stunning. Every screen is highly, beautifully detailed, and the character art is distinct. Everyone is attractive, which is par for the course in visual novels. When introduced, each character gets a woodcut portrait of themselves, and this art style is repeated during the ending “cutscene.” I also really liked how the people at the masquerade ball were portrayed – hazy silhouettes with the eyes cut out. The soundtrack, composed by Rob Westwood, is available on Bandcamp for pay-what-you-want and is also excellent – I bought it myself!
If you’ve played a visual novel, you know what to expect. Most of your time is spent reading, but along the way you’ll make choices that influence the way you move through the story and, ultimately, what ending you get. It’s kind of like reading a choose-your-own-adventure book. There isn’t much more to gameplay than that, but the story itself is an enjoyable experience, and there’s a lot to unlock. As you find endings and aspects of the story, you get trophies that make the main menu more detailed. A branch icon appears in the top right corner when you make a decision that causes the story to branch, which happens a lot. My first playthrough took me an hour and forty minutes, but this will vary depending on your reading speed.
There are eight Steam achievements, and trading cards are also included.
An excellent, gorgeous visual novel that doesn’t emphasize romance as the ideal ending to the story. I would especially recommend it for those who love fairy tale re-imaginings.
Get Cinders on Steam for $19.99 ($17.99 until May 8, 2013!). Check out the official site (where you can get a demo and purchase the game), like on Facebook, follow on Twitter, and subscribe on YouTube.
[Disclaimer: A review code was provided for me to review this game.]