In some sort of honor of those like me who can't afford to spend too much on the Steam Summer Sale, have a review of a free visual novel instead. This is another NaNoReNo game, meaning it was done in a month, although it is still being updated a bit. Once again, I have to commend developers who undertake this; I know I certainly couldn't.
Fairly Dangerous follows a group of five fairies who are tempted by the world outside their Great Tree and skeptical of their elders' claims that the human realm is as horrific and dangerous as they claim. One weekend, they stow away in a hiker's backpack, and end up in a human's apartment. But the new world they've encountered turns out to be far more dangerous than they anticipated, with rat traps and microwaves and outlets and box fans and other such dangers (not that they know the names for any of these things, much less how unsafe those things could be for fairies). To make things worse, it turns out that being so far away from the Great Tree nullifies their magical powers. Will the fairies be able to make it back home safely, or have they bitten off more than they can chew by venturing too far from home?
Right off the bat, I have to say that this is not a game for the faint of heart. The developers classify it as "a dark comedy visual novel with horror and tragicomedy elements" for good reasons. It's one of those games where death is around every corner and certain choices can unexpectedly lead to one of your fairy friends meeting a terrible end. You can watch one of your friends get eaten by a rat, microwaved, impaled, drowned, snapped in half...the list goes on. Most of the deaths are caused by the fairies not knowing "humanese," as they call it, and being generally unfamiliar with human objects in general. And pretty much all of the deaths are described in rather gruesome detail. They're made all the more painful by knowing that the deaths were, for the most part, simple to avoid if only the fairies had known what they were dealing with.
The writing accomplishes all of this very well though. It does a great job of painting a much bigger picture than the fairies will ever realize exists. You can pretty easily put together the story of the humans whose apartment the fairies are in, and you can also put together why their quest to get back home is going to be unexpectedly tricky for them. Admittedly, I hesitate to call it a comedy in any sense...but I can definitely call it dark, and dark suits it.
As for the fairies themselves...Honestly, the protagonist herself is pretty insufferable. Mentha, the girl who narrates and whose choices you make, is a bratty know-it-all who doesn't act like she cares one bit about any of her friends. She only really likes pursuing knowledge and "being the leader," and it takes her way too long to start realizing that they're in a pretty bad situation. When one of her friends dies, she repeatedly insists that it isn't her fault in any way (even when it completely is). In one case, her first instinct is to hide the body and make sure that no one else knows that the other fairy is dead. Reading most of what she says makes me want to strangle her in the most unpleasant way. The rest of the fairies I could pretty much take or leave, save for Lavender, who is quirky and fun but gives off the impression that she knows way more than she's saying. She's also the one who implies that Mentha's emotional detachment is actually a trait of all fairies, and that your other friends are only acting like what they think being sad is like, which is interesting to ponder.
The art is enjoyable; though the poses of the sprites feel a bit limited at times, the fairies are all appropriately pretty, and the backgrounds scale correctly to account for their much different view of the world. There's a rather large lack of CGs, which to me feels like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I would appreciate getting to see more of the terrible world that the fairies have found themselves in (and I really do like this artist). On the other hand, most of the CGs that you could put in would just be pictures of the fairies' gruesome deaths, replacing the gory discretion shots that the game makes large use of with, well, just gory shots. And I'm not sure that that would really add to the game.
The game has sixteen endings to achieve, and they can be grouped into three categories: everyone dies, some fairies survive, or some fairies make it back to the Enchanted Forest. There is no ending where everyone survives: one fairy's death is inevitable no matter what you do, and it's pretty easy to make a wrong choice and end up accidentally killing another fairy. The developers have been kind enough to provide a walkthrough if you get stuck. The game's not too hard once you get the hang of it, although you might end up accidentally killing everyone your first playthrough or two.
Overall, we have a good free experience; with all the endings, there's a good amount of replayability, and the game's world was enough to keep me coming back despite my inherent dislike of the protagonist. You may want to practice a bit of fairy-style detachment from all the death, though...or just be really careful of dangerous human objects.
Oh, and don't pick up random food off the ground and eat it.
Oh, and don't go near windows.
Fairly Dangerous is available for free download from itch.io, GameJolt.com, and Google Play.
Final verdict: Though somewhat lacking in characterization, Fairly Dangerous makes up for it with a strong story and setting, and does a good job of drawing the player in with a grim narration.
Fairly Dangerous is developed by kaleidofish, Thestral, and kaenSe4, and illustrated by Tilly and Duskylli. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.