Wales Interactive have carved out a bit of a niche with the FMV genre. They started out publishing some neat indie games such as Master Reboot and Soul Axiom, but they didn’t really hit their stride until they started experimenting with FMV games. Whilst earlier titles had a mixed response to begin with, they stuck with it and have become the only real publisher to handle such titles.
The only thing is, I’ve never actually played a single one of these FMV titles. Whilst I like the idea in principle, the ones that were so predominant in the 90s weren’t all that good. Even the better ones, such as Night Trap had its annoyances as it tried to juggle between being a movie and being a game.
Mia and the Dragon Princess avoids all such problems by not really being a game at all.
Many thanks to Wales Interactive for the review code.
THE PIRATE PRINCESS
Mia’s life is turned upside down when she stumbles across a seemingly homeless woman hiding in the street from some police. She’s confused and can’t speak any English, but a strange device on her wrist seems to be pointing her towards the restaurant above the bar where Mia works.
Things go from bad to worse when a bar altercation with some thugs results in a standoff between the bar staff and the restaurant owner above. He has an express interest in the mysterious woman as well as the underground tavern, and he’s willing to kill to get what he wants. Evidence seems to point to the impossible fact that she’s a pirate from the past and holds the key to a huge treasure – one that seems to be linked to Mia’s bar.
With a cast that includes star names such as the excellent Paul McGann, and some lesser known actors who show off their competent acting chops, the story seems to be far higher in budget than it actually is. Aside from a shaky cam start that had me fearing the worst, the majority of the tale is really well put together and seems just like a TV movie. It’s all pretty well paced too throughout the hour long duration without any real lull in the action right up until the climactic finale.
MIA AND THE LACK OF GAMEPLAY
So, the story itself is surprisingly quite compelling, but how does it play as a game?
Well, it doesn’t – at least for the most part.
During the course of the story, you’ll be met with certain choices that can alter how the narrative progresses. Do you try to coerce kindly, or insistently. Do you stay and help, or do you go with your new friend? Key decisions result in branching paths, and these are all pleasingly mapped out for you in one of the game’s menus. Some paths will end up being far shorter than the others as you make all the wrong decisions and end up with a less than satisfying ending, but most will get you to some kind of actual conclusion. The branching path system is a nice way to encourage replayability, even if it’s relatively weak as a gameplay mechanic.
But then that’s really what this is. A choose your own adventure movie. We’ve had games that offer the same type of experience albeit with visual novels, so why not with a film too? The game certainly demonstrates that it’s possible provided that you have good acting, a clear direction, and a compelling narrative.
As my first modern FMV game experience, I came away rather impressed with Mia and the Dragon Princess. Gone are the days of extremely low budget cringe, replaced with a competent TV-movie like experiences. It may be low on the gameplay front, but you won’t necessarily mind as you watch Paul McGann strutting around chewing up the scenery.