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Cinders review for Nintendo Switch, PC


Platform: Switch
Also on: PC
Publisher: Crunching Koalas
Developer: MoaCube / Crunching Koalas
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: T

While the Disney version of Cinderella has probably become the standard one for many people, it’s worth remembering that the story dates back many centuries — millennia, possibly — that feature all kinds of different elements. Depending on which version you read, there are fur slippers instead of glass, magical fish bones instead of a fairy godmother, a young man instead of a young woman — basically, there have been changes galore down through the ages, and the story depends a lot on who’s telling it.

Cinders was created in this spirit. It starts off where most people are familiar: a young woman living with her evil stepmother and two cruel stepsisters. From there, though, it takes you on all kinds of twists and turns, all of them dependent on where you want the story to go. You can turn the eponymous heroine into a much darker, more vengeful woman, or you can have her empathize with her tormentors. You can go for the prince, or you can go for the dark, brooding captain of the guard. You can work with the voodoo priestess to escape the town, you can manipulate the shopkeeper you’ve known your whole life, you can take advantage of a fairy godmother…basically, you can steer the story where you want it to go.

What makes it interesting isn’t just the choices you have, but the way they’re written. While the Disney version of Cinderella featured pretty one-dimensional characters, the ones in Cinders are much more complex. The evil stepmother and her daughters all have personalities and motivations, and when the game’s heroine starts acting a little cruel herself, they call her on it. It’s an interesting choice to give everyone agency, and it works well in this context especially, where everyone likely knows the story inside and out.

Obviously, the way it plays out will be familiar to anyone who ever read a Choose Your Own Adventure novel — or, for that matter, to anyone who’s ever experienced a visual novel. It’s a lot of reading, and not too much else. But Cinders takes the “visual” part of visual novel very seriously. This is a fine-looking game, with scene after scene that look like they’ve been taken from woodcuts.

It all adds up to make a pretty interesting experience. Even if you think you know the story of Cinderella pretty well, Cinders shows that there are all kinds of other ways for the story to go — and it makes for a surprisingly engaging game to boot.

Crunching Koalas provided us with a Cinders Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: A-