Taking players on an adventure through some magical worlds, Neopets: The Darkest Faerie is a decent RPG style adventure based on the popular cartoon's cast of characters. There's a solid quest with loads of mini-games in addition to the main quest. Players switch between two main characters during the adventure, which adds some variety to the gameplay, and there are some interesting dungeons and enemies to explore. While it's not the most elaborate game on the market with a flat design and simplistic play mechanics, this simple dungeon crawler should appeal to younger gamers and fans of the series.
Neopets: The Darkest Faerie takes place in the mystical world of Neopia, where players can choose to play as either the fox named Tormund the Knight or a young female wizard named Roberta the Sorceress. The adventure begins with Tormund leaving his homestead and emarking on a journey to the castle, where he discovers the evil Dark Faerie who was imprisoned many years ago by Queen Fyora many years ago and has been plotting to submerge the world in darkness. It's a predictable plot that unfolds in the usual manner, with the young boy gradually becoming a man, transforming into a brave knight and learning to work well with others. It's not going to change the world, but Darkest Faerie does a solid job with its characters and design. This isn't going to win any awards for originality, either but it isn't offensively bad or awful by any means. The gameplay is traditional, though slightly simplistic by most RPG standards, with players facing off against a variety of foes including bandits, dark knights, spiders and even possessed gardens. The game's presentation is simple, with the enemy's life bar and your health presented quite simply on screen, making for an accessible game with little complexity. The battles take place in real time, with the action broken up by cut scenes, making them fast moving. At first, you can slice through opponents like butter, but you'll need a more strategic approach later on for the smarter enemies. To help you along the way, you will find a variety of magical objects and other items such as spells and potions can be used to increase your health, cast spells on foes, or gain additional powers.
You'll meet a number of other characters throughout the game, and many of them play important roles in the story. Players can also interact with these NPC characters to learn information and get the occasional advice. These characters can also give you side-quests and mini-games to complete which offer rewards and other items when completed. During the battles, you can use a variety of techniques to defeat your foes including the traditional swordplay and other items as well including spells and potions. The menu system is very easy to understand and simple to navigate, making it easy to get into this Neopets adventure. You'll need some patience however, since the game takes awhile to get going, but most players should be able to get into Darkest Faerie relatively quickly after the preambles have ended. Fighting your way up to the harder levels takes some time, but the game opens up a lot once you've beaten the first few levels with additional powers. The ability to switch characters helps a lot, since each brings a unique set of abilities to the adventure. While many other RPG's seem to revel in their complexity, The Darkest Faerie's gameplay is straightforward with a plot that moves forward at a good pace. Even so, it does tend to get a bit juvenile at points, with a high percentage of excessively cute characters and locations. This is in keeping with the source material, but still makes the overall experience a little less engaging than it could have been.
There are many elements in The Darkest Faerie that will be immediately familiar to many gamers, such as the context sensitive controls where pressing a single button performs different tasks, and the overall structure. Its structure and approach are highly reminiscent of a certain Nintendo role-playing series, with a similar look and feel throughout, which can either been seen as a tribute or a blatant copy. While the developers have strived to capture a bit of the Zelda magic with many elements of this game, they fall short in several key areas. It's a licensed game which is limiting in itself, but the game also falls flat for a number of other important reasons. The storyline is decent and somewhat interesting, but the characters themselves aren't as interesting as they could have been. The battles themselves are fun initially. However, the repetitive battles and endless walking means that the game becomes monotonous quickly, making the Darkest Faerie experience more a chore than a challenge. There are numerous mini-games to defeat, and these are enjoyable, but they can't make up for the problems with the main quest, which isn't as fun as you'd think. Of course, a lot of this has to do with the target market, which is decidedly not adult, so to cut the title some slack, it is a decently produced game. The voice overs and music are nicely presented and Neopets' production values are decent, though not spectacular by any means. Unfortunately, most players will probably find the game's simplistic renderings rather primitive, even considering the purposely kiddie audience. The flat-shaded polygons try to look cartoonish, but instead merely evoke memories of bad PS1 games, with a flat appearance and simple objects. Things get better when you enter dungeons and other more interesting areas such as the inside of castles, but Neopets' overall graphic design is underwhelming and disappointing by PS2 standards.
Despite its rather flat appearance that makes Neopets feel rather dated, there are several enjoyable aspects of the game. It's simple approach and controls means that the game is accessible by gamers of all ages and abilities and the plot, while a bit predictable and plot, isn't offensive. The straightforward combat system and interface also keeps things from becoming overly complex, and NeoPets' greatest strength lies in its simple approach. While the gameplay isn't excessively difficult, there is some challenge in the later levels. The spells and combo system adds some variety to the gameplay, while the ability to change characters gives you some additional options. It's not as expansive as a traditional RPG, so players looking for that type of gameplay will probably feel somewhat limited by the game's structure. Overall, this adequate game delivers exactly what you'd expect it to and not much else. The game is nicely produced, but nothing spectacular by any means. While older gamers will probably become bored with The Darkest Faerie in a hurry, younger players will probably find this an enjoyable title to play before moving on to more advanced role playing titles.