If you’ve landed on this review via the previous one for The Tales of Bearsworth Manor: Puzzling Pages, then what you’re about to read will probably make a bit more sense to you. If you didn’t then you can go back and read it for a more complete picture.
It’s this approach which (as well as making the games a swine to cover from this reviewers own personal point of view) is certainly unique and more than a little brave. Chaotic Conflicts doesn’t lose any of the dark sense of foreboding which permeated through the other title in the series, but the storyline will make more sense if you’ve played the previous title. This time it follows Kina, another little girl who finds herself charged with working her way through a magical picture book.
As the title to this chapter suggests, the puzzles which formed the basis of Puzzling Pages have been replaced with a much faster pace of play. Essentially the game is now a tower defence title, with the player’s bears used to defend against the attacking hoards. This is done by throwing the bears onto the pages of each stage with the Wii Remote, using the right combination to outnumber the oncoming foes and protect the blue gems. In a rather harsh turn, loose just one of them and it’s game over and unlike Puzzling Pages, here the number of bears at your disposal are a bit more limited, requiring the player to make judicious use of them.
This iteration of the series commands a much more precise grasp of the controls since, as with most games of this genre, the enemies come thick and fast once they start. Thankfully your bears are pretty clever and will intercept nearby enemies within a sizeable radius. Whereas in Puzzle Pages the controls didn’t pose a problem because you could generally take your time to line up a shot (and thereby compensating for the slightly fidgety controls), here the bears autonomy becomes a God send and prevents it from becoming too frustrating. Again various elements come into play, with things like fire, water and ice being used to defeat various enemies and the player will need to be quick to juggle the types when the action kicks into top gear. Naturally this makes it feel a lot more frantic, and a lot more stressful, than Puzzling Pages although it’s this distinct difference that stops it feeling crushingly familiar.
While Chaotic Conflicts’ game style may feel sufficiently different, the biggest problem is that it’s laid out exactly the same as the other title. While no one would expect the game to be a rapid departure in visual style or basic content (the games are billed as a series after all), it certainly feels overly familiar very, very quickly. When you factor in the price (and once again the large amount of DLC which was available on day one) it does almost feel like the series is one larger title broken down into chunks – almost episodic but going all out to avoid actually using the term for fear that gamers will turn their nose up at it.
Would Bearsworth Manor have been better if they had waited a little bit longer before releasing both versions? The answer is most certainly yes, and while neither game is particularly bad, the combination of the two in rapid succession might feel like overkill. The change in game style also means if you’re not a fan of the either of the two genres currently spanning the series, then it doesn’t seem to make much sense for people to become invested in titles which flip flop between styles – especially since you need both titles to fully appreciate the game. It’s arguable whether a lower price bracket may have helped overcome this.
Some of this is being overly harsh on Chaotic Conflicts as it isn’t necessarily a bad title and, at the risk of just repeating what was said in our Puzzling Pages review, the style and approach make it stand out. It’s just that the biggest question mark hanging over its head is a result of the rather unique approach which Square Enix has taken in producing it.
As mentioned in the Puzzling Pages review, only time will tell if Square Enix’s approach is successful.