“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players …” – William Shakespeare
Once Upon a Jester is a wonderfully wacky adventure gaming starring Jester and Sok who must traverse towns impressing folks with their acting skills in a bid to earn a spot performing for the Princess in the Royal Theatrical Spectacle!
Developer: Bonte Avond
Released: 9th November 2022
This game is being reviewed as part of the Indie Game Collective (IGC) showcase.
Once Upon a Jester follows Jester and Sok as they complete to create and perform the best shows in town to win a place in the renowned Royal Theatrical Spectacle. This will grant them access to the palace and in turn the Royal Diamond – which they intend to steal! Numerous individual plays (directed by the player) are encompassed within the overarching narrative which is delivered mostly through well-written and highly amusing dialogue with details being revealed to the player at an enjoyable pace.
There are three towns in which Jester and sock must earn 15 flower bouquets (45 in total) in order to win a place at the Royal Theatrical Spectacle. One to five bouquets are awarded per play by the audience and success is based on a number of factors.
Before each performance, the player must scout the town and work out which genres that night’s audience will love and hate by talking to the townsfolk, observing their conversations and looking for other visual clues. Genres include spooky, drama, romance, action and music. Once this has been deduced the player can create a poster for the evening’s events using stickers that are awarded during performances and conversations.
Once upon a Jester’s main aspect is that of performance, creating the plays themselves consists of making timed choices to direct the genre of the play and completing small tasks that feel like a cross between rhythm-based tasks and QTEs. Usually, they consist of a bar that must be hit at a certain time whilst a pendulum of sorts swings across it. Some tasks are more challenging than others but the game does offer three difficulty levels; chill, normal and nightmare.
The charming and vibrant art style is simple but delightfully stylised to look like a collage made of coloured paper giving it a unique feel visually. Once Upon a Jester is also a very musical game with plenty of upbeat jolly tracks in major keys. Different characters will often burst into song as they are interacted with making for really fun and silly interludes! Likewise, the voice acting is eclectic, lively and very expressive, though could be considered a bit too silly in places with over-the-top accents detracting from the narrative elements.
Once Upon a Jester is a delightful game that offers an original premise, engaging gameplay and a charming silliness that runs through all aspects of the experience. The narrative is cute and intriguing and works well with the colourful collage visuals and enthusiastic audio elements. The game will take around 3-5 hours to complete, but since each play is unique, there is plenty of replayability on offer. Overall, this is a well-made and original game that is sure to raise some smiles, I’d happily recommend it to anyone looking for a casual and slightly ridiculous adventure game.
If you enjoyed this you might also like the following adventure game reviews:
Beacon Pines – A Cute and Creepy Adventure Game – Lost in Play – A Surprisingly Tricky Puzzle Adventure! – FixFox: A Wholesome New Space Adventure