The Tales of Bearsworth Manor (WiiWare) Review
Note: The Tales of Bearsworth Manor consists of two individual WiiWare releases, both of which share a common system but with slight differences. For the sake of convenience, this review will look at both titles. There is a more puzzle orientated title, named Puzzling Pages, and a more action based one, named Chaotic Conflicts.
In a rather unexpected move, it came as great surprise that Square Enix released something on WiiWare that wasn’t Final Fantasy, and employed an artistic style that greatly appealed to me. Naturally, not knowing anything about the title but being pulled in by what I deemed as pretty graphics, I promptly purchased both versions of Bearsworth Manor on the WiiWare platform. After actually playing both, I came out pleasantly surprised.
Within a crumbling mansion is a strange and mysterious picture book, and inside is a scary tale of battles between unknown forces. In the Puzzling Pages title, which takes on a slower puzzle-based gameplay model, we follow a young girl named Pina who resides within the mansion. Chaotic Conflicts, on the other hand, takes a more action-orientated gameplay model and follows a young boy named Kina. Neither of the stories diverge too much, but the few cutscenes that do exist add a nice little incentive to play through both titles.
Bearsworth Manor utilises a pseudo Tim Burton-esque artistic style that is a mix between gothic and fantasy. This artistic style is greater intensified by the pop-up story book style that the game employs, creating a rather interesting mix of the style you would expect from a title such as Yoshi’s Story on the Nintendo 64, mixed with a Tim Burton movie. Despite the lack of real graphical prowess, the simplistic designs and quirky characters really hammer home the phantasmagorical storyline that the game takes.
The general idea of both titles is that players must deploy “paper bears” onto the pages of this mystical story book. In the Puzzling Pages title, these bears must be deployed in order to retrieve red gems that are placed at strange areas throughout the pages. It’s quite simplistic at first, with the bears walking towards the gems with little effort, but as the levels become more complex and introduce moving platforms and barriers, players will have to use their Wii Remote much more intuitively to ensure that not only their bears get wasted, but that they retrieve the gems in the least amount of “bears” as possible. The developers have created some rather nice situations that are sometimes quite straightforward, but others are quite challenging and are thought-provoking. All in all it’s a rather nice affair.
Within Chaotic Conflicts, players must similarly deploy bears onto pages of a mystical story book, but in this iteration the players must use their bears to battle oncoming enemies and defend blue gems. Obviously, being a rather action-orientated title, Chaotic Conflicts poses less of a thought-provoking experience and thus more of an easily accessible title to delve into.
Talking about the differences in gameplay between the two titles is all great, but the way in which players control this action or defence is most important, and for the most part, Bearsworth Manor doesn’t really disappoint. The gameplay, for lack of a better example, reminds me of the Ekans mini-game in the original Pokémon Stadium game on the Nintendo 64. Players choose a direction with which to throw their bear by tilting their Remote, and throw the bear at a strength determined by the force of a vertical waggle while holding the trigger and A button. While it’s pretty straightforward, I did run into some sensitivity issues that made me overshoot – perhaps something that could’ve been corrected with MotionPlus support?
Despite these setbacks, the game is quite packed full of challenges and there’s almost always room for improvement in the game – players who complete the game can always go back to better their scores and become below their record to make more points or get a better ranking (which are a standard Bronze, Silver and Gold system). Still, the biggest complaint I would have about Bearsworth Manor is probably the fact that there wasn’t really any reason to split this title into two parts, besides the express intent to make a bit more profit. These games are essentially two sides of the same coin, and it’s perplexing as to why a cheaper bundle may not have been offered. Both experiences probably aren’t worth 2000 Points all up.
The Tales of Bearsworth Manor is a competent series of both puzzle and action games that do a great job at utilising the WiiWare platform to deliver simplistic gameplay that is still enjoyable to play. If you enjoy simple puzzle or action games, I implore you to try Puzzling Pages or Chaotic conflicts, respectively. A great surprise from Square Enix.
Developer: Square Enix
Previously: Final Fantasy IV: The After Years, My Life as a Darklord, Crystal Defenders
Control: Wii Remote
Cost: 1000 Wii Points each
Blocks Used: Approx. 202