The Nintendo Switch is a wonderful little console. Being able to crawl up with headphones and a console-like game in your lap adds a certain charm you just don’t find elsewhere. Creepy Tale takes advantage of that atmosphere but also shows how poor controls and obtuse design can force you away from that immersion in an instant. The whole thing is both a blessing and a curse.
Creepy Tale opens up with the rather tinny sound of stock footsteps moving through a glade in an old spooky forest. You play the role of a young child accompanied by one other. He runs ahead and you follow. This is where the game teaches you its main mechanics. You can pick things up, jump, and move. That’s about all you do in Creepy Tale though, before being tasked with picking up mushrooms and placing them in a basket, and then moving on to the next area.
As you wander along, following the other boy, he disappears into an old shack that closes firmly behind him. You cannot get into the door and opt, instead, to look inside the cabin through the nearby window. This is when you are introduced to the central baddies of Creepy Tale; scruffy black creatures with glowing eyes. They grab him and place an ominous looking collar on him before you are given control again. You must grab one of the mushrooms you dropped in the heat of the moment and place them on a nearby stool before knocking on the door, luring one of the monsters out. It is then up to you to sneak into the cabin and make your way to the other side, past a sleeping monster.
From the outside, this is a rather simple puzzler, but one with a satisfying conclusion. Unfortunately, the general controls can get in the way and impact the experience. The button to pick up items is also the one for general interaction which can mess you up if items are a little too close to each other. Occasionally, you won’t pick up or interact with items that are right in front of you. This might not be a huge hassle if you could plan everything carefully but a multitude of the puzzles in here rely on quick movement and taking actions as fast as you can. It becomes rather infuriating to repeat puzzles because your character won’t grab simple objects. There is no visual signifier – like a button prompt – which often ends in randomly grabbing things until puzzles work.
Some puzzles in Creepy Tale are nicely put together and work well, however others fail to adhere to the logic of its own world. One level has you caught if you forget to close a cupboard after you loot it, but doesn’t worry about the numerous pieces you steal from right under the nose of an enemy. It often adds new ideas and mechanics without warning, meaning you are better going into levels with a trial and error method rather than thinking about the solution. These are small grievances by themself but together add up to something more annoying as the game progresses. Some of the magic of figuring things out is lost when puzzles lose their consistency.
This is a shame as the good puzzles in Creepy Tale shine in some interesting ways. Playing flute for a friendly monster to get a key to a door, or slowly building a bridge so you can make progress gives brief smiles as you realise what you’ve accomplished. Added to this, the atmosphere adds a lot to the overall package. Aside from some basic sound design issues, the music is tense when it needs to be and rather pretty when it wants to accentuate a point. The tonal changes are shown very well by an ever adapting set list of songs. The art style also adds a great deal to the general presentation. It is very childlike, although macabre by design, almost reminiscent of that old YouTube video “Salad Fingers.” Trees, leaves, and even people have a certain spindly quality to the way they move and operate. Seeing enemies in the clearing just behind you is one of the most wonderfully eerie moments in the entire game.
Creepy Tale on Nintendo Switch has some good ideas and concepts. Its general story is intriguing, its atmosphere enriching, and its art unique. But it is let down by clunky controls and a lack of consistency in the overall puzzle design. For the hour or so it lasts it’s an interesting, if annoying, experience but I can’t help imagine how good it could be if it were a more polished and long lasting experience. There are better attempts at this formula in a similar range, but it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on in the future.
Release date: July 2020
Formats: Nintendo Switch (Review)
Thanks to: No Gravity Games