Once Upon a Forest
Release date: 1995
Developer/Publisher: Sanctuary Woods
Age recommendation: 5 - 9 Jahre
Game language: Englisch
A review by slydos 19th August 2005
Once Upon A Forest... so magical this adventure game for children between 5 and 9 begins. Sanctuary Woods adapted the 1993er animated cartoon of the same name and produced a piece of pathetic morals. Opposite to the movie bearing quite some critical environmental protection topics, eco-allusions are only barely placed in the adventure game.
Michelle, the little badger, is no longer innocently poisoned with chlorine gas escaping from a truck, but gives herself a life-threatening lunch with a toadstool, because she wants to show her 'more grown-up' colleagues that she is very well a useful member of the gang. Causing this is the sentence "You're too small!", which is used by Michelle's friends in a rather arrogant and provocative way. Her friends are Edgar, the mole, Russel, the hedgehog and Abigail, the mouse. Michelle's uncle, the inventor and teacher Cornelius hasn't got enough of the rare herbs, that his niece now needs urgently. Therefore he asks the three furlings to bring him some new. They head for the forest each of them with its different abilities and foibles.
Russell is the strongman: he carries the rucksack, which one can open as inventory in the always visible menu bar. Beyond that he will take action if necessary. The mouse Abigail is a pert little being, who takes the role of a vanguard seeking out things. We can only control Abigail, the others will follow. If Abigail finds something interesting, she always asks the same questions: "Can we use that?" or "Could that be useful?". Then either mole or hedgehog will examine the object closer and will pocket it if necessary. Thereto Edgar reads out of Cornelius' journal, e.g. to identify plants, and he also makes new entries. The journal can be likewise found and opened in the interaction bar at the bottom of the screen. The first two pages represent a map of the forest, which becomes more complete, the more locations we have visited. This map serves however only as orientation. If we want to move fast from one scene to another, we must enter the underground. In some scenes there are holes in the ground, which lead to an expanded rabbit burrow system. Here one must only remember the right exit. If you start a new game, these entrances and exits are randomly exchanged.
Once Upon a Forest is totally mouse-controlled, keyboard strokes can be used as alternative. Arrows appear on the screen If one touches scene exits with the mouse. The team moves relative slow towards clicked spots. As the manual betrays, the space bar can accelerate these movements. But since the game was designed specifically for an age group, who cannot read yet, it surprises that such important information is only given in the manual.
If the cursor transforms into a hand, gamers can click on a screen area or object. Abigail will approach the object. In order to ask her question, the little mouse actually shouldn't move there each and every time. We also find repetitions when contacting other animals, e.g. the weasel, which can be however defeated either way each time. The texts are likewise often repetitive and I sadly must say that these repetitions and the long-winded character movements are duly boring.
Another component of the interaction bar is a copy of Cornelius' front door. If we click on it, the main menu appears with the options to save, load, start or quit the game.
The puzzles are - as one could presume - very simple. Here and there you can combine objects within the inventory or defend yourself against a dangerous animal. Generally the target group won't have to overcome large obstacles until the goal is achieved. Once Upon a Forest gets along without Game Overs or action elements. The puzzles are either object/inventory based or one must click at the right time on the right spot.
Helpful is the journal, which contains descriptions of the different herbs and flowers of the forest beside the map. If you click on the herbs in the book, their names are read out by Edgar. A whole number of these herbs are scattered in the forest. But we can be sure, that we don't find the herbs we are looking for, as soon as the cursor transforms into a magnifying glass. After another click Edgar's always same saying is: "Interesting herb. But I'm sure that won't help Michelle!"
In addition we find some drawings of Cornelius' inventions in the journal, among them the Flapper Wingamathing, a flight apparatus, which the three must assemble from pieces in the end. The playing time will be around 3 hours. As far as I know, there's no complete walkthrough for the game. But nobody will miss it for sure, because the puzzles can be solved automatically, if you click the candle in the menu bar.
The graphics of Once Upon a Forest don't knock your socks off, and that not only, because the game was made in 1995. The comic backgrounds are not very detailed and don't vary much also. There are no close-ups or changes of perspective, neither in the cutscenes, as one would expect in connection with comic adaptions of movies. Design and animation of the characters succeeded well on the other hand. You can however find a number of games for the target group, which do not only exceed Once Upon a Forest in their suspenseful story and action, but simply offer more variety and depth in graphics. 'Once' rather looks insignificant. On the other hand the English speech, music and sound effects succeeded well. However one must closely listen to the speakers, because the words are not always well articulated and there are no sub-titles. The credits music title, sung by composer Darren McGrath himself, can be repeated using the credits option in the main menu, what is really worthwhile.
Once Upon a Forest is a genuine DOS game. On my XP computer it works quite well with DOSBox emulator after the usual speed adjustments. You simply have to pay attention to leave the CDROM in your CD-drive after the installation is done.
Once Upon A Forest is a beautiful collector's piece for Lee Sheldon fans in a nice maxi-box. It's not really recommendable as family entertainment and far away from a real masterpiece. They didn't add some substance to the quite thin story of the movie and the interactivity is so monotonous that I didn't felt it to be absorbing at any time. 5 or 6 year old kids will find it nice, but don't expect any wild enthusiasm here. Then and today one could find more entertaining adventure games, with more variation and excitement and finally more fun - for parents too.
Rating: 56 %
Adventure-Archiv rating system:
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for hardcore-adventure-freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
- DOS 5.0
- 2 MB RAM
- VGA color monitor
- Sound Blaster compatible sound card
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Ultima Artec)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Sound card DirectX-compatible
Copyright © slydos for Adventure-Archiv, 19th August 2005
Michelle needs 2 rare herbs to stay alive
Some additional important objects must be taken from Cornelius' tree
There are sufficient save-slots
The map of the forest is starting to fill up
A magnifying glass helps to get more information about the herbs
The labyrinth of the rabbits can help you save some walking, if you can remember the right hole
The 3 friends meet different animals
Some of them are not so harmless and would like a mouse snack
The sea snake is pretty agressive indeed
So this is the 'yellow dragon'!
Cornelius' ingenious flying machine