It seems recently that FMV games have been making a bit of a comeback, though it’s not like they’ve really gone away, or suddenly jumped into focus – there’s just a steady drip feed of well thought out and executed titles that surprise and delight. When it comes to developers, the current master is clearly Wales Interactive who brought us the brilliant Who Pressed Mute on Uncle Marcus? last year, and now they’ve released their latest immersive movie Mia and the Dragon Princess. With a bigger scope and more complex mechanic underpinning the filmic nature of the game, can it provide enough intrigue and mystery to keep viewers engaged, as well as ensure a good gaming experience?
Pirates… it’s all about pirates and buried treasure. Mia and the Dragon Princess makes it clear from the start that you’ll be enjoying a tale about searching for missing riches, though you’ll be the one providing all the directions to move the story on. Marshanda is a scoundrel that plundered the oceans centuries ago and is at the heart of the action, though she was frozen in ice until being thawed in the present and only has a mysterious wristband that directs her to London restaurant in her possession. As she makes a scene and ends up evading the police she stumbles across Mia who has a soft spot for people in trouble, and takes her in to the underground bar where she works. Not the best move it turns out as the restaurant owner and local gangster Walsh is trying to buy the bar to search for the treasure he believes is hidden there. He sends in his heavies to work over the owner and terrify him into selling, and things kick off from there. Where it all ends up though and what happens to each of the characters will depend on the actions you pick.
Taking on the role of chief decision maker, you’re watching over the titular Mia and picking one of two choices each time you’re prompted. Some of these decisions will split the narrative and send you off on a different tangent in the story path, and others will affect the attributes you possess depending on how you respond to people. Decide to be a total dick to everyone and it’ll send you down a different route to being nice, and consequently open up alternate storylines and potential endings. The first playthrough is likely to be slightly jarring as you won’t see every angle of the tale, and because you’re only really witnessing events from Mia’s perspective things can happen when you’re out of the room. That disconnect to the tale is alleviated when you start to replay and pick alternate options, and Mia and the Dragon Princess opens up so show its full nature, as well as tailoring some of the scenes to match the attributes you’ve built. It’s more than possible to play through several times and see new and different parts with each try. Helping guide you through the story maze is a map that’s accessible at any point, though I’d recommend not worrying about it for the first couple of goes. It doesn’t spoil anything, you’ll just be poring over it lots in the later stages trying to figure out how to access scenes you’ve not seen before.
Because Mia and the Dragon Princess is an interactive movie you’d expect to spend a lot of time watching and listening, and there’s a fair amount been filmed to get through. Most surprising are actually the full blown fight scenes that pepper the plot. In these Marshanda gets to show off her pirate credentials and kick some ass quite impressively… these are not just quick cut slaps between actors. Keeping your attention is key and the crew do a great job with a number of familiar faces piquing your interest, as well as leaning into their stereotypes without making it cheesy. Paul McGann is arguably the most famous actor, though you’ll likely have seen Brian McCardie in various TV shows and MyAnna Buring in a host of cult UK films. There are a good amount of stunt actors used too that really sell the more physical scenes, and the casting decisions pay off well. In terms of pacing it’s a bit of a strange one because you’re dictating that, so it’s possible to have some weird cuts to later scenes and continuity blips, yet these right themselves as you play more and see the different paths you can take and understand the logic behind it all.
As with all FMV games, Mia and the Dragon Princess isn’t the longest experience in the world, though there is a lot of filmed content to watch to see every possible outcome. The production values are good for what is clearly a tight budget, and it’s intuitive and simple enough to play that anyone could pick it up. Well, I say anyone… it’s rated a 12 in the UK, but be conscious of younger ones being around as there’s a fair amount of f-bombs and some injury detail to watch out for. It’s where the differences between film and game classification come in I guess. On the whole though I’d recommend this as there’s a decent uncomplicated story to scratch away at, plenty of replay value to see and hear everything, and it runs pretty slickly too with the fast loading times not meaning uncomfortably long pauses that break the immersion. Here’s hoping more flows from the developer as the ambition in the genre is clear, and this nails what the medium has to offer when it’s well thought out and presented with style.
A PS5 review copy of Mia and the Dragon Princess was provided by Wales Interactive’s PR team, and the game is available now on PC, PlayStation, Switch, iOS, Android and Xbox for around £11, depending on platform.
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