Wales Interactive continues to churn out FMV adventures both big and small and Mia and the Dragon Princess is probably one of their most ambitious yet. It combines live-action fights, Goonies-styled booby traps and some extremely sci-fi movie budget camera work and CGI to sell you a choose your own adventure movie that feels squarely aimed at the bad cinema crowd. It isn’t for a lack of soul or effort, it is just that the concept bites off way more than it can handle.
You play as Mia who works as a barmaid in a pirate themed pub in London. Marshanda stumbles into Mia’s world, unable to speak English and clearly on the run from various goons and the police. You’ll take her in and then depending on the choices you make, you’ll go on an adventure with various other side characters to find some long-lost treasure and perhaps discover who Marshanda truly is. It is a game that requires multiple playthroughs to really get the full story as certain information is only obtained through choices – often ones that may kill off characters. There is definitely a definitive “best” ending but you’ll find plenty of other variants along the way and this can be viewed through a timeline that you can access at any time during the game. This almost acts like a walkthrough to help you know when to choose a different option and experience scenes you’ve yet to see. A playthrough takes around an hour, however, once you’ve seen a scene you can choose to skip it. I also appreciated streamer mode which pauses the game for each choice so you have time to consider or vote with people online or in person on what to do.
Storywise this game is wild. It’s split largely into two halves – the pub section and the adventure section. What is fantastic is that your adventure splits off immediately with a choice meaning you can have a totally different second half of the game, enhancing replayability a great deal. The problem with this is that as things join up again, sometimes characters vanish from the script or magically move or things just feel extremely hacked back together again in a jarring way. This comes through most with the game’s tone. In a similar style to Blood Shore, Mia and the Dragon Princess goes from high stakes fights and shoot outs to terrible puns or one-liners to characters being stabbed to death to our main characters just going for tea and cake for a mid-game break. It is all over the place, like a movie made by The Asylum. Add in shaky cam, spin cam and some sparingly used CGI that feels very out of place and you have a game that doesn’t feel cohesive…
… and yet I still very much enjoyed it. Mia and the Dragon Princess has this so-bad-its-good vibe throughout. The actors do what they can with the script options they’ve been given but the entire cast plays the game like Disney villains that can swear and bleed a lot. Again, it is tonal dissonance but it does give the game a unique character.
I don’t think this is up there with Wales Interactive’s best – it feels similar to Blood Shore in that it is doing too much. I think when you don’t have the budget, keeping the tales smaller, and intimate and working with complex or entertaining characters is the best way to go. Instead, we get too much spread too thinly with not enough time to care about the characters. The emphasis is on the peril and since it’s so shlocky, it doesn’t land as well as say Ten Dates, Doctor Dekker or The Complex. Late Shift knew to keep the action tight to the camera and cast to a minimum and that lands better too. I enjoyed Mia and the Dragon Princess, and FMV fans will enjoy this, but it’s a for-the-fans game rather than a gateway entry to the genre.
This is a very generous 7.5/10 as a genre fan – others may want to knock it down a point or two.
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