The early to mid-90s was filled with discussions about the age classifications of video games. It wasn’t driven so much by who should be playing certain games, but rather who shouldn’t. Games that had content in them that was inappropriate for children eventually got marked as such by the ESRB, but what got left out of that conversation, and is still lacking to this day is a game being specifically recommended for a particular age group. The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang is an RPG that came out before the ESRB rating system, but in spite of that, it feels like it was made specifically for young children.
The Role You Play
You play as the titular Spike McFang, the prince and eventual successor to the Dracuman kingdom. Spike starts off in training before learning to become a potential savior to his country of Vladamasco and has to learn how to jump over obstacles, attack enemies with his cape and throw his hat at distant enemies. He can also acquire cards that he can use to activate special abilities that help him navigate around obstacles, damage enemies, and transport him back to safety. He can also purchase more powerful hats that move in different patterns and leave trails of glitter that do more damage to enemies.
As Spike begins his training camp on Fighter Island, he is told by his friend Camelia that General Von Hesler’s army has taken over the land of Vladamasco and his parents and her mother are missing. With Camelia and Spike’s kingdom’s crumbling and being invaded by monsters, it is up to Spike and his friends to rally together and learn how to fight off the new threat to their world.
The game can be easily summarized as an action RPG with a hint of platforming thrown in. There are large room-to-room sections that are filled with enemies that you can choose to fight or simply walk past. The enemies will drop health and money that you can use to buy hat upgrades and cards. Throughout the game there will be sections that require navigating obstacles or finding keys to unlock doors, but the sections are rather linear and are not too complicated to figure out. There is one boss at the end of each section, and possibly one or two in the middle) and they are a step up in challenge in the combat.
This game is not very long. There are a total of four sections to the game and each one of them is pretty easy to navigate. There are a few obstacles that have to be beaten, like in the castle section where you have to locate keys to locked doors, but they are not too hard to locate. It is possible to meet an unexpected challenge and die, especially when facing one of the bosses. If that happens, you will get sent back to your last save point and that will force you to make up some time. That being said, this game will not take more than 4 or 5 hours to finish.
There is a very sparse soundtrack in this game, so the music that is used plays on repeat for a very long time. The problem with that is that the tracks are a bit too short and they loop a bit too frequently with little opportunity to interrupt them. The track in the castle loops every minute and it includes the intro, so it feels awkward every time it loops. Not only that, it’s very upbeat and joyful sounding, so it’s weird to hear when battling enemies. A couple of the other tracks are pleasant to hear, but it’s weird to hear them both inside the town and out in the world where you’re fighting enemies.
The leveling system REALLY encourages you to grind in more ways than one. When you level up, your attack power doubles, which means that your hat, cape and all of your spells double in damage every level. There is also a lot of encouragement to take the time to grind money out of enemies as well. Regardless of how strong the enemy is, they will always have a chance of dropping the same thing, either a tomato for health, or a coin worth 1, 10, or 50 gold. The rarity of the coins doesn’t change depending on the strength of the monsters, (except for a select few that never drop anything) so it makes sense to grind money out of the weak monsters.
The Talking Parts
There are plenty of dialog scenes scattered throughout the game. There is plenty of expositing between the heroes and the villains (and occasionally both at the same time). Some of the best scenes are the ones where the heroes are transitioning from one area to another. There will usually be some hijinks involving one of the vehicles breaking down or a character being left behind. It’s also pretty humorous just to see the general manner of humor that is spliced into the different solutions of the game. One of these instances involves a supporting character kicking Spike through a wall.
Z…Um, We’ve Reached The End…Anything Else?
The first time I played this game, I honestly though Spike McFang was supposed to be a magician based on the cards, the hat and the cape. He is actually a vampire, even though it’s only mentioned once. Though there isn’t a lot of heavy-handed vampire imagery in the game, there are still a lot of clues to indicate that Spike is a vampire. Von Hesler’s primary foot soldiers are cloves of garlic, and garlic has been used in many vampire stories as a way to repel vampires. The world where the game takes place is called Vladamasco, and in many different adaptations, Dracula’s first name is Vlad. Spike McFang also hails from the Kingdom of Batland, and bats are a common symbol in vampire lore as Dracula was famous for turning into a bat.
The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang is a very simple game. It is not the kind of game that you should go into expecting depth or complexity or nuance, but if you want a simple, fun action RPG that you could easily recommend to your kids or someone who is new to RPGs or video games in general, this is not a bad one to recommend.
FInal Score: 7/10