The princess is hosting a festival! Or a competition? A competition festival? You need to collect 15 flower bouquets from three different towns, that much I know! Once Upon a Jester sees you play as Jester and Sok, a travelling duo that consists of, well, a jester and, uhh, a sock duck(?). Their goal is to win the festival competition, but oh no, their plan doesn't stop there! Once they're invited to the palace, they can perform at The Royal Theatrical Spectacle where they intend to steal the royal town for, as the game puts, "SO MUCH MONEY!".
You can probably gather this from the trailer or, if you didn't watch it, at least from the key art, that Once Upon a Jester is jolly and charming; it has charm coming out the wazoo! While some may find the characters and dialogue to be a little silly, I found it perfectly nonsensical with just the best comedic timing. It sits somewhere in the middle of trying too hard and being super relaxed and chill, leading to quite a unique brand of comedy that I welcome wholeheartedly. It certainly takes some random turns as well, many that you won't expect; I honestly didn't expect to see Jester giving birth on stage and having to hold down the A button to push...
The gameplay is very accessible, relying on quicktime events and speaking with characters in order to determine their theatrical tastes. As previously mention, the aim is to collect flower bouquets in order to win the festival competition. To earn these bouquets, you must perform in the theatre in the genres that are all the rage (and avoid those that are not). While it's not overly complicated, it's light-hearted nature never promised it to be, and the different paths that the shows can be taken will undoubtedly make you chuckle. As you progress, you'll unlock new shows to perform and new stickers for your posters, as well as plot developments that take the story in quite unexpected ways.
- Accessible quicktime gameplay
The quicktime events seem strangely ambiguous at times, with the game not being overly clear on when and how often to press the A button. This lead to various instances where I was laughed at by the audience because I either didn't hold down the A button long enough or pressed it too many times. A demonstration in a top corner of the screen or better action UI could have perhaps solved these issues.
Even despite the game's short runtime of three hours, the gameplay loop gets quite repetitive. The developers did their best to mix it up where possible, with one example I specifically recall where you are a guest on radio show instead of putting on a theatre performance. However, those efforts only go so far, where it's obvious that the game is more about the story and personality as opposed to the gameplay variety.
- Unclear quicktime event instructions
- A bit repetitive
Final Score: 8/10
As previously mentioned, Once Upon a Jester has charm coming out the wazoo! It's story may not be the most complex, but the randomness and laidback nature of its jokes and deliveries are absolutely wonderful. And while the game clearly focuses on this wackiness, the gameplay that's centred around it feels tacked on; and yet on the other hand, it works as it's tied into the theatre performances. It's wonderfully clever and will surely put a smile on your face, but it's important to note that you don't boot up this game for the gameplay.
Thank you for checking out our Once Upon a Jester Switch review, thank you to Crunching Koalas for providing the review code and thank you to our Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: