Effie is a fairy tale told through the medium of a 3D puzzle platform game…. or maybe it’s a platformer structured like a fairy tale. In either case, it’s a relentlessly narrated story of a hero cursed by a witch and the long journey to reverse the spell and save the kingdom. Effie has a pleasant and somewhat unique look and will remind some people of a less ambitious take on Breath of the Wild. It has charm, wit and some unfortunate combat and platforming.
Strapping young Galand has been cursed by a witch, turning him into an “old man,” though the curse seems purely cosmetic, as it hasn’t really impacted his facilities or strength, merely greyed his hair and beard. We’ll dismiss this blatant ageism. Galand sets out across a vast and disappointingly empty Kingdom called the Red Plains, solving puzzles and fighting both human and supernatural enemies as he pursues the witch. After a lengthy and linear prologue, Galand is free to explore the world.
Effie is only marginally an RPG, so Galand’s primary weapon (and mode of rapid transportation) is the Runeshield, a magical device that surfs over the open spaces and gains various offensive and defensive capabilities throughout the game. It’s lots of fun careening across the vibrant landscape in search of the next story objective but the “open world” is really just window dressing as there isn’t much to find, see or do when not on a quest. Games like Breath of the Wild use the open world to provided dozens of hours of side content but Effie can be completed in less than ten hours (and that would be a leisurely playthrough).
Effie is full of mechanical and environmental puzzles and while most of them are pretty straightforward, they sometimes rely on precise timing and jumping, neither of which are Effie’s strong suit. Double jumps in particular can have frustrating and unpredictable results. Likewise, Effie’s combat is hindered by a camera that zooms in so close that it’s nearly impossible to sort out the action. Coupled with the inability to lock on to a specific enemies, fighting multiple foes — which happens most of the time — is more challenging that it needs to be. Although some of the bosses are fun, they, too, are usually accompanied by irksome adds that do little but clutter up the battlefield. Checkpoints are relatively sparse, and you can expect to reply some challenging areas multiple times.
One area where Effie shines is its low-polygon, vibrantly colorful world. It isn’t remarkably imaginative but feels like a charming storybook come to life and its underscored by an appealing soundtrack. There is an omnipresent, fourth wall-breaking narrator — Galand himself, telling the story to a young girl — and the story itself is punctuated by sly asides, comments on the player’s skill in guiding the hero along, and now and then some narration that doesn’t sound entirely idiomatic.
If Effie’s combat and camera were a little more tightly refined and its open world a little more full of interesting content, the game would be a real winner. As it stands, Effie is fun and charming, and its flaws and frustrations don’t entirely ruin the experience. There is no shortage of 3D puzzle platform games in the world, but Effie stands out as a colorful and vibrantly realized translation of a fairly tale come to life.