Folklore (1)

Genre: Action Role-Playing
Year: 2007
Developed by: Game Republic
Published by: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platforms: PS3
#383
Feeling Like: …Actually, I have no idea.

Bizarre.

A better writer would come up with a better word, but there’s no question about it; Folklore is a weird game.

As one of the earliest available titles on the PS3, Folklore was a brand new IP with almost no marketing, and to nobody’s surprise, almost no sales. How would I describe it?

It’s a combination of Murder She Wrote, the Muppets and Pokemon.

Wait, no.

It’s as if Labyrinth, Fraggle Rock and Law and Order raised a child together.

That can’t be right.

How about a Christmas Carol, Neverending Story and Nightmare Before Christmas?

I’m way off here, but you can hardly blame me. Folklore is a spectacle, an oddity. A blip on the radar of normal. It’s a spike on the EEG of sensible plot design. But it works. Sort of.

To give you an idea of the type of adventure you’ll go on, have a listen to the theme.

Folklore (3)
This is the kind of unsettling imagery you’ll see frequently in Folklore

You play as two characters, Ellen and Keats. They come separately to the mysterious, quiet village of Doolin to uncover a mystery. Each has multiple chapters to go through and you can pick which order you want to play through. Once you finish Ellen’s Chapter 1, do you go onto Chapter 2? Or do you see what Keats is up to?

Folklore (4)
Keats is wearing exactly the kind of clothes a “Keats” would wear

The village is one of those places you hope to stumble upon when going for a walk along the cliffs. People don’t live here anymore, but they used to. Or still do, but don’t open their doors. You’re not sure you want to find out. The grass grows high, but not too high.  You want to flee after a few moments, but you also wish you’d been raised here. It feels fantastic, but sad at the same time. It’s a great backdrop for a hub.

Folklore (5)
The pub looks creepier during the day somehow…oh, and now has a different name. Terrific.

It’s not where most of the action takes place, however. Ellen and Keats have to solve the mystery by seeking memories of the dead in the Netherworld, a parallel universe populated by dangerous and freakish looking “Folk.” Some of which hang out at the local  pub, giving you quests.

Folklore (7)
I *told* you this was a weird game

You travel to the Netherworld where you absorb the souls of defeated Folk and then use them in combat against other Folk. Some Folk’s weaknesses are specific Folk. You absorb their souls, traverse through dungeons and when the level is over…you’re back in the village. More hints, clues. Solving mysteries, raising the dead, absorbing souls for combat on a battlefield, in Atlantis and a forest. Ellen and Keat’s Folk differ, as do their perspectives of the story. Not sure what happened when Ellen “fixed” one particular level? Maybe Keats will find out. Is that Ellen’s mother? Why is a demonic scarecrow helping us? Faerys, Folk and murders eventually appear in the real life village add intrigue to an already intriguing game.

Folklore never reaches greatness; you get the feeling the developers needed more time and familiarity with the PS3. The premise is wonderful, but the combat and gameplay aren’t as up to snuff. The graphics aren’t offensive, but they pale in comparison to the sleek, future titles we would come to know. I will say that the art direction is fantastic – the Netherworld’s denizens look like something right out of Jim Henson’s workshop. Or from a Nightmare Before Christmas. Or Labyrinth. The concept of capturing enemies, then using them against other enemies is a trope that won’t overstay it’s welcome until Pokemon somehow becomes unprofitable.

Folklore (2)
Dog…goat..earmon, I choose you!

Building your tiny army of ghouls, imps and fuzzy bear demons, switching between the Irish Coast and an impossible world of impossible creatures, all the while trying to puzzle together all the happenings of the plot is something you’ll only find in video games. I’m glad my former roommate randomly thrust this upon me one day on Grant St., telling me “You’ll like it. I think.”

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