What if Cinderella wasn’t the Princess we all know?
“Once upon a time there lived a beautiful girl, called Cinderella. She lived with her wicked stepmother and her two ugly horrid stepsisters. They were so horrid they made her their servant. And she even slept in the fireplace among the cinders. This is why they called her Cinderella”… um, oh no. We got the story wrong! Uh, wait a second… let’s start over.
Once upon a time, there was a young girl who, on the day she believed would be her happily ever after, witnessed the dramatic collapse of her world, the brutal murder of her beloved, and an irreconcilable identity crisis that would forever change her life. Her name is still Cinderella, but this is not the story you might expect us to tell you.
In the heart of the Auvergne volcanoes, in Clermont-Ferrand, France, at the studios of the young development team CatOnTree Studio, Twistales: Forever After comes to life—an enchanting 3D dark fantasy action-adventure inspired by the tale of Cinderella.
CatOnTree has set the ambitious goal of providing players with a fresh and unparalleled interpretation that remains firmly grounded in the essence of the original story. However, it is infused with a darker and more enigmatic fantasy atmosphere, somewhat diverging from the traditional, child-friendly image of Cinderella commonly found in children’s tales.
Currently, the project is in full swing, with a release window already scheduled for 2025 on PC (via Steam), PlayStation, and Xbox. So, without further ado, let’s delve into how the creative minds at CatOnTree choose to re-imagine this classic fairy tale.
How, when, and in what way did Twistales come to life? The word goes to CatOnTree Studio!
Founded in 2020, CatOnTree is a young and ambitious French video game development studio. Located in the heart of the Auvergne volcanoes in Clermont-Ferrand (also known as the city of Michelin tires), the team consists of 4 full-time members and 8 freelancers, all passionate about video games and from all walks of life.
But, before we delve into intriguing tidbits and details, including the charming anecdote that will reveal the true genesis of Twistales, aren’t you curious to meet the individuals at the helm of this project? Well, join us, and we’ll introduce them to you briefly.
Oh, there’s a small twist to it. As you’ll notice, each team member will introduce themselves in quite an unconventional manner, unveiling their name, profession, and… their favorite fairy tale.
- Lola – 3D Artist – Favorite Tale: Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
- Arnaud – 3D Character Artist – Favorite Tale: Pinocchio.
- Lucas – 3D Animator and Video Maker – Favorite Tale: Shrek (not really a tale but… it’s okay!).
- Rémi – Programmer – Favorite Tale: The Puss in Boots (not even this one is a fairy tale, but… it’s all right).
- Marion – Art Director and the mother of Twistales – Favorite Tale: Cinderella.
- Benjamin – Team Manager and Founder – Favorite Tale: Tom Thumb.
To complete the team, they are joined by sound designer Théo, 2D Artists Pierre and Melanie, 3D Artists Nicolas and Anthony, sound designer Katelyn, and screenwriter Valentin.
But how did Twistales come to life, you ask? It all started with an idea from Marion Chevallier, the art director (it’s no coincidence that her favorite fairy tale is Cinderella). However, to tell you the story, we have to go back in time.
Before becoming Twistales, the project was initially just a school assignment created by Marion Chevallier. It received high marks on paper (and a perfect score in the hearts of the development team). The feedback was quite intriguing, encouraging further development of this concept. This idea was particularly enticing given the buzz surrounding the evolution of feminine games! Flipping the roles of bad guys and good guys? Even more so! And when you mix it all with fairy tales… It’s a recipe for something wonderful!
And this is how Twistales was born, CatOnTree’s second video game after Riding Seas. It’s a project brimming with ambition and great ideas, aiming for the challenging task of reinterpreting a beloved classic fairy tale in a fresh, new, and, unconventional manner. So, now that we’ve set the stage, we’re ready to delve into it in more detail.
What happened to Cinderella?
Before we delve into the story of Twistales, it’s essential to introduce the role of the Guardians, one of the central figures in the narrative. As the developers clarify, “Written and chosen by the Creators, the Guardian’s main role is to make their tales loop. The Creators allowed them to have their own personality and to use Dust as they see fit. In return, their one and only rule is not to kill each other (which would cause the total erasure of the tale and its characters).
The tales are well-defined stories, with a beginning and an end, and their course must —at least for the main characters— always be the same (to insure their permanence). Everything repeats itself, again and again, like a perfectly tuned clock, for the greatest pleasure of the Creators.”
Except that… one day, something broke. The curse, the corruption, the wickedness. All of this upheaved the life of the young Cinderella. On the day she believed to be her “Happily ever after,” Cinderella witnesses the collapse of her world and the murder of her beloved. Guided by a magical grimoire in her quest for the truth, she steps into different fairy tales, entering realms that have become unsettling and mysterious. Fighting enemies corrupted by a strange curse, the princess becomes a mighty warrior, resolute in her quest to bring order to this chaos.
Cinderella will go on a quest to understand the buried history of this corruption, and the obscure reason behind the death of her beloved. In her pursuit, she will have to wander through unfamiliar twisted tales and learn more about their mechanisms and creepy stories. To this end, she’ll make use of her new powers to travel from one tale to another thanks to magic doors, located in a secret place safeguarded by the Fairy Godmother: the Guardians’ Hall.
As you may have noticed, all the elements are in place for a tale that is far from happy, non-traditional, and certainly not one with a happily ever after. Instead, it’s more of a nightmare. In Twistales, we’ll encounter some of the fairy tales we used to read as children for a goodnight story, but in an entirely new, darker, more malevolent, and infinitely more bone-chilling. And if that weren’t enough, the characters from these tales appear to us in monstrous and disfigured forms.
They are stained by corruption, embodying its meanings to the fullest. Forget about the sweet and innocent Little Red Riding Hood. She’s no longer herself. Now, she’s nothing more than a slimy monster with sharp teeth, and her seemingly warm basket of goodies for her dear grandmother is nothing but a wicked, hideous basket (did you expect something different?) ready to snap your finger off, that is, if you dare open it. And what about Hansel and Gretel? Look at them now, with their sunken eyes, that malevolent grin, and their deceptively kind demeanor, and tell us if they inspire any trust in you!
Fairytales: The Emblem of Corruption in Twistales
Fairytales, or rather, the fairy tale worlds, serve as the most vivid and striking representation of the spread and dissemination of corruption. They permeate the gaming world, painting it, haunting it, and breathing life into all the creatures and sinister abominations that inhabit it.
So, how can Cinderella travel through these worlds? With the help of The Fairy Godmother, who has allowed her to journey through the realms by giving her access to the great Guardians’ Hall. This peregrination hall will enable players to explore the tales by walking through magic doors that lead to each story. Each door will be unlocked based on the scenario’s progression.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the cursed fairy tales and the subworlds that make up the realm of Twistales:
- Cinderella: Prologue and the beginning of our princess’s… um, warrior’s adventure. This initial area serves as a fairy tale universe in full mutation following the arrival of an unexpected corruption.
- Hansel and Gretel: Ah, what lovely times. Hansel, Gretel, the Gingerbread House. Well, forget about those good times. That sweet and appetizing house made of candies has now turned into a dirty, unsettling, and polluting factory universe where sugar is omnipresent and dripping. Who’s the wicked witch, or rather who are they? Isn’t it clear? It’s Hansel and Gretel, and this time, you’re the poor soul who’ll be tormented, covered in sugar, and murdered.
- The Red Riding Hood: Would you ever believe that Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother’s beautiful and welcoming house would transform into a decrepit haunted house? We wouldn’t have either, but we have to admit that the twist this fairytale has taken is pretty cool. This world is an oppressive universe where the undead, skeletons, and vampires reign. Here, everything came back from the dead! Even the Big Bad Wolf doesn’t seem so bad anymore!
- Alice in Wonderland: An illusionary world? Alice? Who is Alice, really? It seems that anyone who steps into this universe loses their sanity and ends up becoming Alice. Do the developers metaphorically mean “losing one’s head,” or will the dreadful creatures inhabiting it literally detach our heads? Keep your head on your shoulders, folks. Okay, enough puns for today…
- Final Mysterious World: What then is this strange evil that seems to transpire from this tale and corrupt the other universes?
In addition to the aforementioned worlds, the developers have also hinted at a potential DLC (not yet confirmed) that would introduce a new world based on the tale of Aladdin: A universe where thirst reigns supreme. Our hope is that it gets included, possibly as a DLC, so we can see how they choose to re-imagine this fairy tale…
Cinderella lost her glass slipper… but maybe she found something better
What is Twistales: Forever After? If you’ve been following us closely since the introduction, you should already be able to answer this question. However, in case you’ve forgotten, don’t worry; we’ll refresh your memory.
It’s a 3D third-person action-adventure story-driven game with a fairly classic formula that blends traditional gaming components, including exploration, platforming, puzzle-solving, and rather fast-paced combat. A classic, time-honored formula that, when skillfully managed and infused with a few unique twists here and there, can make the gameplay diverse and engaging.
This is a smart choice, and above all, not a random one. Indeed, as you may have noticed, it’s storytelling that drives the experience. It is only by allowing ourselves to be guided by the narrative that we can grasp the game’s themes, elements, and dynamics. Mind you, this doesn’t mean the gameplay is any less important than the narrative component; but rather, it’s the narrative that serves as the most powerful language vehicle in the experience.
Unlike the canonical fairy tale where the slippers were nothing more than a mere decorative object, at the beginning of the adventure, the Fairy Godmother protects Cinderella from the disaster by transforming her princess slippers into a sharp and devastating sword. This particular crystal sword is nothing but a summoning from the magic Grimoire and will only appear in combat phases.
To assist and accompany Cinderella on her troubled journey, there will be a particular companion, which we could roughly define as a book. But no, GRIM is much more than that! Gifted to us by the Fairy Godmother to impart her wisdom, GRIM is a means of knowledge, a spell book, a manual of wisdom, an enchanter… For CatOnTree, it’s one of the key elements shaping the gameplay of Twistales. Here are some of its functionalities and what lies within:
- Twistales, Forever After : Story Line.
- The Quest Log.
- Spells Management.
GRIM will accompany you everywhere, much like any loyal animal companion, be it a cat or a faithful dog. In other words, it will be your best friend, your notepad, a reminder, and a weapon of mass destruction. Handy, isn’t it?
Furthermore, these invocations, can be selected mid-fight via a spell wheel and a “bullet time” mode. Some enemies will be more or less weak to the chosen spells, for a more complex fight. With every swing of the sword granted, Cinderella will absorb some of the corruption of the universe, which will accumulate in crystals. Each invocation of Grim will consume part of this energy, forcing Cinderella to use these spells in a reasoned way.
Cinderella can also allow herself to be consumed by the corruption and absorb it to unleash a combat feature known as “transcendence.” Once the transcendence gauge is filled, players can unleash its power to overwhelm enemies in an uncontrollable murderous madness, making Cinderella faster, stronger, and armed with a deadly weapon.
Worthy of mention are also the exploration, which, as we’ve previously mentioned, will take place thanks to the great Guardians’ Hall, enabling us to journey through worlds and fairy tales, a puzzle-solving system that, according to the developers, won’t be a walk in the park and will demand quite a bit of cleverness, and a nostalgic platforming system that’s a must-have for fans of the genre.
Tradition or Innovation?
Reimagining, drawing inspiration from, or even modernizing a successful work, in this case, a fairy tale, is no easy task, and the creative minds at CatOnTree know it well.
However, if we may, this is precisely the ambition that drives the French indie studio. To infuse new vitality into the Cinderella fairy tale through a different and contemporary storytelling approach that sweeps away the traditional stereotypes. As Marion Chevalier, the game’s art director and project lead, puts it, the main goal is to “update the morals of our shared stories and redirect them towards a more liberating direction.”
Art, alongside storytelling, stands as the linchpin of this transformation. It carries its own style and artistic language, strongly influenced by the dark fantasy concept. In this respect, the team’s work in the artistic direction, notably under the guidance of Marion Chevalier, is truly commendable and might well be one of the project’s primary highlights, both in Cinderella and the villains’ character design and in the environmental design.
What are the main artistic references? Naturally, as underscored by the team, Twistales draws inspiration from several cornerstone titles in the genre, influencing both the artistic component and and the evolution of gameplay itself. The American McGee’s Alice saga, in particular, Alice: Madness Returns, has left its mark in terms of atmosphere, exploration, and perhaps, we might add, the psychologically haunting and deliberately macabre nature of certain characters.
Regarding the combat system, a title that played a significant role for the team is Darksiders 3, encompassing elements such as camera setup, dodging, counterattacks, and even a transcendence mechanic, with further inspiration drawn from Kena: Bridge of Spirits.
On a personal note, we’ve also observed some potential affinities with Lost in Random, especially in terms of influences from the Burtonesque style, which may have had an impact on Twistales’ art design, although this has yet to be officially confirmed by CatOnTree.
Happily Ever After?
Twistales is unquestionably a captivating video game, born from an excellent concept that holds the potential to be truly outstanding. The storytelling and art direction are the aspects that have impressed us the most.
We’ll be able to provide more insights once we’ve had the opportunity to play the demo (available for free on Steam), which will unveil the strengths and weaknesses of a project that, to date, greatly intrigues us.
What CatOnTree’s team has in their hands is truly extraordinary, a canvas for creativity that promises to provide a great deal of enjoyment. The concept is undeniably promising, so we truly hope that all this potential materializes into something remarkable, and the team seizes this significant opportunity!
We’d like to remind you that Twistales: Forever After is scheduled for release on PC (via Steam), PlayStation, and Xbox in 2025. Stay tuned for more updates on the project, and don’t forget to visit the game’s official website to stay updated on CatOnTree’s progress.
That’s all for today. Talk to you soon.