Every now and then, there’s a game that speaks to you. Once Upon a Jester is that game for me. The humor had me laughing out loud. I found myself humming along with the songs. I was vested in putting on a good show for the crowds. And in the end, the story hit me in the feels.
You play as Jester, a member of a two-person improv group looking to score a big heist: stealing the diamond from the royal family. Their big break comes along with the announcement of a contest called the Royal Theatrical Spectacle. The first act to earn fifteen bouquets in three cities will land a gig at the royal event. Of course, to do so, you need to win the crowd over.
The story is beautiful. Just when you think it is going one way, it takes a different direction. It’s the classic hero quest, where two adventurers seek out treasure, but in the end, the real booty is the friendship and what they have learned about themselves on the journey.
When it comes to gameplay, there are two different segments. First, you walk around the town, interacting with the townsfolk and overhearing their conversations to understand what type of show they want. Then, once you know what they are expecting, you need to make a poster for the play by placing stickers on a piece of paper. You earn additional stickers you can use by talking to different characters. Putting together the sign was satisfying and fun.
You select dialogue options when putting on the show, choosing a spider for horror, a heart for romance, a sword for action, and drama faces for a dramatic scene. Again, the clues you gathered from the citizens will help you decide which option to pick. Then you perform the actions through simple quick-time events. You’ll earn more flowers if you make the right choices and execute the steps correctly.
But the real magic of Once Upon a Jester is the humor. I haven’t laughed this hard playing a game. The writing is quirky, silly, and entirely voice-acted. And the delivery of the lines is perfect. I don’t want to give away any plot details or scenes because everyone should experience that for themselves, but the comedic beats are well done.
Of course, the music is also a highlight. There are moments when the tunes are just as silly as the humor. For instance, when you meet the mayor of Stad city, the song that plays is this heavy rock number that indicates that he’s just amazing. The following scene tells a completely different story and is my favorite moment in the game. But then there are times when music sets up some heartwarming moments. The music is full of emotion and builds the atmosphere that the game intends to create, a story about two friends who grow together through their adventures. The best part is you can listen to the entire soundtrack on Spotify, which I have had on replay since I first started playing this game.
Review: Once Upon a Jester (Nintendo Switch)
Once Upon a Jester is a classic hero quest told through some creative gameplay and writing. There are plenty of touching moments mixed in with the humor, which I wasn’t expecting. The music sets the scenes perfectly as well. What I love about Once Upon a Jester is that the creators took a lot of risks, from the story to the voice acting, and even the mechanics for putting on a show. And all of these features stick the landing. This game is everything I love about the indie scene.