What initially drew me to Cinders was the combination of the female protagonist, visual novel category, and the lovely artwork. From the looks of it, Cinders seemed like it would be a wonderful game, and it definitely delivered! I just started my second playthrough, and I have been loving every minute of gameplay.
First, I absolutely must rave about the gorgeous art by Gracjana Zielinska! The character designs were unique and stunning, and the backgrounds were lavish and interesting. I loved how little details would appear or move in the background - that gave the graphics a "little something" extra to catch the eye! I could not get enough of the beautiful visuals and tried to research if she had done work on other games. I found out about Solstice, a mystery thriller visual novel coming soon, and Phantasmat, a hidden objects game. I am much more into visual novels, but the artwork alone is compelling me to give Phantasmat a chance also!
Second, the gameplay placed player choice front and center, and especially in a visual novel, I appreciated this greatly. Choices were frequent and truly affected the story; the "Rewards" section from the game's menu lets you see how many of the variants you've explored to the ending, and in my ending, I've only explored 25% so far, so there is still a lot for me to experience! I did do some saving/loading to see what would happen with certain choices and was very pleased with the level of difference I discovered. In addition, certain choices add adornments to the menu page - this made game progress even more exciting because I wanted to see what else would be added where. :) ... and it brought out the completionist in me! I am excited to unlock all the endings and as many variants as I can.
Third, the characters were unpredictably rich. Coming into a fairytale-inspired game, I expected the same character tropes, but while the characters were similarly-situated, they were far deeper than the superficial Cindarella cast I was used to! Cinders, for example, can be played to be quite pragmatic, or pig-headed, or honest, or devious, or a mix of the aforementioned, and based on my ending, I think the choice of these traits truly affects the outcome of the game. Madame Ghede was a favorite character of mine - I wanted to know so much more about her! She was enigmatic and wise, revealing a hint of the effects of what seemed to me a very detailed life. The stepmother (Carmosa) and step-sisters (Sophia and Gloria) were also multi-faceted, and there was more than meets the eye to Captain Perrault, as well.
The game's soundtrack suited it perfectly -- it was not overbearing, but rather complementary. Chimes indicated decisions, and subtle pieces (like at the Lake) would round out an enchanting experience. I wish the soundtrack had been included in a bundle because it would be a wonderful way to relax. :)
If you like visual novels, female protagonists, gorgeous artwork, fairytales, lots of choice that affects the ending, and a hint of romance, I highly recommend this game. If you adore Gracjana Zielinska's artwork (like I now do), you should also check out the upcoming visual novel from the same developer (Moacube) Solstice and the hidden objects game from Big Fish, Phantasmat. Enjoy!