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S&S Reviews: Fable Heroes

Title: Fable Heroes
Format: Xbox Live Arcade
Release Date: May 2, 2012
Developer: Lionhead studios
Publisher: Microsoft studios
Price: 800 MS Points
ESRB rating: E10+

You're at a party. You've had a couple drinks. You have access to an Xbox 360 and 800 points in your account. You're about to buy Fable Heroes. The new and shiny game on Xbox Live can be tempting when it's stamped with a respected franchise's name. Buy beware, however, as this is a game with a severe identity crisis and a somewhat limited relation to other games within the series.

Story and Presentation
Peter Molyneux promises the moon with each successive Fable game, at the same time he dogs the previous title. In Fable, you can do anything. Well maybe not in Fable, cause it missed the mark; but in Fable 2 you can do anything. Well maybe not Fable 2, in Fable 3 we really mean that you can do anything. In Fable Heroes, with the exit of Molyneux from Lionhead studios, the game itself promises to be something, anything as long as you promise to play.

Read the help menu, that's the only sense of direction you'll get from the game. Before I did that, I pressed start at the title screen, picked my character puppet, and was dropped into the action. An odd sign of two would suggest coaching through the controls on the first stage, but my progess was fairly random. Upon completion of the first stage, I read the help menu. It would seem the object of the game is to make my way across the world map, collect gold and items, and upgrade and customize my character. That's a bit like gameplay. The object of the game is to play the game? Or maybe that was the developer's objective, to get people to buy and play the game.

In terms of the game Lionhead Studios is playing with gamers, there are several legendary weapons: the beat 'em up action of Castle Crashers, the board game mechanics of Mario Party, the face of Little Big Planet, and the charm of Lego fill-in-the-blank. Progress through the levels is based upon your familiarity with each of these games. Upgrading characters is done outside of levels on a game board. Each player takes turns rolling a die or dice earned in the level. Upgrades are offered based upon which space the player lands. Players need gold to gain any of these upgrades. So, doing well in the level or splitting the pot in "family mode" is a good idea. One fruistrating part about this system is taht you can land on a space that offers upgrades that are not unlocked until a later level is cleared. Effectively, you lose a turn to upgrade and have to wait to clear the next level for a new chance.

The graphics are a cute, stylized take on an already stylized world. The characters are toy versions of themselves with obvious puppet features. You know, kinda like how Pokemon are really wind up toys in Pokemon Rumble Blast- and oh god, that's another game this game is like. Video games are mired in tropes, archetypes and overused mechanics. But, there comes a point when one game is such a mish-mash the identity crisis is apparent.

Core Gameplay
The game is certainly playable and holds your attention for a few levels. The world of Albion is familiar in this scaled down. without a coherent story, however, there is nothing to string you along or invite you back from a break from play. Gold can be transferred from Fable Heroes to the upcoming Kinect game, but that's hardly a convincing argument towards the ending. A cloud world is included and only unlocked when the top 100 players collect 1,000,000 in gold. It's a definite carrot to try to promote the leaderboard. I wouldn't think that this game would have the level of competition as Trials Evolution.

Final Thoughts
Fable Heroes is a mediocre offering in a franchise that promises the moon and usually falls just short of the goal. There are better games to play on Xbox Live and other current gen systems. With borrowed features and an unneccessarily stylized aesthetic, it's hard to see what sort of game Fable Heroes aspires to be. Aside from the criticism, it's worth downloading the demo and trying. There's not much beyond an hour of gameplay to hold your attention or have you coming back for more.

Final Score = 5.0/10
Twitter: @jeanlucpierite
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