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A class of its own: three hours with Fable: The Journey

Torturous school analogies with Mr Log

Come in, class. Sit down. And for God's sake, behave. I know the last Fable class ended badly, and there have been rumours going around that I'm just going to draw a horses's arse on the blackboard and make you stare at it all afternoon, but that's not why we're here. Yes, Browne? Yes, it would be fair to say that Kinect hasn't yet become a synonym for precision and responsiveness. That's an unusually diplomatic way of putting it, well done.

Just pipe down, and let me explain. I've got my arms folded, and my eyebrows have formed a V. In case you're not sure what that's like, here's Garfield pulling a similar face. So you can see I mean business.

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I've played the first three hours of Fable: The Journey. And it's my duty to report to you that I bloody well enjoyed it. Stop smirking, I can see you smirking there, Jenkins. See me after. The moments when you're steering your horse are a downbeat racing game. You get to collect tokens that give you XP, and there's still the colour-coded XP system. But this time, the colour of the XP determines what speed you have to be running to collect it.

When I was a child, we'd spend the same week every year in holiday camp in North Devon. It was a long drive from Nottingham, and my mother would wake us up at 4am to avoid the traffic. She'd have some cold, buttered toast wrapped in kitchen paper and we'd listen to a compilation cassette that featured Charlene's "I've Never Been To Me". Feel free to click that link, and play the song while I continue. It's a real mood-setter.

This isn't a game of exploration. It's a journey. But it's a journey where you stop at every service station, and your mum lets you go on all the arcade machines. And the grown-ups are talking, and you listen, because what they're saying seems important and exciting. It's also a journey where you have to steer and go at appropriate speeds to collect XP cubes, but that's where my childhood memories differ.

Yes, there are moments when you're grooming a horse. What's wrong with that? Stop that fake coughing, Barlow. I can hear the words you're saying and I won't stand for homophobia in my class. There are also pitstops with optional battles, and chests with collectibles.

You think it's shallow, do you? Well, did you know that there's going to be a Prima guide? Yes, Ditchburn, you might sit there with you mouth swinging open. Well, there is. And it's going to be around 240 pages long. So it can't be that shallow, is it?

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No, Puervis, it's not 240 full page pictures of a horse's arse. Give me 100 lines. "I will not gratuitously allude to equine derrieres". The strategic depth comes from the arcade moments. The small cluster of spells you cast, and the way they interact with each other, the way different enemies respond to them, and the hidden systems of scoring that make it fun to experiment with flipping, blasting, and curveballing the familiar creatures of Albion.

Now, I've only played with the Pull and Bolt spell - and no, they don't sound rude, Radford, so stop acting like they do - but even those two provide you with a small wealth of options.

It's the only time I've played a Kinect game and left it feeling slightly exhilarated, instead of grumpy about having to stand up and jump. It's a problem, isn't it? Just because jump is a move that Kinect recognises easily, everyone bloody uses it. Lionhead have stayed true to their original vision of a combat system that's just deep enough to get you completely involved, and they've let you sit down to play. Like you're in the back seat of the car, singing along to Charlene.

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