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21 Reviews

Fable: The Journey

Cart, horse and magic spewing mittens at the ready? Albion my way

You won't be having squeaky lights-out money-sex in Fable: The Journey. Or conjuring a pie with rhythmic abandon. There's no pretence at smoke-and-mirrors morality either, and certainly no funny voices. Actually, there are a few silly voices but that's part and parcel of the Fable experience. In fact, just about the only recognisable trait that's made it into this unlikely spin-off is arguably the series' strongest - the distinctive world of Albion.

Don't despair though. It might not be the Fable you were hoping for, but Fable: The Journey is undoubtedly the most consistent, cohesive Fable offering Lionhead has delivered so far. In large part, that's down to the elegant design purity running throughout this Kinect-exclusive on-rails cart-and-magic escapade.

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There's a story here, offering typically apocalyptic calamity to overcome, and it's a surprisingly engaging one. Primarily, that's thanks to Fable: The Journey's small but stellar cast of characters - a ragtag bundle of adventurers who bicker their way across Albion as the stakes raise ever higher.

In actual game terms, The Journey translates to a handful of tightly focussed concepts that do their damnedest to play to their strengths of Kinect's notoriously finicky whims. You trot sedately through gorgeously crafted locations - from haunted swamps to Hobbe-infested fortresses - cracking the reins or steering your cart with natural, intuitive motions. Experience-granting orbs and road-bound obstructions provide an excuse to wind back and forth along the predefined path while occasional branches tempt with undiscovered treasures.

That's only part of the story though, with an on-foot spell-casting combat system that counters subdued cart ambling with big set-piece thrills. Here, one hand metes out defensive manoeuvres - knocking back enemies or flinging them about on magic tendrils - while the other delivers more direct justice on the small but focussed parade of opponents.

Expel-your-arm-us!
As the game progresses, your primary mana-leeching bolt attack is supplemented by other more powerful spells - including a fireball and crystal spear. That enables a rock-paper-scissors approach to encounters, delivering a satisfying layer of strategy as you slowly pinpoint your opponents' weaknesses. Slight RPG elements let you spend XP on spell upgrades, but its the nifty Aftertouch system that really shines. Fire off a spell and flick your wrist to redirect it mid-flight, sending blasts about the place with all-conquering precision. It's incredibly fluid and genuinely rewarding - particularly once you start stringing attacks together, landing blows and hurling enemies in perfect dual-handed synchronisation. Forget Harry Potter - this is proper wizarding.

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Perhaps Fable: The Journey's strongest achievement (artistic splendour aside) though is it's sense of pacing. It understands the limitations of its core elements and delights in finding engaging new ways to exploit them. Genteel cart riding sits alongside furious horseback spell-flinging while side quests give way to lengthy dungeon crawling.

Each new location finds creative uses for your limited arsenal, adding a bit of a physics challenge here or a head-scratching puzzler there. There's even some welcome downtime in the form of horse-based pet care. What each element lacks in sophistication, Fable: The Journey more than makes up for in studied variety and sheer bravado spectacle.

Away from the main offering, Arcade Mode attempts to deliver moreish high score-chasing with a series of set-pieces plucked wholesale from the solo game. Multipliers and kill counters deliver frenzied moments of tension while style bonuses encourage experimentation. If there's one concern here, it's the length of each stage - with ten minute encounters perhaps a bit too beefy for the kind of immediate point-gathering gratification Lionhead was clearly aiming for.

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