• It’s a neat idea for a piece of pre-release promotion for a game. Knock up a set of mini-games that share a tenuous link with the full title, bung in some unlockable items and achievements and allow the player to link a character with the eventual game’s release.

    In theory what Lionhead have done here is sound enough, in practice what they’ve produced are three of the most tedious games you could ever hope to thumb a joypad at.

    Fable 2 Pub Games presents three unique “gambling” games, Fortune’s Tower, Keystones and Spinnerbox. Each of the three is a game of skill with a fair amount of chance involved too.

    Fortune’s Tower

    First up is Fortune’s Tower, a card game that plays a little like a simplified version of Solitaire. The idea is to build up rows of cards that increase a points multiplier. Cashing out when a row adds up to the highest multiplier is the order of the day, but now and again combat cards will be thrown into the mix effectively ending your round.

    You can save yourself with a Knight card which can redeem a stricken row or column, but the round will end when matching cards clash on a column – with the player with the highest multiplier winning the round.

    It sounds complicated, and it is at first. Fortune’s Tower feels a lot like some of the recent XBLA Card-based games stripped down to their simplest forms and though the action’s relatively quick and easy to get into, it’s very difficult to accurately gauge the best time to gamble a high multiplier so effectively though it feels like there’s some skill involved, it’s more or less down to random chance whether you’ll succeed or not.

    Keystones

    Keystones is a slightly more attractive proposition though again the mere suggestion of skill being needed to progress bows inevitably to random chance. Best described as a mix between Roulette and Craps (Dice), the player must place chips on square slots that equate to the total roll of three dice.

    The novel part of the game comes with the design of the board, comprising an arch of stones – each of which can be removed when a total is rolled. Roll enough to “collapse” the arch and its game over with the player with the highest winnings being triumphant.

    As with Fortune’s Tower the idea is theoretically sound but the game is incredibly dull to play.

    Fable 2 Pub Games

    Spinnerbox

    The last of the games, Spinnerbox, is a lot more straightforward. Basically it’s a slot machine with three “spinners” replacing the usual reels – and a bonus fourth spinner appearing should you spin the right combination of symbols.

    Matching symbols on two or more spinners will get you a win, and you can gamble various amounts of cash on each spin. The game is entirely random and it’s very easy to pick up and play, certainly the most approachable of the three games. Unfortunately again, as with the previous games it’s actually incredibly difficult to win significant amounts of cash without going hideously into debt with the bank (you can borrow sums of money to shore up your gambling when you finally run out of cash).

    If I had any fun with the game at all, it was with Spinnerbox probably because it was easy to pick up and play without too much brain-mashing.

    Neat idea, poorly executed.

    It’s a shame that the game’s so dull. All the ingredients are there to give Fabe 2 anticipators a little taster before the full game ships in October, and it’s a neat idea to provide the player with unlockables that can be transferred and later used in Fable 2 itself. But the old bugbear of XBLA titles, the price, rears its ugly head. For 800 points, Fable 2 Pub Games is insultingly shallow and dull and for something that’s more of a promotional toy than an actual game, it should have been free to play – particularly if any of the items end up giving the player a distinct head start in the full game (the fact that Fortune’s Tower can be cheated so that you can win a massive amount of money is a terrible oversight on the part of the game’s designers, for instance).

    Promotional ideas like this should be encouraged, but not at cost to gamers themselves who are, after all, the people who will be laying out their hard earned cash on the game that Fable 2 Pub Games is trying to promote. Because of the achievements and unlockables, some might think it’s worth investing a little time in just to get them a tiny head start in Fable 2 but taken as a standalone product , it’s pretty dire stuff with very little long term appeal or enjoyment on offer.

    Score: 2/10

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