Review: Fable: the Journey

October 18, 2012

Fable: The Journey is exactly the title the motion-sensing Kinect needs: a much-loved franchise that plunges gamers into a familiar environment. The Kinect has shown it can excel at “party games” but has, thus far, come up short on anything grander. It’s a shame, then, that The Journey is unplayably bad.

The fifth game set in the lush world of Albion, The Journey sees you assume the role of an annoying Yorkshireman elf called Gabriel. Unfortunately, the conversion to the Kinect format means there’s no opportunity to explore this world – instead you spend hours on end waving your hands around trying to steer an unresponsive horse who is compelled to run head-long into whatever obstacles present themselves.

The gameplay is essentially a re-masked version of Kinect Star Wars, with the same powers: pick up and throw foes or use the force to push them away. The only mechanical difference is The Journey doesn’t let you wield a lightsaber, which is that title’s only saving grace.

The basic principle is straightforward: hold your hand in the air and “push” to fire magic bolts at enemies. It should be childishly simple but the biggest battle is against the console itself, which rarely responds how you intend. When you finally get it to work, it never feels like enough of a challenge, even after you’ve waded through the mind-numbingly slow first 90 minutes.

The half-hearted nods to exploration, which are sandwiched between soupy cut scenes, are so “on rails” they may as well not exist at all. One early truck-stop invites you to look around a stable, which involves leaning left and right to cycle through items you can interact with (“reach up to pick an apple”, “hold out your hand to feed the apple to your horse”). It plays like an updated version of Granny’s Garden on the BBC Micro, in which yes or no answers dictate your progression (“you start to walk up the stairs. Would you like to hold on to the bannister? [YES] The bannister turns into a snake and eats you. You are dead.”).

Microsoft desperately needs a successful, adventure title to prove its Kinect concept. The Journey isn’t it.

First published in City A.M.