Available to download on Xbox Live Arcade
In a way, Fable Heroes is everything you might expect it to be: a cheerful cartoon hack-and-slash action game that uses favourite Fable characters and settings, and with the emphasis on simple, family-friendly fun. With its bright and breezy cel-shaded graphics it looks a bit like Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Dragon Quest IX or Sly Racoon, and it plays a bit like an action-RPG, only with most of the RPG elements pulled out.
There’s no real storyline as such, only a series of levels that take your across the breadth of Albion battling monsters and collecting treasure. The levels follow linear paths until the final section, where they branch to give players a choice of conclusion, and each is basically a sequence of battles culminating in a boss battle or a mini-game. Combat is deliberately simple.
Each of your characters, or Puppets in the game’s puppet-show conceit, has either a melee attack or ranged attack (though a few have both). Pressing the X button whacks out with a fast shot or blow, pressing and releasing Y charges up a more powerful version of the same, while pressing the right-trigger unleashes some kind of attack that affects your immediate area – handy when you find yourselves surrounded by foes.
All for fun, fun for all
Up to four players, either in the same room or playing over Xbox Live Arcade, can play at once, and empty seats will be occupied by AI heroes, who do a reasonable job of swatting monsters and hovering up the loot they release should human players prove tardy in doing so. At the end of the level, the gold is totted up, players get placed on a podium (or face the mocking sad trombone), and it’s off to the game’s weird upgrade boardgame.
Here players throw a dice to move so many spaces, then cash in their gold to unlock upgrades from the square they land on. There are general damage boosts, boosts against specific monsters, movement and attack speed boosts and a range of others. There are also cosmetic upgrades that give you bigger weapons, cool weapon trails and new expressions you can give your characters with a tap of a bumper. It’s an interesting twist on the more traditional weapons, armour and experience-based levelling systems, and one that ensures that nobody is pausing the action in the middle of a game to fiddle with their inventory or change their current perks.
Having spent around an hour to ninety minutes working your way through the basic set of levels, you unlock a final credits level and Dark Albion; a revised set of the original levels with different lighting, different enemies and a ramped-up difficulty level. And if your hunger for more Fable Heroes isn’t sated by then, there are online leaderboards, secrets and unlockable characters to keep you busy.