Fable II Pub Games is a unique addition to the XBLA, in that it’s the first game that will actually tie in with a full game (Fable II). With three different mini games available for your 800 points – or free if you’ve entered into a pre-order deal; any gold you’ve earnt (or lost) whilst playing can be merged with your Fable II character. It’s easy to see that the idea could be construed as an elaborate ploy to get more people to buy the game, but on the other hand, the idea is pretty solid and means that gamers can begin enjoying Fable II months before the game hits the stores. That said, as a stand alone game for the XBLA, is Fable II Pub Games a worthwhile investment?
Fable II Pub Games comprises of three mini games, so right off the bat that’s not many at all. First off the block and perhaps the most engaging of the three is Fortunes Tower, which plays in a similar manner to BlackJack in that you reveal cards and try and push your luck without going “bust”. The second game Spinnnerbox is basically slot machines, you pump in imaginary coins, spin the wheels and then hope that you’ll match various symbols for a nice payout. The third and final game is Keystone, which is a variation on the game of roulette, place your chips down and hope for the best.
Fable II Pub Games offers a very simple departure from shooting and the usual antics you will find on the XBLA, and yet at the same time offers a compelling experience as you work towards building up your funds. However, there’s a certain negative element to the game, as there is with all forms of gambling, and that is losing, and losing pretty frequently due to the games favouring the house rather than the player. You really have to go a little more in depth when playing these types of games, and when you start thinking in mathematical terms such as probability outcomes, things start looking more tactical; and that even goes with the seemingly mundane Spinnerbox believe it or not. It’s easy to dismiss the game as operating in a totally random manner, but after hours of playtime, sometimes this vision is blurred as you can tell that the house is robbing you blind. On all games when played outside of tournaments, you’re able to raise and lower your stake each round, and this is a crucial mechanic for getting ahead. It plays on the basic element of greed and if you sit there betting maximum stakes, you’re likely to lose out on some games. It’s easy to ignore this feature, but the reality is, it’s been added for a reason. Lowering your stake when you “feel” a loss coming on (say after a Jackpot win) is the best way to play tactically, and so the skill lies in trying to predict these moments rather than purely relying on lady luck.
Aside from merely playing the three games individually to amass or lose lots of gold (yes you can continually borrow funds to keep playing whilst accumulating lots of debt if you’re unlucky) you are able to get slightly more competitive by entering tournaments versus the AI. It’s a shame this mode doesn’t extend to online multiplayer, but it’s better than nothing, although in the case of the Spinnerbox tournament, nothing might have been a little better as all you do here is just press the A button 100 times and hope for the best. At the start of the game, you get to choose from one of 12 character (the others can be unlocked by merging the original characters together). These are all presented in a style in keeping with Fable II, and although it appears there are no differences in terms of luck between them, aesthetically speaking, they do offer a different look to your avatar, and allow you to try and gain a profit if one character sinks so far into debt, that you lose hope.
The graphics are functional and as you’d expect from a game of this nature. The entire art direction is the same as Fable and everything works well enough around the realms of simplicity. It’s pretty hard to comment here but, essentially you feel like you’re playing something based around the world of Fable, so in this respects the developers have done a decent enough job.
The sound is inspiring, although can begin to grate after hours of play. There’s some great pieces of music from the Fable stable and at times has an almost calming effect, even though you might want to throw the pad at the TV after being blatantly robbed by the AI. The only other sound effects in the game are things like the flapping of cards and the spinning of wheels and on occasion you’ll hear a cheer from an unseen audience when you strike a grand blow against the AI.
You could sit and play Fable II Pub Games for hours on end and more so if you are prone to get addicted to these sorts of mini games. The added incentive of gaining funds to be used in Fable II is neat, and means that you’re working towards something, rather than merely playing for the hell of it. The added inclusion of achievements also helps, but none of them require much skill and lend themselves more to simply playing each game over and over. There are online leaderboards for the tournaments, and this is a good way to gague how much time you’ve spent playing compared to your peers. There’s some bonus items you can unlock for use in Fable II as well as some concept artwork to look at as an added incentive. Aside from the interactive element with Fable II, playing as a stand alone game, offers some distraction, but there’s probably 100 other games that are better to spend your time on. If you’re looking for a dip in, dip out sort of game, then Fable II Pub Games is perhaps more suitable.
Fable II Pub Games offers a fun game, that can get repetitive after extended play. The fact that there’s only three games is a bit of a let down, and with two of them being rather basic the real fun only comes when you start digging deeper into the game mechanics as mentioned earlier. However, not all gamers are going to appreciate this fact and will end up resorting to a well documented glitch in the Fortunes Tower game where you can easily amass lots of funds with the minimal amount of risk. The jury is out as to whether this most obvious of glitches has been deliberately left in the game, but for many people who can’t help themselves it does take away the risk and reward element of playing.
Fable II Pub Games is most certainly a cash in on Fable II which is pretty obvious from the offset. Had there been more variety of games then it would be a cool game to recommend a purchase. The only reason this game is going to be popular is the interactive element with Fable II as gamers seek a head start when they start playing in October. If you’ve got 800 points to spend and aren’t a Fable fan, then it’s advisable to stay clear. if you’re a Fable fan, then no doubt you’ll already be playing the game, cheating or otherwise.