The “Fable” games are fairly friendly as modern high-fantasy adventures go, without the gory combat or sexual content of, say, “Dragon Age: Origins.”
But the series still has its share of blood, romantic relationships and other content that has kept its age ratings in the Mature range. So now we have “Fable Heroes,” which dials up the cartoonishness and puts players in control of cute little doll versions of notable characters from the series as they fight their way through levels based on locations from the other games in the series.
The game is a pretty straightforward brawler, with up to four players fighting through hordes of foes on the way to the end of the stage. Each level splits into two paths, so you’ll have to play each more than once to see everything, and the paths can lead to quite different final encounters — in the first level, one path takes you to a fight with a giant insect, while the other leads to an arena where you try to survive as long as possible versus a flock of exploding chickens.
You can play online or off, and if you have fewer than four players the computer will control the characters that don’t have humans backing them.
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The combat is simple — each character fights up close with a melee weapon or from far away with a gun or magic. There’s a quick, weak attack, a slow, strong attack, a wide-area attack that knocks off a portion of health, and an evasive maneuver. Power-ups grant brief bonuses (and sometimes detriments), and defeated enemies explode into flurries of gold coins, which players are in mild competition to collect the most of.
Between levels you’re taken to a Monopoly-style game board where you can roll the dice you earned in the previous stage by collecting gold. Most spaces offer abilities for your hero doll, or even new heroes to play as, which you buy with the gold you’ve earned; others give you a choice of several spaces to travel to, or have other effects. The various powers allow you to tailor a doll to be more effective against certain enemies, but the chancy nature of the dolls’ travel around the board means you can’t really plan their growth.
“Fable Heroes” works as a light cooperative brawler, but doesn’t go very deep. “Fable” fans may be interested to know that playing the game will unlock items in the upcoming “Fable: The Journey,” a Kinect-based game due for release later this year (two of the characters in this game will be unlocked for play by “Fable: The Journey”).