Here’s a game idea you’ve probably not heard before: a mixture of the iconic fairy tale about the tortoise and the hare, mixed with the power-ups and chaos you’d find in Mario Kart. The concept sounded bizarre enough when the title came into our mailbox, so as a massive fan of all kinds of racing games, I had to see this one for myself. So… here’s our review for Running Fable!
Run for your life
The legendary story every kid in the world must have heard by now sees a tortoise and a hare race each other. While many variants of it exists, the core and moral of the story always revolves around the fact that the hare is so superior that they’ll just waste time and mock the opponent for the entire race, with their shenanigans eventually leading them to a loss against a much slower opponent. Now, this speed difference is nowhere to be found whether the players select the tortoise or the hare, but the objective remains the same: beating the opponents to the finish line.
The game is meant to be played online, but due to getting access to the game well before its launch, I was not able to encounter a lobby with real players in my time with Running Fable. Not a huge problem, because the game has pretty competent AI opponents to fill the shoes of live players, even when playing online. So, in the (unfortunately rather likely) scenario that this barely known indie doesn’t become an online phenomenon and there’s gonna be only a handful of players at any given time, everything in the game can still be played, tested, unlocked.
Place your demons
So how does a match work? After a track is selected, which is always a rush from point A to B, players have a preparing time in which they can place all kinds of items anywhere on the course. These range from eggs that serve as turbos, carrots that restore health, but most importantly include a myriad of traps, such as spiderwebs pushing a player backwards or hunter traps stopping them completely until they manage to open them up via a well-timed jump. Regardless of who places what, everything can be activated by any player, so it’s important to make sure we don’t run into our own traps and that enemies don’t steal our geniously calculated path of eggs either.
Once this is done, it’s time to actually race in what I could only describe as a classic 90’s 3D platformer (such as Super Mario 64, the Croc games and so on) on steroids. High speed, massive jumps and a few special moves allow players to quickly navigate through the twists and turns of each track, having not only to avoid the player-placed traps but also pits, water and other dangerous elements. The player can move at regular speed or sprint, but the later consumes the stamina that is then replenished by the eggs. If the player runs out of “gas”, it takes ages to restore it without collecting eggs, so it’s often better to slow down a little and reassess the situation, rather than becoming defenseless from the turbo-filled opponents.
When I said there’s no speed difference between tortoises and hares, I wasn’t really lying, but in truth they do feature differences – the tortoise for example can cross the water, while the hare has a few extra tricks they can use on the land. For better or worse, there’s no power-up or ability customizations or loadouts – while playing matches allows the player to unlock various cool accessories for their animals, these are merely cosmetic and only serve as an extra little incentive to create ourselves a nice little digital alter ego.
Running Fable is certainly a fun experience, especially in short bursts, as these short 1-2 minute races full of traps and power-ups can turn around their heads in an instant. Unfortunately, however, the gameplay isn’t as polished or precise as it would need to be for a truly timeless multiplayer experience. There are issues with collisions, level readability, some inputs are questionably working at times, and in general it feels nowhere near as refined as some of the better 3D platformers even of recent times, let alone like the best classics. There is also no story, campaign or alternative game modes to speak of, so the variety isn’t too high.
Haters gonna hare
But despite all that, the highly competitive nature of Running Fable and its extremely inviting price (about 8 dollars/Euros, check your region!) make this little speedy platforming title a fun little experience that can probably last you a good night of fun or two with your gaming buddies, as long as they’re able to look beyond some lack of polish here and there.
Xbox Series X
- Unique game concept
- Very fast-paced and exciting
- Features online play and even bots
- Low price
- Could be more polished
- Not very varied
- No real campaign per se