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Fable II Pub Games


Before Fable II enters stores this October, Lionhead Studios decided to release an arcade title to allow players the chance to earn gold and items for their Fable II character. The game uses casino mini-games for this purpose and they certainly favor the house. Itís very possible to enter into a great amount of debt almost immediately. The smart players will find a way to beat the house and walk away with enough gold to make your co-op Fable II friends jealous.

Gameplay

The game opens into the character select screen. Since players donít have Fable II yet, the option to use a custom character is not available yet. You can play on any of the six pre-made characters. The pre-made character cards are simply sketches of Fable II heroes. Pub Games does include a merge feature. The player can merge gold winnings into a custom character when Fable II is released.

The meat of the game includes three mini-games for earning gold. Fortuneís Tower uses a deck of 44 cards. The cards are numbered 1 through 7 and there are also 4 Hero cards. After placing a bet, the player watches the cards being dealt. The cards are spread in a pyramid and each layer is added to extend the length. The pyramid stops being built if cards of the same number touch each other. Hero cards can negate this effect. Thereís also a face down card at the top of the pyramid that can be used if there are no Hero cards on the row to help.

The key to winning at Fortuneís Tower is escaping with your gold, preferably an amount over the starting bet. The player can choose to stop after any round. This mode is excellent for tournament play and betting becomes very strategic. Sometimes the key to winning a tournament is simply watching the other players go bust.

Keystone is essentially a modified version of craps. The player places a series of wagers on the outcome of three dice. The number on the dice corresponds to the arch of stones on the outer edge of game board. Four of these stones (3, 10, 11, 18) are given a special status. Removal of 3 or 18 will collapse the entire game board. Taking out 10 and 11 causes the same effect. Once all the stones are removed, the round ends.

Spinnerbox is simply a slot machine. Players choose the amount of gold to bet and press A to spin the flit switches. The different combinations offer a variety of payouts. Some of the machines off bonus spins and others offer payout multipliers. Players can let their winnings ride and see how much the multiplier increases their next spin.

The glaring problem with Keystone and Spinnerbox is the lack of strategy needed to win. The games rely far too much on chance and it becomes very frustrating to play within minutes of either game. Itís far too easy to lose your pile of gold on a few Spinnerbox rounds. It also removes any element of competition from the tournaments. The Spinnerbox tournaments especially suffer from tedium as the player only taps the A button endlessly for 100 rounds.

Besides earning gold for your custom character, the advantage to playing the game early is winning items. The tiered tournaments offer prizes for simply placing in the top five. The prizes are various in-game objects, body decoration items and learning tools. For instance, the prizes in Fortuneís Tower include a new haircut, a back-flip trick for the dog, a tailored coat, a permanent magic increase and a championship pistol. The prizes range in value from 80 to 1800 gold. Itís really a fantastic way to earn items before entering Albion for the first time.

Unfortunately there is no multi-player mode to be found in Pub Games. Itís a shame because Fortuneís Tower is perfect for it. There are online leaderboards to check for statistics. The achievement set is fairly standard. There are achievements for ranking up, winning tournaments and collecting prizes. The tasks arenít overly difficult but they will take a long time to successfully complete.

Graphics & Audio

The static display is similar to any type of card or board game on XBLA. The art is reminiscent of the first Fable and the visual effects are minimal during the actual games. Pub Games uses the light bouncy soundtrack from Fable II. The music fits the styling of the era. The sound effects are standard fair and easily forgettable though. There are no voiceovers from any people in the tournaments.

Conclusion

As a freebie for preordering Fable II, Pub Games is an average bonus and will appeal to the fans of the original Fable on the Xbox. As a standalone game on Xbox Live marketplace, Pub Games certainly isnít worth the 800 points ($10). While Fortuneís Tower is entertaining, there are much better card games on XBLA that include multiplayer modes. Keystone and Spinnerbox arenít worth the time and playing through the tournaments for the prizes is a dreadful chore. Xbox Live users should avoid purchasing this title. Fable II fanatics are likely to be disappointed by the three mini-games, but elated with the tournament prizes.