QUICKTAKE: Lionhead Studios promises it "hasn't f---ed up" the Fable franchise with The Journey, a Kinect-exclusive on-rails adventure. In fact, because you move through the world so quickly, it is being called the biggest Fable game ever, featuring the largest game world and soundtrack in the franchise's history. The Kinect controls take some getting used to, but when it works, it does feel like magic.
THE DEMO: I got hands-on (off?) demo with a 15 minute taste of the various gameplay mechanics featured in The Journey, from horseback riding and casting magic to a boss battle.
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DETAILS: I begin my journey on horseback. While sitting down, I have to put my two arms forward and make a whipping motion. The horses start moving forward, and I must pull the reins to make them turn. Subtlety is not what The Journey asks for: exaggerated movements were key to making the horses move the way I wanted them to.
After riding, I got to try out the magic system. By simply pushing my right hand at the screen, I was able to shoot bolts of electricity. In spite of not having an onscreen reticule, it works. I'm not entirely sure how much auto-aiming is enabled, but it certainly felt like I had control over where my bols were going. It felt similar to aiming in Sorcery--but done entirely without a controller.
I could switch between elements, too. By swirling my right hand in the air, the energy in my hand would switch from blue to red. Now, I had a fire spell. I could also access the spell simply by saying "Fire" aloud. (You can also say "Flame On," as a cute nod to the Human Torch.)
My left hand controlled a psychic push and pull. By aiming my left hand at an enemy, I was able to freeze it in place. From there, I could push it away. Or, tug at specific parts of its body: a shield, for example. While wonky at times, it was incredibly empowering to be able to push enemies away, take off their shields, and blast them with bolts of electricity--all without touching a controller.
I had some difficulty fighting the boss at the end of my demo. Whereas every other segment was on rails, this one required me to sway my body left and right to strafe around the boss. There were some cool moments, like stopping a projected rock and hurling it back at the boss. However, it felt really unnatural to have to tilt my body whilst flailing my arms trying to conjure up spells. I'm sure I looked ridiculous.
Fable: The Journey is far from the mini-game filled rubbish it could have been. There are definitely times where I felt like "blaming the controls" for certain mishaps; without a physical prop in my hand, there is a certain sense of disconnectedness. However, when it does come together, Fable: The Journey feels magical.