Appointment With F.E.A.R
As the superhero of Titan City it is your job to protect your fellow citizens from harm. When you learn that the nefarious F.E.A.R (Federation of Euro-American Rebels) is holding a top secret meeting somewhere in the city, stopping them becomes your top priority. You only have three days to uncover the location of the meeting and stop the leader of F.E.A.R, the Titanium Cyborg, from whatever dastardly deeds he is planning.
I grew up with (and still own quite a few) of the Steve Jackson role playing gamebooks, so when I heard that Tin Man Games released an adaptation for PC I knew that I had to check it out. This game is actually based on the original book which was released back in 1985, but this doesn’t mean that it feels dated. Instead, you are presented with a stylish and well illustrated graphic novel where you are handed the reins to make choices at key branches in the storyline. At the start of the game you can select the gender and appearance of your character (which doesn’t influence the story) and their super power (which definitely influences the story.) The game doesn’t take itself too seriously, as illustrated by the random list of names you can choose for your hero which include the likes of the Geeky Cactus, Australian Anteater and Velcro Moth.
The story is presented to you in comic book style, with new panels sliding up from the bottom of the screen. Your primary goal is to find clues about the whereabouts of the secret F.E.A.R meeting, but standing between you and this goal is a rogue’s gallery of more than 30 villains. You won’t encounter all of them in one playthrough, instead your encounters depend on which locations you visit and what super power you selected at the start of the game. Your character is equipped with a special crime watch, which issues alerts when trouble brews somewhere. It is up to you to choose whether you want to investigate or not and even if you are in the right place at the right time you might not have the right clues or powers to make a difference. While this boosts the replay value of the game immensely, it also leads to plenty of trial-and-error which might annoy some players.
The game can be completed in about 30 minutes if you know exactly what to do, but believe me, you will be replaying it many, many times to get to the real ending and thwart F.E.A.R. In my first few playthroughs I failed miserably at gathering all the necessary clues to locate the meeting and it wasn’t until I started taking down notes about which events rewarded me with certain clues that I started to slowly piece it all together. You are rewarded with clues by either being at the right place at the right time or by defeating the villains you encounter. At certain points in the game you can try to “solve” a mystery by selecting the right clue from the list you have gathered. Not all clues are vital to completing the game, but most of them do open up new scenes or lead to better outcomes, so they are worth tracking down.
If you are successful in combat or perform heroic actions you are also rewarded with “Hero Points.” These points serve as an indication of how well you are doing, but you can also lose hero points if you mess up and injure the wrong people, act in a cowardly manner or make stupid choices. Next up is “Luck” points, which are awarded for finding clues. Luck points can be spent to increase your chances of receiving a rare card after defeating a villain in combat. On mobile devices these cards could be swapped via Facebook to complete your collection, but on PC they are just something extra that is collectible.
The interface of the game is very clean and apart from the clues and cards that you find there is no inventory. Even dice rolls are handled behind the scenes, so when you have to perform a skill check you are only informed if you are successful or not. During combat you have access to three different attacks, easy, medium or difficult, with corresponding damage. The type of attack and area you aim for is randomized and quite goofy, so be prepared to claw at peoples armpits, slap their hair, hit their toes or aim your assault at their parietal lobe. There are no animations, unfortunately, but the music and sound effects make things sound a lot more dynamic than what they really are. The game also doesn’t feature any speech, but considering the amount of reading that has to be done this isn’t really an issue. You can even enable a dyslexic-friendly font for better accessibility, which is a great touch for such a text heavy game.
From what I can tell, the game is a very faithful adaptation of the original book, which only some minor changes here and there. There were a couple of bugs upon release, but Tin Man Games quickly squashed these and I have since completed the game multiple times without encountering any problems. The highlight of the game is definitely the humor and squaring off against villains such as The Serpent, Scarlet Prankster and Ringmaster is a blast. The references and parodies of other superheroes are corny, but funny and overall I found the game to be very entertaining. Your hero simply dons a hat and glasses when they “disguise” themselves as a reporter at the Titan Times and some of the encounters, especially the ones you can mess up are laugh out loud funny. Although the PC version of the game doesn’t’ contain any enhancements over the mobile versions from what I can tell, there are Steam Achievements to earn and support for Steam trading cards.
If you don’t enjoy trial-and-error gameplay or replaying a title over and over to see everything it has to offer then Appointment With F.E.A.R is probably not for you. It can be frustrating to repeatedly fail because you made wrong choices without even knowing it, but I encountered enough new content with each playthrough to make it feel worthwhile. The game also allows you to jump back to certain checkpoints if you don’t want to start from scratch. In the end, I completed the game with each of the four super powers on offer and I’m still missing a few achievements, so replay value is certainly not an issue. Hopefully the game will appeal to enough people as I would love to see more of these titles make their way to PC.
- OS: Windows XP SP3
- Processor: 2 GHz dual core
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: Hardware Accelerated Graphics with dedicated memory
- Hard Drive: 350 MB available space
- OS: Windows 7/8
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: Hardware Accelerated Graphics with 1GB memory
- Hard Drive: 350 MB available space