Many of us will know the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. Two animals, two mentalities and two speeds to try and win the race. Running Fable takes this premise and turns it into a racing game but there is an unusual twist. Much like the fable, its not the winning that really matters – its the things you do along the way that scores more points. By things, I mean traps.
Before each running race takes place, you and up to nine other players or bots join enter a trap setting phase and this reminds me heavily of the trap setting from the Rock of Ages games. You are presented with a gridline map of the track you are racing on and have a collection of about 50 items each that you can put down. Some are power ups and health pick ups and others are traps to be placed down. You can make them visible or invincible but remember – you can get caught up in your own trap too. Usually placing nets, traps, cyclones and clouds on corner cuts are worthwhile but next to and around pick ups is a good pick too.
Once everyone lays down their traps, you enter into a single lap race that lasts for about 2 minutes per round. Like Running Wild from PS1, you’ll be running as either a tortoise or hare through these environments. They run at the same pace and can both boost (which you’ll do as standard, hunting for power ups as you run), jump and do a short range attack. The attack is very loose though and I found it rarely connected properly. Hares have a special move where they can glide by spinning their ears. Tortoises can hoverboard on their shell. Both moves work for jumping over water which will drown you and cause a respawn but they can also get you to skip over more tricky traversal options like narrow bridges. It’s handy when you see a clutch of traps ahead and you just want to breeze by them.
Whilst the racing is solid enough, there are numerous issues with collision detection against traps which seems to be modular in a way that means you get caught in traps you don’t actually touch. More odd is the scoring system though. Win the race and you get 10 points. Get another player caught in a trap and you get 2 points per player per trap. You can have about 25 traps in play. Spot the problem. This often means you are more concerned about trap placement than actually racing. I was able to finish last or not finish at all and still win the game but placing traps on corners, narrow bridges or next to a power up. It just cancels the racing element out and it needs a bit of a rebalance. There are also only six tracks and whilst the tracks themselves are fine, they do feel more like reskins of a blank canvas rather than thoughtfully designed tracks to feel different. Running Fable also only has are two fable characters too. This means that aside from hats which are unlocked through XP gains via playing the game, there is little distinction between everyone and that makes battles less personal.
Ultimately this meant Running Fable went from “this is a unique interesting concept” to “ah, this feels a bit too lopsided” in about 30 minutes. I couldn’t test online as no one else was playing but the set up looked easy to manage. The main problem though is the imbalance of traps over races. Until that’s addressed this will remain a curious but somewhat flawed oddity.
Unique trap placing elements are too prominent in the game design and whilst its a unique racer, it doesn't really prioritise the racing enough.
Unique trap placing phase adds an element of strategy and tactics to your racing.
10 players/bots online make for chaotic racing and moments of fun.
Low price point for the base concept and execution.
Traps can easily outscore any racing so there's little point to race.
Difficult to distinguish characters and tracks from each other as they lack personality.
No local multiplayer.
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