A Fork in the Tale (PC)

(Review archived from April 18, 2018)

Initially I really wanted to roast A Fork in the Tale, because well … negative reviews are always more fun to write and “Har har, FMV sux”. I even wrote a bit of a takedown piece based on my initial impressions of the game after having played it for an hour or so. But despite my early dismissiveness, I felt like I still needed to give this game a fair shake. There was a glimmer of … something here. Whether I was hooked in by the story or the characters I couldn’t say, but it was enough that I started the game over with a fresh set of eyes, and fewer preconceptions.

And well … the game still wasn’t great. But crucially it wasn’t horrible either. There’s a certain a low budget cheese factor at play here which appeals to the side of me that enjoys B-grade science fiction, an unspoken earnest concession by the creators that, “Hey, we’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got”. And when framed through the tempered lens of cheap & cheesy sci-fi/fantasy it’s not half bad at all. So what we have here is a purely FMV game in first person perspective starring ‘funny-man’ Rob Schneider as the voice of the unseen (but almost constantly heard) protagonist. The story setup relies on the old trope of a parallel universe sitting adjacent to ours, a low-tech world of magic and chivalry. It’s certainly nothing new or groundbreaking, but it’s a fun concept and A Fork in the Tale accomplishes some nice world building within this framework. An evil king’s forces seek to squash a growing rebellion in the kingdom. You’re alternately helped and hindered by knights, a tribe of Amazon-like warrior women, beings of spiritual energy, Alan Moore a crusty and probably insane old wizard, as well as a whole host of other strange (and occasionally wonderful) characters. The acting can be a bit … uneven, but I suppose that’s to be expected when we’re dealing with FMV from this era. The female lead does quite well in her role, and interestingly enough (though perhaps unsurprisingly) I’d say that Rob Schneider is among the weakest performances here despite having top billing. I can only assume that slotting in a B-List celebrity as the voice of the player was an attempt to sell games on the basis of his fame, so it really is a bit of a letdown that Schneider wasn’t able to quite match the output of his lesser known castmates. This becomes even more egregious when we consider that the budget of this game (the first and only to be published by AnyRiver Entertainment) essentially put the publisher out of business before it even hit store shelves.

Where the game struggles of course is the same Achilles heel seen in so many FMV titles from this era, the gameplay. To its credit, A Fork in the Tale manages to pull off some consistently fast paced gameplay, even if it is purely in the form of quicktime events. In any given dialogue you’re typically given several branching dialogue options. Navigation sequences (often in the form of escape sequences) force you to make rapid decisions regarding your route. Action sequences require you to click moving onscreen elements in order to progress. There are even rudimentary spell components in which you must move your mouse in prescribed patterns in order to cast magical effects. It’s all very involved, and it’s rare that you have a dull moment, but at the same time … it can all feel a bit janky. Sometimes contextual prompts happen very quickly, or you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do. The game does a middling job of cluing you in regarding the correct actions to take, or the timing of when to take them. This can often lead to some frustrating repetition of segments in which you watch the same people saying the same things over and over again just waiting to see if this is the time you hit that contextual mouse click just right … Obviously these sort of repetitive segments can pop up in almost any game, it just seems to be a bit more problematic in FMV games, where it’s literally as enjoyable as rewinding a movie and watching the same two minute segment several times in a row.

So can I recommend A Fork in the Tale without reservations? Definitely not. I think this is a game in search of the sort of player who’s capable of looking past its faults to see the diamond cubic zirconia in the rough. If you can handle a near constant stream of quicktime events, have a love for deliciously low budget sci-fi/fantasy and a relatively high tolerance for the ‘comedy’ stylings of Rob Schneider, you’ll probably glean some enjoyment from A Fork in the Tale. If any combination of the above sounds less than appealing, you might want to steer clear of this one.






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