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Fear Factor: Unleashed

Score: 45%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Arush Entertainment
Developer: DC Studios
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1 - 6
Genre: Action/ Miscellaneous

Graphics & Sound:

Wario Ware markets itself as a three-second game. Comprised of hundreds of mini-games, each can be completed in only a few seconds. While it doesn’t share the same branding, Fear Factor: Unleashed could also go by the same marketing tagline, and it would still work. The difference between the two is that Wario Ware is actually fun, whereas FFU isn’t.

A trend that seems to be happening with more GBA titles in recent months, Fear Factor: Unleashed makes extensive use of full-motion video clips throughout the game’s presentation. After powering up the game and reading the warnings to not try these stunts at home, the show’s opening starts up. The video quality isn’t the best, but it’s pretty good compared to other GBA games that use the same idea. These clips are used before each stunt in a relatively successful attempt to recreate the feeling of the show. The presentation works, until you actually see the in-game graphics, which are pretty sub-par for the GBA. Character models are amorphous blobs that hold the shape of a human, but lack any type of detail. Environments make up for the characters’ lack of form.

Sound is better left turned off. Music plays during the game’s intro and during events, but they can get really annoying, even during the few seconds you’re actually playing the game. During events, you’ll hear taunts and encouragement yelled to you. I can only guess that these are supposed to be the words of the show’s host, Joe Rogan, but since he’s nowhere to be seen in the game (which is understandable considering licensing issues), I can only speculate.


Gameplay:

The concept behind “Fear Factor” the show is great, but it’s something that really doesn’t translate into game format that well.

Fear Factor: Unleashed tries to take all of the events seen in the show, and condense them into a cart of pocket-sized fear. The game is split up into four play modes, all of which stem from the game’s simple premise of having to face fears by participating in insane stunts. Since this is a game version of the show, some stunts are available in the game that you’d never be able to see in the show, such as a go-cart race on a track suspended high above ground, or a helicopter flight through a trap filled tunnel (complete with oncoming cars, flame-throwers, and other obstacles usually seen in platform games).

The game’s main mode is Fear Factor. This mode runs just like the show; you join five other contestants with the goal of becoming the FFU Champion. The championship is composed of four challenges drawn from the game’s pool of about twelve. Which four are chosen is completely random, but some, like the Pit and the Pendulum, seem to come up more often than others. Just as in the show, expect to see at least one gross-out competition where you’ll have to ingest or carry something rotten in your mouth. This is one of the moments where you’ll actually appreciate the blurred up graphics.

Competitions are very short and last only a couple of seconds, which translates into a very short game. Provided you don’t lose out on a challenge, the game can be completed in about five minutes. Playing through the game multiple times can be mildly entertaining, but the novelty wears off quickly, leaving you with little replay value and a shallow Multiplayer mode.

Here you and up to five friends can each take a turn at playing through select events. The mode runs exactly like the FFU championship, only now you have humans to compete against, and not the A.I. A Custom game option is available, which allows you to choose the events you want to compete in as well as the win conditions. These include a beat-the-clock setup, and Vegas, where you get to place bets on who can perform each stunt.


Difficulty:

Competing in stunts is pretty easy. It’s keeping your fear under control that makes the game hard. The Fear Meter, which is displayed at the bottom of the screen, measures how calm your character is during events. While performing the event, you’ll have to keep an eye on the bar and your fingers on the shoulder buttons in order to sway the meter if your fear gets out of control. The idea behind the meter is great, but the implementation is terrible.

Game Mechanics:

Fear Factor: Unleashed’s major game mechanic is the Fear Meter. This meter is what helps to transform a collection of simple and fun mini-games into a maddening experience that will likely have you breaking your GBA. The rate at which the meter spins out of control is insane, even when your stats are pumped up to avoid a fast climb, and requires you to devote most of your attention to making sure it stays controllable. This distracts you from actually playing the game, making events much harder than they need to be. While I can respect what the developers were going for by doing this, it still sucks much of the fun out of the game. It’s just too hard to keep track of a meter at the bottom of the screen while also trying to line up holes in a lock or wiggling off chains in a piranha tank at the top.

Each game has its own control setup, each of which is awkward and tough to play through. The setup is also uncomfortable to hold since you always have to have your fingers on and clicking away at the shoulder buttons. Some control schemes, like the Hell-icopter are unresponsive and sluggish, adding another level of frustration.

Mini-game collections are fun, especially on the GBA, which is meant to be good for a quick game or two while waiting in line or during a coffee break. Fear Factor: Unleashed seems tailor made for this type of gameplay, but the implementation keeps it from being a fun time killer.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

Sony PlayStation 2 Jak 3 Microsoft Xbox Blinx 2: Masters of Time and Space

 
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