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Falls Short of Grandeur, May 25, 2010
Fear does a lot of things right. It is darkly atmospheric, yet not plotless; the plot provides a reason for the puzzles; in-line hints are available (word to the wise: HINT works; HINTS does not).
However, Fear also does quite a few things wrong. The puzzles are fiendishly difficult and their unclued nature only added to the problem. Worse, when you do use the hints, you'll find that the solutions often turn upon either guessing the verb or manipulating objects in wholly unexpected ways. (Spoiler - click to show)If I can't manipulate the statues, for instance, why the heck would I think about MOVING them? At times, it betrays its age with the lack of synonyms and purple prose.
Fear is a game that I spent hours upon before eventually giving up. It's a shame, really, because the game welds atmosphere and challenge in a way that only the best games have ever done (for example, Zork I). In most games, puzzles are artificial, inorganic constructs that don't flow from the premise and pace of the game; not so here. They are fully organic, just far too difficult to be enjoyable.
I think even the game designer knew that he might have amped the difficulty past the pain point; look at the detail of the hints to see for yourself.