by Bacardi Jim
November 20, 2004


Once upon a time…

…there was an adventure game format known as Full Motion Video.

…there was a TV series called Mystery Science Theater 3000.

…there was a novel arcade game called Dragon’s Lair.

Saturday Night Live was funny.

Each of these media was fine and innovative entertainment on its own.  But the folks at Any River Ent. managed to take all these ingredients, blanch anything that was fun or smart or enjoyable out of them, toss the remaining dregs into an evil blender and puree them into what is truly one of the worst adventure games of the last decade: A Fork in the Tale.

There are so many things wrong with this game that I hardly know where to start.  The video itself is a perfect example of why FMV came to have such a bad reputation.  The graphics are dim, faded and grainy.  The acting, costumes and set design are straight out of a high school production of Macbeth.  The sound is wildly uneven, with music and sound effects almost completely drowning out the dialogue.

Of course, this last isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

A Fork in the Tale bills itself as a “comedy” adventure game.  To paraphrase a real comedy, “I do not think that word means what they think it means.”  The story has its unseen hero thrust into an alternate dimension (vaguely reminiscent of Robin Hood’s Sherwood Forest) while undergoing critical surgery for a gunshot wound received in the game’s intro.  This anti-hero is voiced by SNL’s Rob Schneider.  Schneider has a lot to say; unfortunately not a word of it is funny.  Apparently, they didn’t allow Schneider to actually write or adlib any of his material.  The result is an endless, mindless string of idiotic and hammy prattle and innuendo, all delivered by The Copier Guy on Prozac.

Unfortunately, you can’t just sit back and ignore all this cheesy “humor.”  Besides the dialogue that occurs automatically, AFitT actually forces you to initiate much of it!  This is a part of the game design, which owes more than a passing nod to the classic Dragon’s Lair.  Gameplay consists of clicking on icons as they appear on the screen during the FMV presentation.  You have only an instant to choose which icon you want and click it before they vanish.  Failure to take any action when presented with these choices or opportunities (or choosing the wrong icon when presented with a choice) leads to capture, getting lost, restarting an area from the beginning, or “dying” by transporting back to your surgery table to begin the whole alternate world from its starting point again.  Many of these “actions,” however, aren’t actions at all, but are merely cues to have Schneider say (or think aloud) yet another unfunny “joke” about the situation, à la MST3K.  Hopefully, once you have finally trudged back to where you made your wrong choice (and endured the same string of dull jokes along the way) you will remember which was the wrong icon and choose differently this time.  I found that in almost every case the optimal choice was to turn off my computer.

In truth, AFitT barely qualifies as an adventure game at all.  The vast majority of gameplay is geared toward twitch-clicking on an icon (ANY icon) when it appears rather than toward any thinking.  The rapidity with which the icons disappear, their likelihood of appearing absolutely anywhere on the screen, and the fact that many of them are moving while you are trying to click on them will soon have you inhabiting whatever circle of Dante’s hell is reserved for Super Collapse players.  The only “puzzling” in the game consists of having to figure out a few “hand gestures” which are used to learn magic spells.   These “puzzles” involve moving the cursor around the screen in various directions trying to bring a migraine-inducing pattern of light into focus; kind of an anti-Etch-A-Sketch.

I have to admit that this is the only game review I have ever written without actually finishing the game.  I just couldn’t make myself do it.  Every time I thought about starting it up again to play a little farther, I suddenly got a ringing in my ears and intense nausea.  I gamely plugged away.  But after two bottles of Pepto-Bismol and two-thirds of the game, I had to stick a fork in this turkey.  I was done.

Score: 2 (out of 10)

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