The Fun Fair
All is not what it appears in Anode and Cathode's latest release, The Fun Fair. Thankfully, you won't find any creepy clowns in this point-and-click adventure game, but you will find a slew of carnival themed mini-games, intriguing characters and some interesting puzzles.
Part 1 of The Fun Fair starts with your character standing outside the entrance to a fairgrounds with various amounts of coins and counters (the amount will depend on the difficulty level you have chosen). You are not quite sure why you decide to enter, but it has something to do with Sophia's mystery. Using your mouse to click your way around the expansive fairgrounds (or, if you prefer, click on the mini-map in the top right corner) you will encounter useful items used to further your quest as well as additional coins and counters. The coins are used to play the carnival mini-games, which make up quite a large portion of actual gameplay. Completing a carnival game will unlock items that will ultimately allow you access to later portion of the game. Some of these games are purely luck based (the cleverly named Wheel of Luck is probably a good example), some are easy enough to accomplish with very little skill (Horse Race) and some require the equivalent speed-mousing dexterity of a Ninja neurosurgeon to complete on the hardest game setting (The Far West Legend).
There are 3 prize tiers in the carnival games: the lollipop, the useful inventory item and the trophy. The lollipops are for doing poorly in a game, the useful items for doing well and the trophy is awarded when you've been outstanding. Fortunately you will need quite a few lollipops to exchange for items as the game progresses and even more fortunately the trophy items are non-essential — they are just a point bonus to your overall score.
After completing the carnival games and getting at least all of the useful items new character dialog options will become available. This will give you the opportunity to trade for needed items, which will in turn allow you to access new areas until you can progress to the adventure's final scene.
Analysis: There's a lot of diversity in The Fun Fair which makes for an eclectic game. Some players might find that the combination of different game elements leads to an incongruent gameplay experience. Other players not usually attracted to the genre might find an unexpected treasure. Unlike Anode and Cathode's other point-and-click games, The Fun Fair also requires the player be marginally comfortable with fast paced mousing (usually found in action games) which makes The Fun Fair rather unique in the point-and-click adventure genre, which will likely turn off more casual players. The few puzzle/character interaction elements to be found are straight forward and not difficult — the difficulty level is instead included in the carnival mini-games.
The control scheme for actual character navigation is fluid, although the pseudo-isometric point of view might take a few minutes to get used to. Inadvertently walking into a carnival game location or vendor booth can occasionally happen (and you'll be looking at a black screen for 5–10 seconds on scene exit as the fairground map rebuilds itself) so use of the mini-map will definitely save a lot of mouse clicks and time and is highly recommended. The area to explore is quite large and the "fog-of war" is a very nice touch.
The Fun Fair features beautiful artwork in some of the game locations and looked very polished. The music is sparse and haunting and compliments the artwork very nicely. Together they do a great job of setting the atmosphere of an ethereal fairground ready to be explored.
A rather glaring omission is the lack of a save feature. Why the developer neglected to implement a save feature when there is the distinct possibility of a player rage-quitting when the timer runs out in a mini-game (and you only needed one more duck!) is unknown. There are also a few bugs that became apparent when playing through the game upon first release. After visiting the King of Pancakes the second time and receiving the ugly sock painting, grab the carrot and exit the scene immediately (this will make sense in-game). If you do not you may face eternity having a one sided conversation with the King of Pancakes until you refresh and have to start all the way back at the beginning. There were also some issues with countdown timers in carnival games being erratic; this made the carnival games either impossibly fast or unfairly slow. The music, as sparse and pretty as it was could probably benefit from a mute button. Hopefully these issues will be addressed in part 2.
Incorporating elements from multiple genres, Part 1 of The Fun Fair definitely presents itself as a game that holds a lot of promise for upcoming parts in the series, especially if the series continues to be 100% clown free.