Fara is an action-RPG that draws inspiration from the likes of The Legend of Zelda, and perhaps a few other names from the genre. Zelda is the one you are most likely to take notice of, though, because the old man who finds you washed up on the shore near his home at the game’s beginning notes that at least you aren’t wearing a goofy green hat.
If you find that sort of reference amusing, then you’re in luck: this game is chock-full of fourth wall-breaking irreverence, ready to poke fun at at the genre at any given opportunity. In fact, if this game was any more transparent in its humor, you’d be able to see right into the inner-workings of your iPhone.
Therein lies part of the problem with Fara: the entire thing is played up as one big joke by its characters. That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing– some RPGs, such as Nintendo’s Paper Mario series, often make light of the fact that everything happening is part of a game, with a sly wink at the player. But in Fara, prepare to be beaten over the head with it until you get the point, then beaten some more. Okay, we get it: it’s a game of cliches in a genre that is simply rife with them. Ha ha.
Skull caves are homes, too.
As most RPG gamers can attest, one of the big draws is the story, with another being the characters and how they develop over the course of the quest. Sometimes this even saves a game with middling play mechanics from being banished to obscurity, as players keep going to find out what happens next.
But in Fara, that simply is not the case. Tongue is planted firmly in cheek, and you’re left not caring about the characters at all. Even professional wrestling manages to involve you in caring what happens to its characters. This game comes off more as bits from a stand-up routine.
Of course, just as some games can be saved by a well-written story, so too can a weak story be overlooked in favor of stellar gameplay. However, while Fara’s gameplay is decent, it’s not anything to write home about, either. For the most part, playing the game feels reminiscent of the Nintendo DS iterations of Zelda. In lieu of a stylus, you instead guide your goggle-wearing protagonist with your finger, touching where you want him to go, or holding your finger to the screen as he follows. Unfortunately, he has a tendency to get stuck on his surroundings.
Worse still is when you have to move certain objects by pushing them, which requires a double-tap. Then, if you need to shift from pushing it vertically to pushing it horizontally, you need to double-tap to get him to release, move him (somewhat awkwardly when in small increments) to another side of the object, then double tap again before having him move it. For all intents and purposes, it works, but it’s tedious.
Combat is a simple matter of getting within range of your enemies and double-tapping them to swing the sword-like weapon made from the blob on your arm. This works well enough, or at least it would, were it not for the fact that enemies are often equipped with spears or ranged weapons, and evasive maneuvers don’t work so well here.
As for the magic, using a magical shield icon to move past a bed of lava involves tilting the iPhone, but it seems to be an all-or-nothing affair, as the encased hero pretty much slams into the wall in whatever direction you tilt the phone.
Fortunately, Fara offers an alternative control method. Instead of the regular touch interface, you can change it to a virtual joystick and virtual buttons, which changes the way other icons are displayed as well. These suffer from the same problems as many other virtual buttons in iPhone games, but may be the preferable option for some.
In either case, the game doesn’t present anything too difficult, with health items dropped at a reasonable rate, as well as more potent healing items found in chests or bought from the store. So even if you take some hits, there’s a fairly good chance you’ll survive. Even after you die, you begin near the spot where you fell, with some of your health restored.
The content of the game, beyond the dialogue, is pretty standard fare: you wander through the wilderness fighting off foes, venture into dungeons to solve puzzles and gain items (such as more chatty blobs to go on your arms), head to town to interact with the locals, and occasionally take on a side quest, such as finding a larger coffin for the ghost of a man whose family apparently went to the budget morgue, leaving him unable to return to his resting place.
In the end, Fara– despite its good looks– is still just a little above average. It’s a game you probably won’t have any regrets playing, though it’s unlikely you’ll want to dive right back into it. Thankfully, the experience is rather brief, meaning that it doesn’t quite manage to wear out its welcome, which is more than we can say for many games.