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Be Afraid…Be Very Afraid

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Every once in a while a game comes along and breaks boundaries and redefines what makes a truly awesome gaming experience. Fear Factor: Unleashed for the Game Boy Advanced is not one of them. With 8-bit era graphics, repetitive game play and truly uninspired mini-games, Hip Games brings to the table the worst of all worlds in one snug little cartridge.

You begin your descent into madness by selecting your gender (male or female), hair color (blonde, black, brown or orange), skin tone (use your imagination) and the color of your uniform (blue, green, purple or red). You then get twenty points to spend on your abilities. These abilities are defined as: Steadiness (Pick Locks and balance with ease), Nerve (Keep a cool head in the most difficult of times), Stomach (Eat the foulest things without breaking a sweat) and Stamina (Keep your cool during demanding action stunts). You’ll notice right away that out of all the abilities you can take, none of them actually seem to help anything.

You then get to randomly choose a fear from a short list of scrolling phobias. Again (after making five or so profiles for the game) there seemed to be no real difference in game play depending on what phobia was chose. It certainly didn’t affect my character during the challenges.

After character creation is complete you are sent to another menu where you can select options, see records, access a useless help menu, change your profile or proceed to the game itself. FF: Unleashed comes with four playable modes: Fear Factor, where you compete against CPU controlled opponents on three variable difficulty levels, Practice Mode where you can attempt any of the stunts or eating challenges if you seem to actually have trouble completing them, Custom, which allows you to create your own game by choosing some or all of the stunts, and the Multi-player mode which allows up to six people compete against one another on the same GBA.

The main mode of the game, Fear Factor, is set up just like the television show. Six people walk in, three challenges are thrown at them and one person leaves the victor. It’s a simple enough concept for a game, but it’s executed atrociously.

The graphics for Fear Factor: Unleashed are dated at best. At worst, they will remind you of the NES game International Track and Field. Yeah, they are that bad. You can even count the pixels they used for the character design. It’s slightly more enjoyable then partaking in some of the asinine stunts. The backgrounds are static and boring, with no life to them at all. You get no sense of urgency during the skill games, no sense of speed during the action games, and no sense of disgust during the gross-out games. Okay, there is a sense of disgust, but it has nothing to do with the gross-out games and everything to do with the fact that you are playing the game itself. Visually the game is about as stimulating as waiting in line at the DMV. The only saving graces to this game are the VERY small clips of Full Motion Video from the game show that they throw at you at the beginning of each challenge.

If one thing is worse than the graphics in Fear Factor: Unleashed, it’s the game-play. Dwindling down to a very un-precise session of button tapping, it becomes repetitive, boring and worst of all? easy. The only slightly difficult part of the game is monitoring your Fear Meter. You get a bar that stretches the length of your GB screen and that determines if you complete the task at hand or not. Using the shoulder buttons, you are in a constant tapping match with this meter to keep your character from freaking out and automatically losing the challenge. So, if like most hominids I know, you have two opposable thumbs and two pointer fingers, you too can complete the “challenges” with relative ease.

Most challenges also require you to tap the A button and a directional pad in one direction or another to successfully grab a flag, shake out of a strait-jacket, water-ski or a small slew of other inane “challenges”. I keep using the word “challenge” attempting to hit home on the fact that the game itself has no challenge at all. Only on this GBA version will no one puke after eating maggot cheese pizza or boiled pig rectum. No, the gagging is strictly limited to the hapless viewer in this case.

Sound is severely lacking in FF: Unleashed–limited to mostly clips of the following: a buzzard cawing, a competitor puking, locks clanking, and a train whistle in the background. There’s not much to go on there. Once again a small step forward in this otherwise horrid game is that the tiny clippettes sound decent. I could actually believe that the locks on my sprite-based contestants’ straightjacket were actually falling to the floor. Also you get helpful, yet repetitive, words of encouragement from the game: “Come On!” “You can do better than that!” and others that seem to be more taunting than anything else. And of course to top it all off, a great big giant WOOHOO leaves your characters’ lips every time he completes a challenge. On the other hand the background music is the same track over and over again, and it isn’t that creative or fun to begin with.

Value, ah sweet value, where have thee gone? Evidently value buggered off and went for a holiday in Corsica during production of Fear Factor: Unleashed. This game will take you no longer than One Standard Hour to complete?in its entirety. That is it, no more. If you become accustomed to the horrible control scheme, you could even go to your local Sizzler and get some grub, come back, spend some time with your porcelain throne and you will STILL have time to beat FF: Unleashed completely and utterly in under One Standard Hour. Your reward for beating the Fear Factor is the addition of new difficulty levels. That’s it. That is your only reward, and you can still beat the “difficult” settings in less time than it takes to watch an episode of Baywatch. Ah, the horror of Hasselhoff seems so trifle now.

In closing, Fear Factor: Unleashed has no redeeming features what so ever. Though it is hardly the worst game I have ever played, it falls short even of average in every way, shape and form. Poor graphics, sub-par sound, game play remising of the Atari games of old and no replay value are to be found? making this an avoidable title at best. Hip Games should have kept the leash on this title, tied it to a pipe in their basement, and denied its very existence.

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