When you think of the Wild West, you tend to recall gunslingers like Wyatt Earp and Jesse James, or at least entertainers like Roy Rogers, Clint Eastwood, and the Duke. One name that probably doesn’t leap to mind is Fenimore Fillmore. Despite starring in two previous adventures, the hapless hero of Revistronic’s western series has yet to become a household name even in genre circles. Unfortunately, the long-delayed third installment won’t be the game to create a lasting impression – at least, not for any of the right reasons – as Fenimore Fillmore’s Revenge shoots itself in the foot so often in so short a time that the experience is anything but O.K.
Before getting into specific misfires, a little frontier history is in order. Fenimore Fillmore first appeared in the SCUMM-era 2D comic adventure 3 Skulls of the Toltecs, but due to serious distribution issues, few English gamers became acquainted with the wannabe cowboy until he re-emerged in cartoony 3D in 2004’s Wanted/The Westerner. Though production on the next sequel began almost immediately afterward, it’s taken until now for Fenimore to make his latest return, and while the intervening years have certainly matured him some, the extra time wasn’t spent nearly as well developing the gameplay around him.
Unlike most sequels, it’s perhaps a benefit to have not played either of the previous titles in the series, as the new game is quite different from its predecessors. Gone is the (intentionally) goofy comic tone, both visual and thematic, that characterized the first two adventures, replaced here by a grittier, semi-realistic atmosphere and look. The change is more a curious one than a qualitative one either way, as the new style suits the subject matter just fine, albeit at the expense of feeling much like a continuation of an existing series.
If there’s a drawback to the new presentation, it’s that it hasn’t aged particularly well. Graphically, the simpler cartoon style of the older games holds up well even today, whereas five years through production, Revenge already feels dated, with its slightly angular shapes and lack of finer details the new approach ideally demands. Nevertheless, it’s still a fairly pleasant game to look at, made more impressive by some lengthy cinematics and an abundance of in-game animations sprinkled throughout. Character models are nicely done as well, from mustachioed posse members to the grizzled old-timer who throws in his lot with Fenimore and his love interest Rhiannon. Although one look at Rhiannon might suggest that “lust interest” is a better description, as the game’s lone female representative is a return to the rather preposterously endowed cliché I thought the genre had left behind.
Supporting these visuals is the game’s strongest element, its soundtrack. The orchestral scores subtly but effectively provide an authentic western feel that never gets boring or repetitive. Even the sound effects contribute positively, from Fenimore’s spurred footfall changing over different terrain to the amusing “whoosh” sound playing each time you collect an item. The voice work is more of a mixed bag, with most of the supporting roles being delivered decently while the protagonists leave something to be desired. It can be hard to make out the muffled words of Baker, the old codger who travels with you at times, though subtitles can be enabled. Fenimore himself is inoffensive but virtually inconspicuous in his supposedly starring role, while Rhiannon’s not-quite-Spanish, not-quite-American accent is the worst of the lot. No obvious effort was made to lip sync, either, making the introduction in particular resemble a badly-dubbed martial arts movie rather than a spaghetti western.
Regrettably, beyond the production values there’s little else that’s good, even relatively speaking. Now for the bad and the ugly.
The biggest problem with Fenimore Fillmore’s Revenge is that there just isn’t much game here: locations, characters, gameplay, puzzles, challenge, time. You name it, it’s in short supply here. From start to finish, it took me only three hours to complete, and even that comes with some needless busywork that does nothing but pad out its short-lived duration. Whether the original Spanish version was more substantial I can't say, but several scenarios depicted in the game's early screenshots are nowhere to be found in the localized UK release.
Let’s start with the story, such as it is. The premise itself is perfectly acceptable, but it’s largely all downhill from there. Or more accurately, it really goes nowhere from there. In the opening cutscene, Fenimore and Rhiannon discover a dying man in the desert who holds the secret to a hidden treasure. Naturally, others are after this treasure, and soon the Stevens gang arrives to kidnap Rhiannon and shoot Fenimore, leaving him for dead. It’s the player’s task to reunite the pair and help them find the riches before the bad guys. To do so, alternating between Fenimore and Rhiannon (never working together, and never freely able to switch from one to another), players will need to escape a few rooms, make a few remedies, and…one other task we’ll come to shortly (we’re only in bad, and that’s reserved for ugly). Seriously, that’s all. After your brief opening encounter, you’ll visit Baker’s cabin twice, one other shack where Rhiannon’s held prisoner, and an old abandoned mine site, both inside and out. None of the locations are particularly large, so a couple minutes of exploring and you’ve seen everything there is to see. Epic, this game is not.
Doing nothing to round out what little plot there is, there are only one or two interactive icon-based dialogues in the game (and even those are optional), though you can click on Baker if he’s around to hear him growl out some unhelpful remarks. Neither Fenimore nor Rhiannon offer any useful or interesting commentary of their own. In fact, the “look” action does nothing more than center the object on screen, and “using” something isn’t much better. I was just about ready to let Stevens keep Rhiannon if I heard one more snotty “I don’t do that.” or “Yeah, right.” out of her. Oh, sorry, Rhiannon. I thought fire logs belonged in a fireplace. How about some actual feedback, then? Character-driven, this game is not.Continued on the next page...