The Fabulous Fear Machine Review – Produce a little Panic

The Fabulous Fear Machine uses engaging strategic gameplay to tide you over between great stories told through phenomenal comic pages.
The Fabulous Fear Machine Featured
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

Do you believe that shady individuals use fear to corral and manipulate the masses, gaining unfathomable power through the influence of the media, myths and politics? Have you ever wanted to do so yourself? The Fabulous Fear Machine gives you the chance to wield paranoia as a tool, spreading fear across the land until its people give in to your twisted message. This narrative-driven strategy game sees you take on a villainous role and rewards your spread of fear with excellently drawn and written comics about the tragic paths of power-hungry people after their ill-advised deals with The Fabulous Fear Machine.

The Fabulous Fear Machine itself is a magical fortune-telling machine with the sinister ability to spread misinformation, dark legends, and overall fear throughout the world. By making a deal with the machine, the protagonists feared in each of The Fabulous Fear Machine’s campaigns are given a path to power by manipulating public perception. All the Machine asks in return is to collect your tragic story, forever…

You’ll begin one of these campaigns with a short comic introducing the protagonist, getting a glimpse into their desires and why they sought out the machine in the first place. Further insight into these characters’ past and their path with the machine is granted after each successfully completed level in their campaign. The first of these campaigns, which follows the story of a medical genius turned pharmaceutical mega-giant with parental abandonment issues, has about four missions which get progressively harder as you play.

In total there are three campaigns (unless I missed any secret or hidden ones) and each one follows a different character. You can customize the difficulty of these campaigns as you start them.

The Fabulous Fear Machine England
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

On each of these missions, you’re given a list of goals, such as “Legalize animal testing” or “Outlaw third-party medication” and a map with several regions. Each goal has different requirements and each region has different strengths or weaknesses, and you can assign each goal to the regions of your choice to customize how you’ll tackle the mission. You also need to fully terrify the region by spreading fear.

This is done through a series of cards, each one spreading general fear as well as a specific type (which is usually relevant to your goals.) These cards can be upgraded by harvesting specific types of resources from the cities you explore, further increasing their effects. These cards range from more broad fears, like chemtrails or medical malpractice, to more specific legends like the bogeyman. They all represent some kind of conspiracy theory or scary rumor you’re weaponizing against the public.

The Fabulous Fear Machine Comic
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

You’ll also get a handful of agents, which are needed to interact with the map, and a rival who for one reason or another is set out on stopping you. These rivals are rarely good people and have twisted agendas of their own. By collecting dirt on them, you can effectively tarnish their reputation so bad that they’re forced out of the game. While you don’t have to defeat your rivals to progress, doing so is rewarding as the game gives you some dialogue for each stab you take at their reputation.

While the sort of outbreak-sim gameplay is fun and challenging, the narrative is really where this game shines. You’re playing to earn snippets of the next comic page to progress your story, the character interactions with your rivals, and the little pieces of media coverage presented when you upgrade a rumor card. Little events also sprinkle up on the map that progress the story and help you to conquer the map, or hinder you if totally ignored.

The Fabulous Fear Machine Italy
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

The art of the game is a sort of pulp horror-style comic design that works phenomenally well with the spirit of the game. It goes without saying that the comics are lovely to look at, but the art on each card, which slowly pans out as you upgrade, is phenomenal and makes you want to max out each card to see the full picture. Even the map fits the style really well in a sort of 3D conversion of the art style I didn’t expect would work.

Each level is a challenge that sort of works like a puzzle, where certain pieces have to be “matched” or properly interacted with to proceed optimally or correctly. You can’t simply turtle up and collect as many resources as you can and then charge out at the rest of the map. You have to play the game very strategically and make each second spent with the clock unpaused count. As the game progresses your resources begin to eat away faster and a sort of doomsday endgame shows up to make sure the game closes before you can buy your way to victory through production.

The Fabulous Fear Machine Boogeyman
Screenshot: Try Hard Guides

The difficulty and pressing nature of the levels, at times, disappointed me, if only because I wanted to experience more of the lovely cards and characters. The game fills you with a desire to fully max out everything you’re given. However, you can’t really blame it for putting you on a limit, especially one as forgiving as it is, as too much time given to the player could potentially bypass any difficulty the game would otherwise have. Having 12 of each resource on hand can effectively allow you to bypass any problems the game throws at you, so thankfully this isn’t a realistic or at all feasible goal to have.

The Final Word

The Fabulous Fear Machine is a phenomenal narrative-driven strategy game that should hook you on its stories and keep you interested with its brain-stimulating gameplay. The phenomenal art compliments every aspect of the game, from its uniquely presented levels to its fantastic writing. Give into your desire for power and spread a little fear with this rare and fantastic title.

9

Try Hard Guides was provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! The Fabulous Fear Machine is available on Steam and GoG.

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges

Erik Hodges is a hobby writer and a professional gamer, at least if you asked him. He has been writing fiction for over 12 years and gaming practically since birth, so he knows exactly what to nitpick when dissecting a game's story. When he isn't reviewing games, he's probably playing them.

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