The Feeble Files
The Feeble Files is another adventure game that seems to have become well and truly bogged down somewhere in the distribution system. We haven't yet seen it on sale here in Western Australia although it's been out for a good few months. We are fortunate that a friend overseas loaned us the game. As it's too good to miss, we are bringing you this belated review.
The Feeble Files comes from Adventure Soft who created Simon the Sorcerer. As a character, Feeble is every bit as entertaining as Simon, and with his saucer-eyes and glowing-green complexion, he will take you on a merry ride as you aid him in his quest.
Feeble starts out a happy citizen (as required by several directives) of a planetary system that is controlled by 'The Company', and governed by the omnipresent, omniscient OmniBrain and his henchmen, the Enforcers. As the unlikely hero of this science fiction spoof he innocently gets tangled up in the serious stuff of revolution.
The excellent and humorous introduction shows Feeble hard at work for the Ministry of Galactic Uncertainty (Crop Circle Division) when he has a slight mishap on his way home and lands in a spot of bother. Serious bother, as it turns out, and the list of directives that he manages to violate grows at an alarming rate. Feeble will be lucky to get off with a simple 'personality restructuring' providing he turns himself in straight away, confesses his crimes and offers to pay for the damage. There is, of course, another alternative, but no, it would be treasonous to suggest such a thing.
Feeble has a lot to learn on his journey from ideal, insecure citizen to devil-may-care freedom fighter. You'll have to learn a lot too and have a good laugh along the way. This game is brimming with very British humour and the voice acting carries it off beautifully. Robert Llewellyn really brings Feeble to life and fans of the TV series, Blake's 7, will be delighted to find that Peter Tuddenham, who provided the voice of Oracle in that series, makes a welcome return as, err, the voice of Oracle. We found ourselves chuckling a lot as we recognised send-ups of many popular sci-fi movies, TV shows, and other 'unmentionable' computer games; although there are a couple of darker turns that jolt the system.
The graphics are also in keeping, colourful and quirky with lots of detail and quite a few animated cut sequences (it takes up four CDs). Although these sequences are always fun one or two were a little too extended and fell flat after a while. There is also another possible 'flat point' in Feeble Files, especially for adventure purists -- a virtual arcade where you must play some arcade/strategy-type games. Though we must admit we had some fun here even with the time limitations, we know they will irk some players.
This is a fun game, but not all that easy. On many occasions we spent a lot of time just wandering around trying to solve a problem and not really knowing what to do next. Not that we're complaining about this aspect. We liked Feeble Files because it tested us and didn't lead us by the nose. A couple of times, however, we thought a puzzle was a bit obscure as we stumbled across a solution thinking there was no clue provided, but invariably there was. We found them all, eventually. One of the contributing factors is that Feeble is so darn slow. He really does plod around, so it's tempting to avoid long treks and thus miss vital clues. This really is a shame, because here is a game that challenges you to explore over and over to get to the heart of the matter, yet, at the same time almost discourages exploration with slow character movement. Still, we were content to put up with this because it was so enjoyable. A travel map would have made things a lot easier, or maybe just some way to zap Feeble across the screen.
You will get stuck in this game, sometime, that's a promise :). Our advice is to engage a bit of parallel thinking, read the encyclopaedia carefully because it does have important clues, check out screens again and again, and enable the 'F9' feature so that significant objects are identified by a text tag. There's also a mild in-game hint system, and we mean mild. We have to admit that we were treasonous, we used it. It doesn't give you answers it merely keeps you on track, so it won't spoil your fun.
As with the Simon series, there are lots of objects to search for and manipulate in The Feeble Files and it is a mouse-driven, third-person perspective adventure. One way you interact with the game is via Oracle, a handy wristwatch-type device, although we have to say that Oracle isn't all that handy as it has a couple of annoying features. In particular, it is frustrating to access continually because it requires a click on one small icon and it's very easy to misjudge your click. Then, when you do have Oracle opened it is far too easy to lose access simply by moving the cursor out of range as no click is required here. We lost count of the times we opened Oracle then accidentally closed it before doing anything.
As well as containing your inventory, Oracle also provides access to game controls, the encyclopaedia, the hints, and saved games. Interacting with objects and characters requires you to click the right mouse button to cycle through a range of icons governing actions such as walking, or looking at, taking and using various items. Sadly it's all too easy to click past the action you want so this also takes a bit of patience.
So, it's a bit slow, and the interface is fiddly (the one used in the Simon games is far superior) but we still thoroughly enjoyed The Feeble Files. It has some amusing puzzles that will assuredly test you often, including lots of traditional/zany adventuring problems as well as a couple of more abstract puzzles for a bit of variety. Also, there are times when you must control another character in the form of Sam, an overzealous, military robot with a heart of pure silicon. We were not totally convinced that his heart was always in the right place, but there is no doubt that he meant well ... we think.
The Feeble Files has heaps of dialogue, but, unfortunately, no option for on-screen text so you have to listen very carefully. But the game is well worth playing for fans of humorous graphic adventures. It might prove a bit of a handful, especially for novice adventurers, but it's nice to bite off more than you can chew occasionally. Feeble Files is certainly tasty, and there's a lot to chew over. Apart from the vagaries of the interface and the plodding movement this a wonderful game.
Copyright © Rosemary Young & Gordon Aplin 1998.
All rights reserved.
Pentium (P 90+ recommended), Win 95, 16 MB RAM, 35 MB Free Hard Disk space, DirectX compatible SVGA card, 100% Soundblaster compatible soundcard, 4X CD-ROM Drive (6 speed recommended), mouse.