Frighteningly bad controls

My Fear and I is a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer about the existential travails of Sebastian, a seven-year-old lad who is very literally plagued by Fear: a large, oafish, and perpetually whiny creature that bears something of a passing resemblance to Sulley of Monsters Inc. fame. It’s an interesting idea, but it ultimately falls well short of its potential thanks to a wonky control scheme that renders the game far more frustrating than fun.

Young Sebastian is confused and frightened by the world around him, and clearly finds no comfort in his parents. But he’s also tired of living in fear, and so one night, ignoring the dire warnings of his Fear, he steels his resolve, grabs his trusty plunger/grapple gun, leaves his bedroom and embarks upon an adventure into the unknown.

 My Fear and I

The 2D world through which he and his Fear travel is dark and bizarre, with a sort of Tim Burton ambiance to it; but it’s also almost entirely static and non-interactive. There are a few pictures hanging from the walls that can be looked at, but the vast majority of the environments are pure window dressing – a disappointment given the promise of dark secrets and manifest neuroses hidden in the many nooks, crannies, and shadows.

To be fair, My Fear and I is a platformer and not an adventure or RPG, but before long it becomes apparent that the game world doesn’t actually live up to its early billing. The levels tend to be very repetitive in design and Sebastian’s house ends up feeling like something out of a Flintstones animation, with endlessly-scrolling backgrounds that never really change. The same can be said about the giant, fanged snakes – revealed as dirty socks when exposed to light – that threaten him as he goes, which turn out to be the only enemy in the entire game.

 My Fear and I

Sebastian and his Fear work their way through a number of fairly conventional puzzle-platforming levels, using his plunger gun on very specific bits of the ceiling to swing from spot to spot and also to open the occasional out-of-reach door. There’s nothing to collect, but you will now and then have to turn on lights and rotate mirrors to transform the snake-monsters back into socks, allowing the pair safe passage through otherwise infested areas. As platformers go, it would be pretty easy stuff and entirely unremarkable, were it not for the utterly awful and infuriating control scheme.

Maneuvering Sebastian is actually quite simple: Touch and hold on the screen to make him walk or tap and release on an appropriate location to fire his grapple, then reel it in or out as needed by drawing clockwise or counter-clockwise circles. But the controls are very imprecise, particularly with regard to the grapple, which can be difficult to attach to surfaces (the target areas are tiny) and even harder to jump from with any sort of accuracy. It’s a system that sounds good on paper but fails rather badly in execution – and a platformer with a good story and bad controls is, to be blunt, a bad platformer.

 My Fear and I

And the truth is that the story isn’t all that good, either. The ending is happy (which I hope isn’t too much of a spoiler), but Sebastian’s journey ends up being somewhat less than one of self-discovery. I suppose it’s fair to say that he conquers his fear (assuming you have the patience to muscle through to the end) but there’s never any feeling of progression toward that goal, nor an explanation for his breakthrough. Instead, the game simply ends, and quickly, too – I suspect I could have had it beat in around an hour if I didn’t spend so much time fighting with the controls; and even taking that into consideration, I doubt I got more than two hours out of it.

My Fear and I feels more like a proof-of-concept that an actual game, a demonstration of an idea that’ll be expanded into something greater – which I’d very much like to see happen, because there’s real potential here for a very good game. As it is, however, it’s short, shallow, clunky, and really not much fun at all.