What’s it all about? Put simply: ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if..?’ The mantra of the 20-strong team working on Fable Heroes, a game being built alongside that other Albion-based title Fable: The Journey, and one instantly added to our ‘games to watch’ radar.

A cooperative four-player top-down adventure might not be the most obvious choice for the continued expansion of Lionhead’s fantasy franchise, but nevertheless, our time with the game left us excited for more – Heroes promising to deliver stacks of that most important of commodities: fun.

Set within a facsimile of Albion – imagine Bowerstone, Mistpeak, etc. but built out of papier-mâché and populated by rag doll effigies of Fable’s most famous characters and foes – Heroes is a refreshing departure for a series Microsoft clearly feels has generated sufficient brand strength to allow for a bit of experimentation.

At its heart a loot-em-up, Heroes is all about currency, with players competing with each other in a bid to collect treasure. The felling of foes almost an accidental aside to the gathering of cash (or ‘golden shower’ as Lionhead’s developers refer to the torrents of treasure dropped by dispatched foes).

In fact, this being a Fable game after all, you can expect a fair share of ‘humour’ throughout. The build we witnessed featuring a mini-game in which exploding chickens must be kicked at your fellow adventurers for example. Elsewhere an evil treasure chest lurks, waiting to take a bite out of you, while further down the line an impromptu game of tag erupts as cursed treasure manifests a coin-sapping cloud upon one unlucky player.

The more treasure collected, the more expandable the game becomes with special moves, costumes and even extra characters all readily available via an upgrade system more akin to a dice-rolling boardgame than an expansion tree. In fact the boardgame motif is repeated throughout, the level select map a combination of that and Super Mario World stage select map.

The lengths Lionhead have gone to in order to keep replayability high is apparent throughout, from the divergent range of weapons and spells yielded by characters, to the forked paths through levels and ultimately via the addition of ‘Dark World’: a whole new challenge unlocked upon completion of the game which cranks up to the difficulty – the developer’s response to those who would have it that Fable has, until now, been a little on the easy side.

Worth the wait? Given that we can’t wait for another go, then yes, and that’s after us having queued repeatedly for a chance to go through the same few stages over and over; a fine endorsement of the addictive and fun stylings of Lionhead’s latest baby. Indeed, and whisper it, perhaps Heroes might out Fable even The Journey when push comes to shove.

For: Xbox 360
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Publisher: Microsoft
When: 2 May 2012