Version tested: Xbox 360
One of the disadvantages of using pretend virtual money to buy downloadable content is that we're still fumbling towards a consensus on the relative value of the things we buy. This uncertainty is muddled even further when you consider something like Fable II. You can complete the Knothole Island quest in just a few hours, and apart from a smattering of collectables and a fetch-quest there's not a lot more to it, but then Fable II was always about how you play, not for how long.
What is immediately clear is that, benefits of the recent patch aside, this DLC bundle contains all the delights and frustrations of the full game. Context-sensitive selections are still a fiddle, with button prompts appearing but not responding, while characters (and dogs) get snagged or lost as you stamp about. Precise navigation is still a fuss when you're not following the sparkling golden trail (why can't we place waypoints for the actual spot we want to reach?) and this is compounded on Knothole Island, since there's not even a mini-map in the pause screen.
The main component of the package is a quest to solve the weird weather problems plaguing the island. This involves talking to the self-appointed chief of the village, finding three keys and exploring three elemental shrines. It's all very linear, and you have to leave the island and come back between each section in order to trigger the next - something the game doesn't make clear. It's a shame that due to the glitchy nature of the core experience, many people seem to automatically assume that this crude interruption means that the quest is broken.
It's an intermediate affair, with little that will trouble those who haven't got a high-level character, although the heavy reliance on flit switches for progress may frustrate those who haven't levelled up their speed and accuracy with ranged weapons. It culminates in another of Peter Molyneux's beloved moral choices, but because of the miniature scale of the quest the stakes aren't particularly high and the decision is a fairly binary one between being an arsehole and being a hero.
Beyond the quest, there are a couple of additional tasks you can undertake. The Box of Secrets shop has thirteen mysterious and special items on offer, although they can't be purchased with gold. Instead you have to swap them for items culled from around Albion. Some, such as carrots, are easy to obtain. Others, like Purple Regal Dye, require a lot of tiresome trekking around and boosting local economies to get them to appear. The rewards are generally worth it, though, with some cool weapons and costumes to unlock. There's a nice nod to Master Chief with Hal's Rifle, while the option to dress as Elvis Presley isn't too bad either.
There are also ten books detailing the history of the island dotted around the place. Since the island featured in the first Fable, fans will enjoy piecing together the back-story. And since finding them all nabs one of the three new Achievements, it's probably worth the effort. Most can be found while doing the quest, and if you've got your canine pal to hand they're easily located.
On the subject of Achievements, it's a tad disappointing that the 100 Gamerscore points available here are dished out in big, obvious dollops - 50 for doing the quest, 25 apiece for the books and Box of Secrets items. Considering the main game has some of the most entertaining Achievements in Xbox history - rewarding players for getting people drunk, having an orgy and running around in their underpants giving everyone the finger - it's a pity there's not more of that sort of thing.
But then Knothole Island doesn't take long to drain of its amusements. With just a couple of shops it doesn't add much to the social or real estate aspects of the game, and the long-term benefits it brings to Albion seem negligible. I certainly enjoyed the quest, brief as it is, and for all its flaws I was happy to be lured back into Fable's world after a few months out. But I was still left underwhelmed once I'd sucked all the new content dry though. Worth experiencing for the Fable faithful? I'd say yes. But is it worth 800 Points? Probably not.
6 / 10