The Fabulous Fear Machine – PC Review

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The Fabulous Fear Machine (TFFM) comes from developer Fictiorama Studios (Do Not Feed the Monkeys) and is published by AMC Games & Shudder. TFFM is an indie outbreak sim horror game with a fresh spin on the genre. Not your typical outbreak though, fear is what is spread through the machinations of the titular machine. The game is set across 3 distinct campaigns where each character makes a wish to Kirlian, a sentient fortune teller carnival-style machine.

We’re all cogs in The Fabulous Fear Machine

TFFM tells its stories in comic book format, panels and all, reminding me of classic comics and pulp fiction horror. In return for helping them achieve their wish, Kirlian takes the character’s life story for mysterious reasons. Through spreading fear, each character manipulates stock markets, public opinion and even laws to achieve their wish. TFFM, especially in today’s climate, combines satire and tongue-in-cheek humour delivering an intriguing experience in this Tales from the Crypt style story.

I was interested in the approach the game takes and even more so when learning Shudder (the horror streaming service) was part of it being published. The Fabulous Fear Machine is available now on PC.

Mr Grier, an African American middle aged man is talking to the sentient or possessed fortune telling machine like you may see at fayres or carnivals
Be careful what you wish for was never more relevant advice than now

Fear is an insidious virus

TFFM is a single-player story set in the present day and we find each main character on their journey with Kirlian to achieve their heart’s desire. As the game progresses we learn what each wish is and get more of a sense of what Kirlian gets out of the deal too. The game features a wide array of fears, everything from climate change to cannibals. The spreading of fear is a means to an end so you can achieve your more insidious aims. The goal is for the public to accept the message you want them to, e.g., believe in your pharmaceutical company. This starts on a regional scale but then gradually extends to the whole world with Kirlain guiding you throughout the game. And as each campaign narrative progresses we see the characters handle the morality of their actions in different ways.


Thanks to an in-depth tutorial showing how the maps work and other mechanics you begin your reign of terror. I found even with the game’s help through Kirlian there is a bit of a learning curve to understand how the game works. Once you do though, the three characters have different motivations and morality which is interesting to see play out as their plans begin working. The characters, including Kirlian, become more detailed and three-dimensional especially as they and worldbuilding develop. The price of achieving each wish rises sharply, surprising Kirlian at times which made for some interesting backstory and worldbuilding.

A map of the UK showing the start of fear spreading south to Ireland, England and Wales
It would take more than the Irish Sea to stop fear from spreading from Scotland.

As TFFM progresses so do the challenges and obstacles while the world of TFFM expands so strategy becomes key, especially later. Planning where conspiracies and rumours will have the biggest impact, and managing time and other obstacles becomes vital. I was reminded of the board game Pandemic but in reverse, as you spread rather than cure. There are new and higher fear targets and even rivals who oppose your goals e.g. competitor companies, anti-vaxxers and more. However, having your loyal assistants and a solid plan those obstacles and rivals will be no match for you. While the satirical and tongue-in-cheek narrative did help, the game began to feel repetitive and started to lose its appeal not very long into playing.

We see a representation of the specific fears being spread in Paris, notably about the tooth fairy and reptilians posing as people living normal lives
Some examples of far-fetched myths and urban legends. Or are they far-fetched?

Graphics & Audio

I really enjoyed how TFFM leaned into the classic comic & horror style with both graphics and audio. The visual style of old-school comics with art design and panelling, and the overall vibe were all really nice touches. I could imagine this easily as a paper comic of EC’s Tales From the Crypt. Because of the stylised graphics, I was engaged as it went hand in hand with the socially conscious themes common to EC comics.

The visuals also went very well with the audio of TFFM. The opening sequence score and Kirlian’s narration were both spot on, equally leaning into the pulp and cliche soundtrack of classic horror. The game opens with loud and overt audio reminding me of Dracula’s theme music aka Bach’s Toccata & Fugue. Then while playing, the background music was perhaps even more spooky and unsettling while adding a certain tension.

A map showing how fear spread from the UK to Western Europe and no signs of slowing down
It seems mainland Europe is in for the same fate as the UK


Overall I did have fun playing TFFM with a playthrough taking around 10-12 hours. Having experienced the narrative once though I don’t feel you gain anything new in the three campaigns. I did enjoy the different rumours and conspiracies, again leaning into the horror theme and satirical humour. There is some replayability with taking different approaches but you can’t really stray from the set path. Although I am curious about the 47 Steam achievements and undoubtedly multiple playthroughs are needed to unlock those.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed my time with The Fabulous Fear Machine as it delivered a fresh take on horror video games and had an interesting story. I really liked how it leaned into the pulp horror and Tales from the Crypt style both in theme and visual and audio design. The design and satire & dark humour couldn’t keep the mechanics from feeling repetitive and stale. Perhaps if more content or DLC comes I will give it another go.

I am pleased to give The Fabulous Fear Machine the Thumb Culture Silver Award. A solid release from Fictiorama Studios.

I hope you enjoyed my review, please let us know what you thought in the comments. I also reviewed the recent RE4 Remake Separate Ways DLC if zombies are more your type of horror.


Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.

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