A cooperative Escape-Room type puzzle, and the most challenging "Fast Forward" game

Lately I've been working through the creative "Fast Forward" series of games by innovative super-designer Friedemann Friese. The first three games of this series were released around the same time as a trilogy: FEAR (2017), FLEE (2017), and FORTRESS (2017). More recently a fourth title was added to the series, FORTUNE (2018). All these games operate with Friedemann Friese's "fable" concept. This is somewhat similar to the legacy concept found in other games. But rather than changing a game semi-permanently between sessions, these games having an evolving game-state that you explore the more you play the game. The rules are learned progressively as you play, and the game has a dynamic element as the rules change over time.

Fast Forward: FLEE is suitable for 1-4 players. As the third title in the initial trilogy of games released in the Fast Forward series, it is billed as the hardest and most complex of these three. It also stands out from the others in the series in that it has a cooperative aspect, and players must work together to beat the game. I've seen this title described as Friese's homage to escape rooms, and I can see why. While not having an escape room type of setting, you are combining your thinking powers to solve the puzzle that the game presents. A "monster" card is found beside one of four characters that are on the table, and the idea is to make sure a character never begins its turn with the monster card, otherwise (as a group) you lose the game. Fortunately as you take turns and progress through the game, there are cards that let you control and manipulate the order of turns and exchange cards, to assist you accomplish your mission, which is to avoid being caught by the monster. You will eventually lose, of course, certainly in your first few games. But much like a classic video platform game, you will take on the challenge again, now armed with new knowledge of what you're going to face, in order to anticipate and counter the twists and turns that lie ahead. If you successfully make it through all three progressive chapters that the game offers, without getting caught by the monster, you win!

I've scoured the personal comments and skimmed through some reviews and other articles, and carefully organized some key quotations to bring you the important things you need to know and what other people think about Fast Forward: FLEE. The parts in bold express my own conclusions, which are then expanded upon and substantiated by the citations that follow, to give you a feel of what most people are saying on each point. Perhaps you could call this a kind of "consensus of opinion", somewhat biased because I'm the one who gets to pick the quotes to include, but overall a well-rounded and fairly objective viewpoint. So here you have it, an at-a-glance overview of some of the majority opinions that you need to know about Fast Forward: FLEE.

NB: For more reviews like this, see this list.



1. FLEE is the third title in the Fast Forward series from Friedemann Friese.
"An unassuming yet lovely trilogy of time-wasting games that are redolent of modern app-culture where the intent is not to win the game but to keep on playing until you get to the end." - Mezike
"The final one in the trio, this one is a coop "puzzly" one. It's supposed to be the most challenging, "like an escape room." - JohnnyDollar
"Flee is the third one of the collection and a VERY difficult coop game." - realnewton
"Another innovative game (and series) from Friese. The concept is that the players are working co-operatively to try and get through to the end of a deck of cards." - Neil Thomson

2. Like the other Fast Forward titles, the game employs the Fable system where you learn the rules as you play.
"The aspect of learning as you go works (for a relatively gamery group), introducing this puzzly cooperative game and creating a mini-legacy-like experience." - bnordeng
"I love the kind of games where the rules are explained when they come into play." - DraedGhawl
"Like the idea of learning the rules while playing. Quite enjoyable. " - glao
"Love the 'learn-as-you-go concept, and the surprises that get sprung on you along the way." - garyj
"Overselling the idea of indroducing rules while "playing" - they just cut them up and put them onto cards." - madster321
"I love the basic idea and concept to have the game explain the rules on the fly." - Mixo
"This is a Fable game, meaning that new rules get introduced as you get further in the game and you learn the game while playing." - douggie
"Intense, puzzle-y co-op using the brilliant Fast Forward just-in-time tutorial system." - universeman
"Credits for the idea. Very innovative to have a game without a rulebook." - majagua
"I was very pleasantly surprised with how well the game seemed to introduce this puzzly cooperative game and create a mini-legacy-like experience." - bnordeng
"The game starts with no rules to read. New rules keep getting added during the course of the game." - karthiksetty

3. Unfortunately this will create some obstacles for some players, because not all the rules are intuitive or immediately clear.
"There is a lot of text on each card, so it's a little slow in the beginning." - grimmymail
"Some of the cards could be reworded to help understand play better." - Sandman1973
"As a Friese game, expect the usual mistranslations and rules confusion." - wkover
"We also felt some of the rules that were introduced were a bit cumbersome to grok, and were worded in rather unclear ways. They took several reads before we thought we understood them, with some minor doubts." - chaddyboy_2000
"A TON of reading to process upfront." - anatana
"The biggest issue so far is that some of the rules are ambiguously worded." - kittenhoarder
"For us, too much new rules text on each card to be fun, and it's hard to read the text on other's cards upside down." - orcmeal
"The occasional rules ambiguities are a bit frustrating when you can't easily resolve them for fear of spoilers." - qwertymartin

4. The basic concept is to manipulate the game so that no player ends up with the "monster" card at the start of their turn.
"You are playing hot potato with a monster (the 2f-speil head)." - theorycraftist
"The premise of the game is fairly simple; escape from a monster by reaching the end of the deck, a player can't own the monster of the beginning of turn or everyone loses." - majagua
"The aim is to ensure the player who has the monster never gets his turn." - karthiksetty
"One person has the monster card, and you're using card powers to ensure that no player ever has the monster card at the start of their turn (as the game is then lost), relying on turn skips, card-redistributions, change in turn order, and the like." - PBrennan
"There is a bogey card that will result in everyone losing if someone has it at the start of their turn and so the cards do their thing in allowing you to move it around the table to avoid that happening." - Mezike
"One player has some sort of "monster" in his hand and the group constantly draws and plays cards one after the other to manipulate the flow of the game (e.g. pass the monster to another player or switch player order etc.) in a way that (hopefully) avoids that the monster is in the active player's hand (at which point you immediately lose)" - Syntaxx
"This is a coop game, where one player always has the Monster and if he ever starts his turn with it you lose. So there is always this pressure to find a way to skip the Monster player's turn or move the Monster somewhere else or reverse player order or whatever." - shippert
"One of the four actors has a monster card. If it is ever his turn while holding the monster, the players lose. Other cards allow manipulating the turn order, exchanging cards etc. As the card order is fixed, the game is solvable." - JoSch
"There are 4 character from Alice in Wonderland that must run away from a monster. The monster catch you up if at the beginning of a character turn that character has the monster card in it hand. So prepare to have UNO cards created by the Mad Hatter, Cards like Skip, Change hands, Rotate, etc are your weapons, because the monster can't be discarded." - mithoron



5. Although there is an Alice in Wonderland style theme and characters, the game is primarily a theme-less puzzle that must be solved.
"The theme is loosely Alice in Wonderland and the players are trying to not get caught by the monster. " - Neil Thomson
"I like the gentle art inspired by Lewis Carroll." - dobrazil
"Just a puzzle without any real theme." - Mr Mjeh
"While the Alice in Wonderland theming doesn't matter in any meaningful sense, I like the look of the game." - Goatcabin
"Very interesting and puzzly fable game. My favourite so far." - greglios
"I love the puzzle nature of the game." - flashshadow69
"A great puzzle with an interesting replay system." - TeChNoWC
"We really enjoyed the tension & puzzle." - icks
"Fun puzzly game." - Chee
"Love the art/theme and interesting puzzle mechanic." - punkin312

6. It has a very strong puzzle element that can even be compared to an escape room feel.
"This almost works like an Escape the Room style game." - bnordeng
"This game feels very puzzle-y - more like an escape room game than a card game." - Mixo
"No replayability, like an escape room game." - mafh
"Only an escape room in the loosest sense, but I enjoyed this puzzly game all the same." - Goatcabin
"This one didn't feel like a game, more like a mathematical puzzle." - Pozman
"FLEE is a 90-card order of operations puzzle, and for that aspect alone I enjoyed it deeply." - ekloff
"It's entertaining but you need to like puzzle solving!" - grimmymail

7. As a puzzle, it is quite difficult to successfully complete, so expect a good challenge!
"Ouch! This one hurt my brain." - mccrispy
"Wow, I was so unexpectedly impressed with this ... For such a simple little card game with what looks like a lot of randomness and very little choice, it’s deceptively far more than that." - TeChNoWC
"It is a deceptively difficult challenge which delivers notable twists along the way." - ekloff
"This game is not easy." - Kitabuck
"It's cooperative and more complicated than Fear." - JoSch
"More complicated than some of the other Fast Forward games, made it more difficult to see what I should be doing." - mi_de
"I think it took us 4-5 hours to beat it. It can get insanely brain burning towards the end." - mihnea_1309
"I need to play this with someone, since I haven't been able to get to the end of the first chapter. I need another brain!" - Lady Mondegreen
"A tough brain burner for fans of puzzle games." - ElderSigned

8. For some people, it is their favourite of the Fast Forward series do to the increased complexity and originality.
"The most complicated of the 3 Fast Forward games, and the one I love the most. BUT it's the toughest one by FAR to dive into - it got frustrating quickly, but was the type of frustration I live for." - seanp
"It's the best of the Fast Forward games and the most complex too... though, it isn't really complicated. It's just that the other two are pretty simple." - bnordeng
"Fast Forward: FLEE really surprised me. It is easily, the best one in the series so far!" - jgoyes
"Oh my favorite of the Fast Forward series so far." - punkin312
"This is the best of the Fast Forward series for me so far, probably because it preys on my predilection for co-op exploration." - PBrennan



9. Much of the game boils down to figuring out the correct sequence of moves, by learning and remembering the cards as you become familiar with them.
"Flee boils down to a puzzle, which is solved via a sequence of moves. Along the way, you'll screw up, and then fix your sequence of moves to avoid screwing up again. This means there's a lot of memory involved, as you need to remember the sequence so as not to screw it up." - chaddyboy_2000
"The puzzle is about knowing which cards are in the deck and in which order to play them. It's probably impossible to win this on the first try, since you need advance knowledge of what is in the deck." - Helikoputtrik
"Feel like you really need to memorize the deck to play effectively." - StormKnight

10. The feel of this is somewhat like making progress in a classic video platform game, as you try to learn the game and get further each time.
"A lovely puzzle which reminds me a lot of video games from the 80s like Super Mario: You are constantly trying to skip the hurdles the game gives you, until you accumulated to much stuff and lose because of some surprise. By learning the cards and their order (similar to learning the obstacles and enemies in old jump and runs) you become better at this game. A lot of fun!" - charrm
"Do you know the video game temple run (or any similar video game), in which you need to flee a creature and run along passages as things get harder and harder ? Though FLEE is neither a real time nor dexterity based, I think it is the cerebral equivalent of this kind of game, and gives you the same feeling." - Itai
"If you lost, you must start all over again, so it reminds me the "Choose your own adventure" books or some old school videogame without salvation points." - mithoron
"It's like a video game with save points where you learn the 'sequence' of the game (like a platformer). It's also a mean puzzle of a game." - mccrispy

11. Some people will dislike the repetition this involves each time you play again in your effort to solve it and get to the end.
"The initial setup of the game always plays the same which is annoying." - PYREST
"Really neat concept, but it becomes very tedious after the 3rd or 4th attempt." - rockstar379
"While it's an interesting enough challenge for a run-through, it becomes repetitive trying to manage the same manipulation throughout." - PBrennan
"This is a puzzle game like the old text adventures where you find out two hours later that you should have picked up that rusty lunchbox because the tomato was in it that you need to make the magic ketchup that's going to let you get past the grumpy dragon. Only it's for four players meant to cooperate (i.e., discuss extensively) and encased in a series of cards instead of in a computer program." - ssmooth
"But in the end none of us was keen to play it a third time. We all had the feeling we would go through the same moves again with not much improvement." - Fluxx
"Having to go through the whole deck again to get to game’s finale to try and beat it is less appealing to me (as it’s 90% redo what I already successfully did before, before I get to the part that is still interesting)." - Olafslomp

12. Others will enjoy the challenge to beat the game by using what they've learned from previous games and to get further each time.
"The first chapter is very restricted and there is pretty much the perfect way to solve it. I'm happy I stuck with it though as I found it got a lot more interesting during chapter 2 and when having to restart from there." - ovis
"While this seems like you are starting from the beginning, that last rule actually allows for a strong “legacy” flavor, as it feels like you are carrying things over from play to play in a powerful way." - kittenhoarder



13. Due to the puzzle-nature of the game, it has little replay value for most people after they have solved it and got to the very end.
"FLEE is only worth beating once, because by doing so you will have effectively solved the game." - ekloff
"No replayability, but it was a fun evening and it is a very unique game." - Sarahmaus
"After solving the game there is not much replay value left." - Mixo
"I enjoyed it quite a bit during my first nine plays, but my tenth play was much less interesting, since I have seen all the cards now ... after I have beaten the game I don’t think this will make it to the table often anymore." - Olafslomp
"Now that we've solved it, I'm not sure we'll pull it out again." - rhombitruncated
"I didn't have any interest in playing again because I had seen all there was to see." - Bnordeng
"The biggest problem is that the endgame is always the same and once you know how to finish the endgame and what setup you need to do it, the game is no longer a game and it is simply like a complex puzzle." - PYREST
"Pretty good game, but replay value is low." - Mario Pawlowski
"It's essentially a puzzle that once solved, you have to bury the game and forget of its existance, then unbury it after some years and replay it, hoping you've forgotten how the solution went." - baltruce

14. Even so, it is still well worthwhile due to the amount of plays you'll get and the hours of fun you'll have in trying to solve it, and there will be some people who will enjoy replaying it regardless.
"Will probably never play again now we've completed it, but got plenty of play from it." - Odinsday
"Very fun puzzle, but once solved no interest in replay. But you have 20+ plays in a little box." - vins
"Not sure if I'm ever going to play it again now that I "solved" it, but it was a fun solo puzzle for quite a while and ended up as a solid puzzle." - ovis
"I was a little worried about the replayability due to the puzzle-like design. I’m not even sure if you could finish this on the first run, but seems unlikely." - blivet
"I also don't think this is as unreplayable as some say. You'll know some of the surprises, but l doubt you'll remember all the cards or the order they come out in." - Goatcabin

15. Unlike the other titles in the Fast Forward series, this is a cooperative game.
"It's the only one in which you play cooperatively." - Syntaxx
"A cooperative card game where you learn the rules by playing." - AlexFS
"I think it would make a decent co-op." - Goatcabin
"It's fundamentally a card-sequencing cooperative game, as opposed to the spatial cooperatives I usually prefer. But there's a lot that's interesting there, and a lot of interesting design decisions, and I do want to play it until the end." - drbobjack

16. Players cooperate by agreeing what to do with shared characters, so it's not ideal for 3 or more players, although it does works very well with just 2.
"In my book, Flee has a hard limit of two players." - wkover
"We only played it with two players, which always gave us the feeling of having lots to do." - Kitabuck
"It's cooperative but has a fixed number of characters, meaning we either need to run two characters each or just play all turns collectively." - etherton
"Not so good for 3 players." - DraedGhawl
"This is a consensus co-op (players *need* to agree on lots of moves as a group to have any chance of proceeding)" - grasa_total
"It's a committee co-op." - grasa_total
"This is a solo-game disguised as a multi-player game." - SpecularRain
"This is a multiplayer one-player game." - Opie
"Multiplayer gives each individual player so little to do that it isn't worth it." - GameMasterX0
"It's probably easier with more players to keep track of everything." - steinhauser
"A reasonably interesting 'team solo' puzzle." - qwertymartin

17. The nature of the cooperative play means it also works very well as a solitaire game.
"Except for the challenge to keep all rules in mind as a single player, there's few to be gained by involving more players in solving the puzzle." - JoSch
"I mainly played in solo mode. I'm eager to play with my wife, sat by my side, and enjoying the puzzle together." - flashshadow69
"A challenging game that is great for solo play." - DraedGhawl
"This is quite a lot of fun for the first few plays, IF you play it solo." - GameMasterX0
"Probably best solo." - Helikoputtrik
"I do think it works pretty well as a solo game, if you're into that sort of thing." - drbobjack

18. Even many of those who were lukewarm about the gameplay admired the innovative concept of the design, which has received considerable praise for its uniqueness and creativity.
"Friese often creates new and interesting games and this is yet another. His interesting ideas don't always work well, but I always appreciate them and I found that this one did work pretty well." - bnordeng
"Very different." - mafh
"I appreciate this more as a design than I did actually playing it ... a unique and memorable experience." - HBGlover
"Very intriguing concept." - Wyckyd
"Props for innovation." - karthiksetty
"I do really admire it as a cool thing that pushes some game design boundaries." - chaddyboy_2000
"I still prefer full-fledged games, but it is very interesting what Friedemann Friese is doing with the game system." - jgoyes
"The design of this game is ingenious (Rating 9 or 10)" - montsegur
"An interesting experiment, and one I encourage." - EYE of NiGHT
"Genius." - mechvigiak



The bottom line: what you need to know

If there's one thing that Friedemann Friese is capable of - besides dying his hair green, and coming up with game titles beginning with the letter F - it's the creation of a game with a truly original feel. Fast Forward: FLEE is another terrific example of his ability to produce a truly unique game design that makes you stand in awe of the creativity that is on display. FLEE isn't going to suit everyone, but very few people will experience this game and fail to be impressed by the ingenious game design. This title really feels like a very different game experience than you'll have ever tried before, and may be worth trying for that reason alone. The other Fast Forward titles do have some similar elements to one another, but FLEE really stands apart from the other games in the series. This is in part from the cooperative game-play, where you need to work together to beat the game, but also the unique puzzle-like challenge that the game offers.

That doesn't mean that FLEE will win over everyone that plays it. In fact, of all the Fast Forward games, it currently has the lowest average rating, making it the least popular of the bunch. But that doesn't surprise me either, because its unique qualities will appeal to a smaller subset of people. To begin with, the cooperative type of game experience that this offers won't be everyone's cup of tea, particularly since you have to make decisions as a committee, and aren't really working independently as players in any way. The same is largely true of Escape Room type challenges as well, and while this is not inherently a fatal flaw, it just isn't to everyone's taste. With this game I believe that the combined brainpower and ability to recall the previous challenges the game has thrown at you will help you, especially if you keep trying to beat the game with the same group. Doing it with at least two people may actually make the job easier and more fun. That said, it works very well as a solo challenge as well, and if you're the type to enjoy solitaire puzzles, then this may just well be gaming nirvana for you.

But probably the main reason why FLEE won't have universal appeal is that it very much has a puzzle feel, and if you do have the fortitude to keep playing the game over and over until you've beat it, this accomplishment at the same time ensures that you have little reason to return to it. It is this lack of replayability that will prove to be the nail on the coffin for some gamers, and accounts for the lower-than-usual ratings. And not everyone will even have the stamina to even do the repeat games necessary to get to the very end. Does all that mean it's a bad game? I don't think so at all. It's just a very different type of game, which is very puzzle-like in its experience. And while it's true that once you've mastered it and crossed the finish line of that final level, your incentive and interest in playing will drop significantly, the fact is that you'll have had a lot of plays and many hours of enjoyment. And for a small-box game that is relatively inexpensive, it's an experience that many will find well worthwhile, myself included.

Fast Forward: FLEE shouldn't be dismissed too easily, even though it isn't likely to be the kind of filler that you'll play over and over, and it does in some ways have a limited shelf life. But isn't that also true of your favourite platform video game or adventure game too? Remember those tough levels that you kept playing over and over, and the sense of accomplishment that you had when you finally conquered those tricky final stages and beat the game? That's very much what playing FLEE is like. It won't be something that I'll be playing the rest of my life, but wow, was it ever a fun ride, and I sure don't regret playing it!

Where to get it? Fast Forward: FLEE is available from the publisher Stronghold Games (here).



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