Fox n Forests PC Review
I’m pretty convinced that if it wasn’t for crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, where Fox n Forests comes to us from, there would only be around 10 games released a year. Maybe it’s just myself but I feel that a significant (and growing) percentage of games, of all sizes and production values, come from community efforts supporting the visions of teams that aspire to create something they truly believe in. Sure, not all of them are fantastic, most of them fly completely under the mainstream radar even, but all of them obviously manage to inspire the curiosity or induce the hype needed to raise enough funds for their development. Fox n Forests is another in a long list of titles, similar to Yooka-Laylee or Mighty No. 9, that harnessed the incredible power of nostalgia to attract an audience. This time, however, instead of looking to take something from the past and revolutionise it the way Shovel Knight did, the developers sought to seriously replicate an old school gaming experience, warts and all.
Well, I can safely say (with the exception of some incredibly strange boss battles), that they accomplished just that. The problem is the ‘warts and all’. The unnecessary need to have to purchase checkpoints, difficult enemies just having a lot of health instead of actually being challenging, and, of course, having to revisit the same levels with new powers. This isn’t a ‘Metroidvania’, going back through the exact same levels just becomes irritating instead of having engaging new enemies and layout changes to look out for. Even the powers don’t really allow the player to reach new areas via wall-jumping or the likes – it’s simply shooting a target with a specific type of weapon-fire and jumping on the single platform it makes appear. On the other hand though, it might be said that these niggles help to preserve the nostalgia of the old games Fox n Forests aims to be like. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it more fun.
Besides these pretty minor annoyances though, the game is actually decent. It’s classic and simple, as is expected. Run and gun. Platforming with double-jumps, the odd side-scrolling shooter level, and lots of hidden passages with things to collect. The graphics are fantastically recreated and the sound isn’t bad either. The main ‘gimmick’ it boasts is that each set of three levels is based on a season and can be changed back and forth between another predetermined season. So, for example, switching to Winter on a Spring level freezes over water, allowing the player to cross safely. Or, one of my favourites, swapping in and out of Autumn on one stage has giant leaves that act as platforms start softly falling from the trees, allowing the player to platform up them. However, whilst this power is used heavily to fight three of the bosses, once in an extremely convoluted and terribly confusing fashion, the changing of the seasons never lives up to its full potential and is mostly just used as a way to halt progress in a level until the player swaps them out.
Not allowing it to be done mid-air, quickly, or even to help with combat, I think, is sadly a lost opportunity. Flicking between Autumn and Spring to switch out falling leaves for fruit on the trees in order to make it across perilous gaps could have been exciting. Changing to Winter in order to have shielded enemies slide back, leaving them open for attack, would have been interesting. The list goes on. Instead, there are abilities and potions that can be purchased and/or upgraded to help with combat, such as arming double jumps with a melee strike, or buying one-use potions that can do things like grant a temporary invincibility shield or summon a grim reaper to sweep past the screen and decimate anything in its path. Visually entertaining but not entirely necessary and a waste of in-game currency if you ask me (before all the permanent upgrades have been unlocked), as the game isn’t really all that difficult to being with.
Fox n Forests isn’t for everyone – it feels more like a game development experiment that resulted in a nice bite-size nostalgia trip and was released just for fun. Those without 16-bit nostalgia, or an aversion to super weird fox/bird relationships, bad English, or puns, may not really enjoy it at all. Personally, I found it both charming and entertaining, but lacking in key game design areas, which I still guess was the point all along, ironically. Besides that, I also encountered the occasional bug that I doubt was put in on purpose to add to the old school feeling, such as a glitching into walls or a vertical platform that takes about three minutes to move up or down. With these problems, the absence of innovation, and the developers shackling themselves to replication, instead of paying homage to a bygone era with a well crafted experience, it only seems fair to describe it as ‘fun, yet forgettable’.