Title: Fox n Forests
Platform: PC (reviewed), Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Developer: Bonus Level
Publisher: EuroVideo and Wild River
Release Date: May 16, 2018
Price: £20/$20 (Across all platforms)
TL;DR: Save the forest with a snarky fox, if you have the patience that is
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The 90’s were known for a lot of things. Britpop; Grunge; Rap – okay, so mostly music. But along with those strides in music, they gave rise to the snarky videogame mascot. Sonic, Gex, ergh… Crash, all heroes that were full to the brim with ‘tude. And, just as so much of the 90’s has already crept back into modern day games, it seems like the rebirth of a too-cool-for-school hero is back as well. This time, you’ll be saving the forest and the very seasons themselves through the furry paws of Rick the fox; whose loveable greed and snarky comebacks help bring a childish touch of fun to Fox n Forests, a game with some good ideas, but let down by its most basic mechanics.
Just like Rick is a reminder of the games we played growing up, so much of Fox n Forests is artificially nostalgic, feeding on our memories of sweaty palms, button mashing, and late nights trying to get past the bastard hard underwater level. The game absolutely nails the look and sound of retro platform games, so much so that it seems like it would’ve been easier to make had the game just gone for a modern design. Levels give way to some astounding designs, with rays of sunlight breaching the dense forest, picturesque snow littering the ground, and crisp autumn leaves providing paths for you to jump across.
This goes for the sprites as well, somehow recapturing the design where you’re able to tell that Rick is indeed a fox, without his model looking too polished. The talking tree (because of course there’s a talking tree) sways to and fro lazily in amidst the forest breeze, pink blossom giving away the modern times the game has been designed in, but the contrast between splashes of modern design mixed into the retro of the majority of the game culminates in an idealised picture that we all have of those hours poured into classic platformers.
But, whilst the design of the game is a wonderful idealisation of childhood, the gameplay is very much the weathered, embittered reality banging on the door of your sweet little daydream. Okay, it’s not that bad, but it does seem that – of all things a platformer does well – jumping should be at the top of the list. Instead, jumping is a touch laboured, with platforming having to be inch-perfect at times. I couldn’t make up my mind initially, as to whether the game was merely trying to recreate the same difficulty of its 90’s counterparts – similar to the N.Sane Trilogy – or if was indeed an overlooked part of the game. In the end, the former is just a dressed up excuse for the latter; games have moved on from having to be pretty much off a ledge before jumping to make the next platform, and we’re better off for it.
So, whilst the jumping is something of a crucial flaw, Fox n Forests adopts some other mechanics very well. At the forefront of those mechanics is the ability to change seasons. Swapping between spring, summer, winter, and autumn (fall for you Americanos) gives way to some really nice puzzle-solving being weaved into the level design. It varies from having to use winter to safely cross a frozen river, using the falling autumnal leaves as platforms to cross chasms, and the budding flowers of spring to move up a wall. It’s a mechanic we’ve seen in some form or another before, with Max: Curse of the Brotherhood coming to mind as I played, but it’s used so, so well and works to make the game look even more beautiful as you switch between one season and another.
And the seasonal puzzle solving is used brilliantly during boss encounters – events I usually loathe but were made pretty damned fun. Whilst you will have to try a couple of times, the boss fights being isolated levels does save you from having to replay chunks of the same level to reach them, and the games offers some useful tips if you’re struggling to figure out what the trick is. For a game that’s a tad unforgiving – in a good way – they’re parts of the game you’ll quickly begin looking forward to.
Fox n Forests is an unapologetic love letter to the likes of Super Ghouls and Ghosts, and whilst it doesn’t do anything spectacular or groundbreaking, it invites you down memory lane. Sure, it’s a lane that got a handful of potholes littered around that’ll see you quitting with frustration at times. but the game’s design, mechanics, and puzzle solving really do make it worth playing.
- Brilliant design that nails the sound and look of classic platformers
- The ability to change season to solve puzzles is a great mechanic
- There’s retro-game collecting badger who charges you to use a checkpoint during a level
- Jumping is crazy fragile at points, meaning it gets irritating very quickly
It sure as hell is! Fox n Forests is rated 3+ in the UK and “E” for Everyone in the US. So, get the kids off the Fortnite, stop them from doing the Call of Duty, or that confounded GTA Online, sit them down, and show them how we used to kick it back in the day – platform style!
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail copy of the code provided by PR for the purpose of this review.