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Fox n Forests Review


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On 07/04/2018 at 09:50 AM by Nick DiMola

It's like Groundhog Day, in video game form.
RECOMMENDATION:

It looks and plays exactly like a Genesis or SNES game. If you're all about that, this one is for you.

At first blush, it’s easy to pass judgment on Fox n Forests as just another retro-throwback pixel-based platformer, but unlike many other games that adopt that style, it’s actually faithful to the time period. The color palettes, music, gameplay, and even the menus will convince you that this is actually an SNES/Genesis game that’s been lost in time. While the audio/visual experience is fantastically retro, the controls and gameplay both are as well. This means character movement can feel sluggish and janky at times and level designs are such that they thoroughly punish player mistakes.

Fox n Forests’ main hook revolves around the ability to swap seasons on the fly. Each world in the game takes place during a given season and with the push of a button you can jump forward to an alternate season to change the landscape around you for a short time. For instance, a deadly pond of water becomes an icey platform or a once dormant plant blossoms with flowers that can be traversed once you skip forward. The temporary transformation is a neat trick and it’s used both for simple progression and discovering secrets hidden throughout the levels, but its implementation outside of boss battles feels fairly shallow.

During the bosses that punctuate each world, transformation is key to beating each boss and only here does the gimmick feel well leveraged and necessary to the experience. Every encounter is unique and offers a puzzle that you’ll need to decipher, as well as a general mastery of the boss patterns, to be successful.

Where Fox n Forests stumbles most evidently is in the pervasive need to backtrack in order to move forward. Upon beating each of the aforementioned bosses, you’ll unlock new arrows with unique capabilities. These are often required to reach particular secrets in levels you’ve already passed through. Secret collectibles, while usually just a fun extra that makes the game easier as a reward, are truly requisite in Fox n Forests. In order to progress to the next world, you’ll need to have collected enough seeds, which are one of the key hidden collectibles. On a first pass through a level, despite your best efforts, you’ll only manage to collect a couple of the five seeds because the others are gated by the power you’ll unlock at the end of the world or in a following world. This creates a cycle where, upon finishing a world, you’ll need to backtrack through older levels just to get enough seeds to unlock the next world. A bonus level in each world is also gated behind all of the seeds from that world, which seems reasonable as it can act as a reward.

However, this gated progression cycle that demands backtracking through the same levels makes the experience so much more of a chore. The levels are expansive and full of secrets, but they aren’t so brilliantly crafted that you’re itching to pass back through over and over just to see it all and find everything. Given that there are really only twelve or so core platforming levels in the game, it’s clear why this decision was made. I’d have preferred more shorter, tighter levels, to fewer that are huge and require constant repeats.

Even the core control concepts are a bit of a head scratcher. If you’re stationary, you’ll shoot arrows, once you move or jump you instead perform a melee attack. Sometimes you don’t want to move or jump to need to do a melee attack, which is stronger than the base arrow attack. Or you want to shoot an enemy from a distance, but can’t do it because you need to jump to hit them. I suspect it would’ve been fairly simple to split these attacks and just allow users to perform the appropriate attack, which I also argue would’ve made the game feel like it controlled better overall.

There’s also a weird checkpoint system that feels like it misses the mark too. Posted up throughout each level is a badger, who offers to sell you a checkpoint position at various points in the level. If you choose to ignore him, you run the risk of needing to redo large swaths of the level. Each spot further into the level you run into the badger, the price goes up. But it would’ve made more sense for the price to only increase if you bought the checkpoint previously. This would entice players to stick it out and hopefully curb their spending so they can invest more on player upgrades between levels.

After losing tremendous progress a couple times, I just started paying the badger every time I passed by as a safety net. Dying loses all of the money you’ve collected anyway, so you’re better off to just pay and move on. What’s frustrating is that each time you pass through the levels (because you will be back), you need to pay the damn badger again.

As much as I wanted to love Fox n Forests for its old school aesthetic and sensibilities, more often than not, I found myself just confused as to why they made many of the design decisions they did. It’s an experience that’s faithful to the 16-bit generation to a fault. And while I love that presentation and many games from that era, Fox n Forests just never clicked for me. I respect the approach, but through it all, I never found myself having all that much fun.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Cary Woodham

07/05/2018 at 08:52 PM

Nick DiMola Director

07/06/2018 at 09:32 AM

Looks like our opinions on the game are pretty similar! Wasn't into the backtracking or the kinda clunky controls. Glad it wasn't just me!

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