Fox N Forests

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: EuroVideo
Developer: Bonus Level Entertainment
Release Date: May 17, 2018


PC Review - 'Fox N Forests'

by Cody Medellin on July 16, 2018 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Fox N Forests is a 2D action retro platformer that combines retro charm with modern game design while offering glorious 16-Bit graphics and a chiptune soundtrack.

Surprisingly few games manage to emulate the 8- or 16-bit game style. Some feature graphics or sound that just wouldn't be possible. Others tack on mechanics that are too advanced for the time period. Even if they get all of those things right, there's an intangible element that lets you know you're playing a modern title made with current sensibilities. Fox N Forests is different in that it re-creates the old 16-bit experience well enough that it can fool some people into thinking you've given them a long-lost classic that's been ported to current platforms. The game's fun factor is up for debate, though.

You play the role of Rick, a fox who's looking for his next meal and stumbles across a partridge singing alone in the woods. Patty the partridge tells Rick of her quest to find someone to help her locate a treasure in the woods hidden by the Guardian Tree. Rick agrees, and they soon meet up with the tree, who tells them that they need to retrieve pieces of his magical bark to stop the Fifth Season from wreaking havoc on the world. Armed with a magical bayonet crossbow, Rick undertakes the adventure, hoping to get both the treasure and a tasty meal in the process.

As you would expect from most platforming adventure games from the 16-bit era, the story is merely a means to an end. It's more involved than a typical game of the genre, but not enough to make you care about it between the opening and closing cinematics. To supplement this, the script is laced with humor and references, but both fall flat. The humor between Patty and Rick consists of Patty insulting the fox, while the banter with bosses and the Guardian Tree is simply present. As for the references, some are deep cuts, as Shinobi is mentioned, along with some cheat codes and quotes from other games, but the more obvious stuff has been seen so often that it becomes tiresome.

As far as gameplay goes, the basics are covered. Rick walks at a good speed, and he can double-jump, which is sometimes finicky when you're climbing things, but it isn't so bad that it results in death. You collect money from fallen enemies, and while you can use that in conjunction with other collected items to power up, you'll mostly use a small amount of it to activate checkpoints in any given stage. Your health is generous, but as long as you have a checkpoint activated, you'll respawn there instantly. Genre veterans will appreciate the fact that these checkpoints are optional, while casual players will both appreciate their presence and the fact that you have infinite lives, with the only penalty being the loss of any items obtained after the last checkpoint.

Your attacks are versatile, but they're also the source of a possible issue. Late in the game, you can access potions for elemental attacks, but truthfully, you'll often forget you have them. The bayonet crossbow allows you to use both melee and arrow-slinging options, but only in certain situations. By default, you'll fire arrows horizontally at a cadence of three in rapid succession if you mash the button for it. You can't fire vertically or at an angle, so your first instinct would be to jump and shoot. Doing that, however, reveals that any jumping attacks are only melee attacks, and the same goes for crouched attacks. As such, these restrictions feel limiting when you consider the weapon at your disposal and how many of the respawning enemies could be properly dealt with if those abilities were available.

The gimmick for Fox N Forests is your ability to manipulate the seasons. With the press of a button, you can turn spring into winter to make bodies of water walkable or summer into fall to produce falling leaves so you can leap over chasms. Each level only lets you change one season into another, and most of those changes are related to making pathways appear as opposed to uncovering secret passageways. The game makes you think about when you need to activate the seasonal change and for how long, since that's tied to your finite mana bar. The game also demonstrates better use of the season-shifting mechanic during boss fights, which have you experimenting with seasonal changes to figure out the boss strategies.

The mechanic works fine, but depending on the control scheme you're using, you'll either love it or hate it. If you're using a keyboard, you'll be fine. If you're using a control pad with analog triggers, you can accidentally trigger a season again even if you meant to switch back to the normal season. The accidental commands can, at times, put you in a bind because the action doesn't stop when the seasons change, leaving you vulnerable to attacks — especially in the shooter levels. With no way to rebind the controls, you're better off using Steam's controller configuration system to rebind everything or using the Switch Pro Controller.

For the most part, Fox N Forests plays fine, with stages of a decent length and some very good platforming portions. Where it disappoints is in the progression system. At first, the game seems rather linear, but you'll notice that each stage contains a few targets that can only be activated if you have the correct arrow. Those arrows are obtained every time you defeat a boss and visit the Guardian Tree. You can return to each level to find ways to get more seeds, which sounds great if it weren't a mandatory task. Each major section is blocked off by a seed requirement, and those seeds are difficult to find, especially since there's no indicator to locate them. The forced requirement of seed-hunting is made worse by the fact that checkpoints from previous runs aren't saved, and you need to finish the level again for the seed collection to count. It all feels like forced padding, and for a game like this, it drags down the fun.

In regards to the presentation, the game gets it all right. The graphics adhere to the 16-bit style in every possible way. The designs are cartoony, and the bosses are large. The animation is good but not too smooth, and while the effects are a little sparse for those used to modern games, it feels right for a studio of medium renown for the day. The color scheme is robust to make you think they modeled this after a Super NES game, but you can also see this get ported to a Sega Genesis without any loss in fidelity. Audio-wise, this is pure SNES, with lots of sampled bass for each song that will remind you of almost every game you've ever played on that system. It's awesome stuff and perfect for stirring up nostalgia.

Fox N Forests isn't going to be an instant classic. The constant need for backtracking for little level deviation can sometimes turn the game into a slog, the restricted move set can be bewildering, and the finicky controls can be infuriating. The game nails the look and feel of an old 16-bit game quite well, while the platforming is solid and the boss fights are enjoyable. It's fun enough that retro fans should give it a chance.

Score: 7.0/10

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