FOX n FORESTS Review – A Familiar Nod To A Retro Style, But Is It Worth It? (PS4)
Games that use a retro-aesthetic are notoriously common in the indie world, but creators have been able to measure the potential for audience interest in their vision for such a game thanks to crowd-funding. Thus was the case with FOX n FORESTS by Bonus Level Entertainment, which was successfully funded on KickStarter and developed by a team of gaming industry veterans.
In FOX n FORESTS, you play as Rick the Fox (not to be confused with famed NBA athlete and actor Rick Fox) who comes across a Partridge named Patty that needs help retrieving four pieces of bark from her forest’s elder season tree. The tree grants Rick the ability to control the four seasons, which ends up being the game’s central and most unique mechanic. The player must traverse through the four main sections of the forest, which each section having unique levels before leading up to a boss fight. These are all connected to a main hub world that contains item and upgrade shops which the player can visit to buy potions, increase their heart and stamina meters, or obtain new abilities.
Rick’s main weapon of choice is a crossbow that doubles as both a melee and long-range weapon. Melee moves make up most of Rick’s attacks while moving or holding the stick down in a given direction. Thus, arrows can only be shot when the player is standing completely still. The standard arrows are rapid fire, but limited, much like the lances in Ghosts N’ Goblins, but the player can obtain different types of arrows when pieces of bark are returned to the season tree. These include the green arrows which work like the spreader gun from Contra, as well as a set of fire arrows that fire even faster than the normal arrows. For the most part, the attacks feel fluid and natural, though some of the movements can feel clunky at first. As an example, there is a jump attack, but it can only be used during Rick’s double jump.
The core FOX n FORESTS gameplay style consists of sidescrolling platformer levels, which feel very much like classics such as Ghouls N’ Ghosts or Disney’s Magical Quest from the 16-bit era of gaming. Players will guide Rick through these levels, combating enemies and looking for hidden treasures, such as tree seeds, which are needed to unlock certain abilities. These levels all feature the season-changing mechanic, which will let players switch to a pre-set season of choice for the level that can help Rick overcome obstacles.
For instance, one level set in the summer features many ponds of water than can be crossed by switching to winter where they become frozen. However, staying in the alternate season eats away at the player’s stamina meter, so this mechanic must be used strategically. These levels also feature hidden paths and platforms that can only be unlocked after obtaining special items and abilities later in the game, which encourages returning to these levels. The obstacles and secret pathways that are found through the season-changing mechanic can be pretty clever, and give the sense of accomplishment when a hidden item is found or an obstacle is crossed.
The natural scenery in these levels is illustrated beautifully, vibrantly capturing both seasons that each level contains. The sprites inhabiting these levels are all animated gorgeously also. For some players, these levels can seem a bit repetitive and long. Fortunately, some of the later levels do switch to other types of gameplay, such as a level where Rick flies mounted on Patty the Partridge and controls like a classic Gladius-style on-rails shooter. While these levels present their own challenges that might irritate some, they do provide a nice break from the standard gameplay.
The boss battles are fairly simple enough, with each consisting of Rick fighting a large forest creature that guards one of the four pieces of bark. While each boss’s weaknesses may not be immediately obvious, the player is likely to find it after a few tries. For those that do not find it as intuitive, the game does offer hints as to how to defeat the foe. The one minor irritating part about boss fights is that failure sends the player back to the main map, requiring the player to select the boss stage again and cycle through the unskippable dialogue between Rick and the boss before the fight begins. It’s not a huge complaint, but with games like Super Meat Boy offering quick respawn times between challenges like these, it does come as a bit of a nuisance.
Bottom Line →
All in all, FOX n FORESTS is a decent platformer with some interesting mechanics that do give the player a feeling of achievement when the season-changing abilities are used to cleverly overcome an obstacle or enemy. The game is not incredibly flashy, and there have been plenty of platformer games of this style featuring anthropomorphic animals in a nature setting like this, but the charm of the characters and setting lasts just long enough to maintain its welcome. If you enjoy action platforming games, or if you are looking for a throwback-inspired title that authentically captures the spirit of the 16-bit era, FOX n FORESTS may just be for you.
FOX n FORESTS is available on Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. PS4 version was used for review.
Cory Lara2137 Posts
A royally radical and totally tubular 90s kid, Cory has a passion for all things nerdy, particularly gaming and nostalgia. While an accountant by day, he strives to be as creative and humorous as possible in his free time, be it here writing on Don't Feed the Gamers, or making dumb satirical posts on his Twitter, Youtube, Facebook and Instagram accounts.