Nostalgia is strong in the world of gaming. We have games coming out in the 2010’s that try to capture the feel of the old 8-bit games. It’s been effective so far. Why you ask? Maybe players remember a more simple time when all they worried about was homework and what game they were going to rent out for the weekend. Or maybe it’s the need to experience first hand that famous 8-bit hard.

Whatever the case, there is something appealing about old-school gaming. FOX n FORESTS takes this concept one step further and brings players to the realm of 16 bit, where the difficulty is just as crushing but the visuals are far more diverse.

Platform Reviewed: PC
Platforms Available: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Developer: Bonus Level Entertainment, Independent Arts Software
Publisher: EuroVideo Medien
Release Date: May 17, 2018
MSRP: $19.99
This review is based on a review code provided by EuroVideo Medien.

Overview:

FOX N FORESTS is a 2D platformer in the style of the original 16 bit games. Players take on the persona of Rick the Fox who, at the start, wanted Patty the partridge for lunch. But a wise old tree intervened and instead gave the fox a magic crossbow in exchange for helping him get back control of the seasons. And since treasure is somehow involved, that makes the fox and the partridge partners… It’s as close to old school reasoning as it gets. The duo then set out to retrieve pieces of magic bark in order to restore the balance of seasons. While they both have differing views of what the outcome is like, they both agreed to walk the same path regardless.

Gameplay and Features:

Your primary objective is to reach the end of the level in one piece. There are many ways of going about this task. The non-linear level design not only offers different paths to reach the end, but it rewards players who explore and take risks. The most important thing to remember is that the elder tree has blessed you with the ability to switch between 2 seasons. Think of it as going between light and dark worlds. You will almost need to experiment from time to time and figure out what paths open every time you decide to unleash the power. This takes up mana, of course, and the more you stay in that altered season, the more your mana goes down.

Mana is a valuable resource. Thankfully, the meter recharges over time and there are crystals scattered throughout the level that recharge your mana. Apart from changing the seasons, you also need the mana to shoot special arrows. These arrows have special properties but are most useful in finding hidden paths. The rewards are usually chests and more importantly, collectible items.

Collectibles have a little more value than just something you can brag about with your friends. You will need to collect a specific collectible in order to upgrade your character. For instance, you need gems to upgrade your health and stone wheels to upgrade your melee. Of course, you will need to also cough up a considerable amount to gold as well for each upgrade. The most important collectible of them all is the magic seeds that unlock later stages of the game. You can breeze through an entire level in record time, but if you haven’t collected enough seeds to unlock the next season, you will need to keep going back until you have enough.

Combat in the game involves both ranged and melee attacks. Standing still and pushing the joystick up or down unleashes different melee attacks. Moving left or right shoots the crossbow. Once you’ve gotten the moves down pat, the combat is so damn satisfying. Using the triggers swaps your current arrow type and AOE magic potions. This can come in handy when you need switch types on the fly. The shoulder buttons change the seasons.

At the end of each world, there is a boss battle. These bosses have a piece of magic bark that you will need in order to unlock a new special arrow. The boss battles are not particularly punishing. They have a set attack pattern that you will need to study. Once you’ve discerned the pattern, you simply dodge for a while and counterattack. It’s not Souls-like in its execution, but it’s true to the spirit of 16 bit. If you die, a pop up asks you if want hints on how to defeat the boss. It’s entirely optional, just in case you want to figure it out on your own.

The Good and the Bad:

FOX N FORESTS is a solid platformer. The controls are tight and the animations are fluid. It also comes with vertical levels and a shmup for good measure. They all make use of the season mechanic, so it’s all good. The hitbox interactions are what got me truly into this game. I felt like I could be gutsy and try harder jumps just because I was confident that the hitboxes were not going to constantly screw me over. This also applies to enemy projectiles. There are times when I felt like an enemy projectile was millimeters away from me. The fact that it didn’t hit the space around the character is a huge boost to my confidence.

Nostalgia runs deep in this game. The background music and the sound effects feel like they were ripped straight from a SNES cartridge. Most levels contain secret passages that can only be revealed by running towards a wall. In later stages, you need to be nimble and fast acting in order to make it past the level. Every platform is perfectly spaced apart from one another. The enemies move in predictable patterns. The thrill of making it through a level by the skin of my teeth was just such a rush. It really did feel like I was playing a Castlevania game.

I have issues concerning the implementation of different colored targets in each level. The moment I realized that I needed different colored arrows for the targets, my heart sank. Instead of making more levels with more challenging mechanics, the developers opted to make the player go back and forth between levels using the different arrow types as keys to unlock more parts of the level. I don’t know whether to give them props for sticking with the idea or criticize them for choosing an outdated design choice. Obviously, this extends play time. Then again, I should be grateful that they didn’t ramp up the difficulty as was the norm back in the day.

Checkpoints in the game come in the form of a badger. For a little bit of gold, he can save your progress up to that point. And if you die, you return to the checkpoint. Unfortunately, you lose all progress up until that point. It’s an inconvenience at worst. Having to go through the same hoops over and over again is not exactly my idea of fun.

 

Final Verdict:

I may dislike some things here and there, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that this game is faithful to a particular era of gaming. You can put everything into a 16-bit cartridge, plug it in a SNES, and no one’s going to tell that it was made in the late 2010’s. The combat and platforming are very satisfying and rarely did I feel frustrated at any point of the game. The art is beautiful especially with how lively each stage looks and the transition between seasons is seamless. I highly recommend this game to anyone looking to pick up a platformer. Veterans and newcomers will definitely have some fun here.

8.1
Great
FOX n FORESTS - Review
Score Definition
When the issues of a game are rolled and stomped by its greatness, then it’s something to invest on if you have some spare.
Pros
A good bit of diversity in gameplay
The mostly nonlinear levels encourage exploration
Leans heavily on tried and true 16-bit platforming
No delays after dying
Cons
Checkpoints do not save progress
Having to revisit levels multiple times to complete objectives
Locked camera
Blindly transitioning between seasons can cause unexpected deaths