FOX n FORESTS (PlayStation 4) Review

By Renan Fontes 17.05.2018

Review for FOX n FORESTS on PlayStation 4

It's always a gamble when indie developers model their titles around paying tribute to older, influential games. Shovel Knight succeeded as an homage to 2D NES platforming because it built an identity around its premise whereas Mighty No. 9 failed by doing little past its Mega Man-themed roots. Inspired by Ghosts 'n Goblins, FOX n FORESTS is a run-and-gun 2D platformer bent on offering some hardcore action with a unique spin. The question is whether it carves out an identity of its own or gets lost in the art of inspiration.

It seems quite odd FOX n FORESTS would model itself so specifically around Ghosts 'n Goblins, because there truly is not much to tie the two titles together. There are some gameplay similarities between the two, but, for the most part, FnF is very much its own beast. It isn't nearly as difficult or unforgiving; there are RPG elements at play; and its core mechanics differentiates it considerably from the GnG franchise. As out of place the comparison becomes in the light of all the differences, it is ultimately for the best as it nudges the indie platformer more towards the likes of Shovel Knight than its failed contemporaries.

In a forest where seasons have gone out of whack, Rick the Fox is tasked with saving the day, while also uncovering the mystery of the fifth season. It isn't a particularly compelling narrative and the script does suffer from a serious lack of editing and style, but the premise is charming in its own right, and the meat of the game is in, as expected, the gameplay. The story is just a way to give context. This doesn't exempt it from criticism, of course, but it hardly matters in the grand scheme of Rick's adventure.

Starting out, the gameplay is almost deceptively simple with what Rick can actually accomplish. He has to stand still for fire arrows; he can't use his sword while running unless he jumps, but double jumping doesn't allow him to attack; and he has to crouch to use his sword otherwise. This is all intentional, however, as Rick can gain access to new skills by purchasing them in the hub with gold he collects from enemies or treasure chests. It's a system not too dissimilar to the one Platinum Games uses for character progression. Unfortunately, the techniques missing are ones Rick should have had initially for the sake of gameplay fluidity.

Screenshot for FOX n FORESTS on PlayStation 4

As he is at the beginning of the game, Rick is far too barebones for his own good. It's an intentional decision, one to make progression feel smoother, but it's at the expense of the early game. Upgrades are already pricey, and some are even locked behind collectibles or story progress. It can make hitting a plateau early on fairly easy, killing that feeling of progression. As far as RPG elements go, upgrading Rick's skill-set and buying hearts or magic is good enough even if it ends up a bit of a grind.

To its credit, there is a risk versus reward system in place with currency. Checkpoints have to bought during levels, and they only increase in price each time. Later stages are so long that not investing in checkpoints can become a genuine source of frustration. At the same time, though, buying a checkpoint can mean essentially negating all the money Rick found up to that point. It's a punishing system that doesn't work in benefit of how upgrading works, but very much works in favour of the actual level design, adding in a legitimate layer of strategy.

Challenge mostly comes from enemy placement, especially later on. Some foes do a considerable amount of damage, and Rick's weapons barely leave a dent on some of the tougher enemies. He does gain access to different arrows throughout the course of the game, which use magic in favour of a higher damage output, but Rick almost always feels weak as a default, nonetheless. This isn't to say the enemy design is unfair, but they perhaps are a bit spongier than they should be.

Where FOX n FORESTS really shines is in its level design. Stages are lengthy and labyrinthine in nature thanks to branching paths hiding collectibles and chests. There aren't many stages altogether, but the length and quality of the ones present more than make up for the quantity. More importantly, each stage has an alternate "season" form that Rick can trigger. Doing so changes the season of the stage, in turn eliminating some enemies, adding new fauna to platform on, or removing obstacles. Season shifting requires magic so the alternate season can't just be left on, but that's for the benefit of the design. There are a few moments where Rick will need to season shift, then shift again mid-jump to reach a new area. There are also instances where Rick needs to season shift and platform as fast as possible lest he runs out of magic and his newfound platforms disappear. Simply leaving the season on would remove most, if not all, of the tension from these set-pieces, resulting in a lesser game. FOX n FORESTS may have some conceptual design issues, but what it does well it does quite well.

Screenshot for FOX n FORESTS on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Although the gameplay starts out far stiffer than it should and the upgrade system feels more like a grind than anything else, FOX n FORESTS manages to carry itself with particularly strong level design and a unique season shifting mechanic. Being able to switch the season of each stage on the fly leads to dynamic platforming scenarios and Rick's move-set later on turns him into a fluid and enjoyable character to play as. With several secrets to uncover in each stage and a risk versus reward checkpoint system, FOX n FORESTS comes off a creative action platformer with a strong identity of its own.

Developer

Bonus Level Entertainment

Publisher

EuroVideo Medien

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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