Fox n Forests is a new Kickstarter funded indie game from German developer Bonus Level Entertainment. Drawing inspiration from the early 90’s 16-bit era platformers, players take the role of Rick the Fox, who gets pulled into a quest by Patty the Partridge and the Guardian Tree to save the forest from the dreaded fifth season. The Guardian Tree bestoes Rick with a magical melee crossbow. Basically it’s a crossbow with a big ass knife on the end. Rick also gets the ability to change the seasons, a very interesting mechanic also used more extensively in Seasons After Fall last year. With some RPG elements and inspiration from many classic platformers from the SNES and Genesis era, Fox n Forests has a ton to offer older players in the mood for a retro romp, and new players to the genre, drawn to the cute characters and challenging gameplay.
Fox n Forests looks like a typical side scrolling platformer at first. Stages are divided by season and picked via an overworld map similar to Super Mario World. I quickly realized that this was not what I was used to in the sense that there are very few levels to choose from, but they are massive instead. Players are encouraged to explore and use the season changing mechanic to find hidden seeds, grindstones, and other items. This feature is used to create a two different versions of a level, but one can only be accessed by using the power and only while Rick has enough energy in the tank. At times it’s obvious that you use it to pass a puzzle or enemy in your path, but also later you must try using it to access these hidden prizes. Seeds in particular are needed to open up new seasons.
Along the way Rick will run into Retro the Badger, a funny little guy who pokes fun at other games that those in the know will get a chuckle out of. Retro will also allow you purchase a checkpoint for some gold. This can get expensive as gold is needed to purchase upgrades for Rick, but it beats dying and having to start a level all over. Just due to challenging gameplay in Fox n Forests I highly recommend you spend the gold the first few trips through a level. Yes I said first few. Expect to repeat many levels over and over for gold, and exploring for those elusive hidden items. This is a feature some players may enjoy; repeating levels for much needed upgrades. Others may find it a repetitive and frustrating grind. I did. Seeds become increasingly harder to find and players are left with no choice as they must have a certain amount to open new areas.
Upgrades are so important in Fox n Forests, adding more health, energy, and attacks. Without these, you will have an even tougher time defeating the bosses at the end of each area. I will give the developers credit though, the bosses are a highlight of the game. Each one has a special attack pattern with interesting mechanics needed to defeat them. Thankfully there is an option for tips if you are having trouble figuring out what to do. If you still can’t get them, go back and get more upgrades.
Some levels will see Fox n Forests swap to a “one hit and you die” shooter game, the comparisons to Cuphead are pretty obvious. Rick rides on Patty and must use the season change mechanic precisely to avoid traps and enemies. I found this to also be a repetitive nightmare and not really fit with the rest of the game. My largest complaint though was muddy controls. Rick isn’t very responsive and his range attack is very limited. While I love the throwback style, I could of done without the frustrating throwback controls. With so many retro games of this kind out there, I have grown to expect a more fluid and responsive control.
Overall, Fox n Forests is a fun game with a neat setting that ends up being ruined by forced repetitiveness and weak controls. It looks fantastic, and the music is a real treat. Bosses are well designed but levels are so big and some items can be hidden in areas you would of never thought to look, like the developers couldn’t come up with a challenge to get to them so they put them somewhere so out of the way the player would never look till the sixth time through a level. If you are a fan of the genre and looking for such a challenge, Fox n Forests may suit you just fine, but with so many other choices out there like Shovel Knight and Owlboy I cannot recommend it.