A Fun-Filled Fracas In The Forest
Retro games and titles defined by minimalist graphics, once a rare and special release, have become a dime a dozen on the modern release calendar. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always translate well to a quality experience. Rather, the style is mostly served to pull nostalgia bucks from gamers for an otherwise mediocre title. When Fox n Forests came across my desk, I immediately found myself enchanted. The music and graphics took me right back to the halcyon days of my youth sitting in front of dinky tube TV putzing around with Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure on the Genesis.
After botching an attempt at a quick meal, Rick the Fox is convinced by Patty the Partridge to aid the Season Tree in ridding the Great Forest of the Green-Eyed Horde and to prevent them from unleashing “The Fifth Season” upon it. To help him, the Season Tree provides Rick with the Magic Melee Crossbow – a weapon with three distinct features. The first is the actual function of being a crossbow. While standing on the ground, Rick can fire an unlimited amount of arrows at oncoming foes. When crouched or airborne, the crossbow’s bayonet comes into play by allowing for close-ranged and airborne combat. Lastly, the most important feature bestowed is the ability to change seasons.
Lift Your Head Up High – Change the Season
By using stored mana, Rick can shift the environment from one season to another at the press of a button. The effect is only temporary but is no less vital to success. A pristine lake in the Spring will be frozen over in the Winter so that he may safely run across. A blazing forest in Summer will have its canopy doused with water in Spring to make for safe traversal. Or a Summer valley can be crossed over in the Fall by jumping across falling leaves.
Unfortunately, you can only switch between two seasons per stage but this still can result in some great platform puzzles. As Rick continues to grow, his mana gauge will be extended thus allowing the seasonal shift to remain in effect for a longer period of time.
Shopping In Smurfesque Splendor
As the player guides Rick across the various levels in the game, they will acquire a variety of treasures. Gold can be earned either by defeating enemies, breaking objects or by locating treasure chests hidden in secret areas. When taken back to the main hub area, the gold can be used to purchase a variety of upgrades to make Rick a more formidable fighter such as health upgrades and enhanced attacks. Some of the upgrades require additional stage treasures to be used along with money.
In Fox n Forests, Melee attacks can be strengthened using gold and grindstones found in stages while the mana bar can get extended through the use of gold and mana ore which is also hidden within the stages. One time use magic attacks can be purchased and they each offer a variety of different effects such as a four-way fireball strike or a giant defensive ice shield. The spells themselves run rather cheap but you can only carry one per bottle in your inventory; of which there are four hidden throughout the game.
Blazing Trails Like Buster
The stages in Fox n Forests are quite large and they seem to get even larger as the game progresses. And while the player may be tempted to go out of their way to heavily explore each stage, it is worth noting that it is likely that each stage will end up being revisited at least once due to secrets that are walled off by upgrades that are acquired by way of in-game progression. Each time a boss is defeated, the Elder Tree will reward Rick with a new type of arrow for his crossbow. Each arrow bears a different elemental property as well as attack style that can be used for combat. In addition, each stage has archery targets spread throughout that only react to the proper arrow type. When these are targets destroyed, new secret areas will become accessible. In these you can find money, the earlier mentioned grindstones and mana ore, and lastly mana seeds.
Mana seeds are necessary to reach each new season upon defeating a season world boss. Without enough, the player will be tasked with returning to previously completed stages in order to locate seeds that had been missed prior until they have enough to reach the next season. Additionally, each season has a bonus level that can only be accessed by locating every mana seed hidden within that season’s previous levels.
A Journey As Beautiful As It Is Enjoyable
Fox n Forests is a retro rush of a game that bears charm, quality music, and a beautiful retro aesthetic. It also manages to retain that retro gameplay and flavor that you’d expect out of a game on the Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis. This is a title that almost flew under my radar but I can certainly say that I’m glad that turned out not to be the case. If you are a fan of solid 2D platforming action games then, do yourself a favor, and don’t let this new “retro” gem fly under your radar either.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: Switch, PC (Reviewed) ; Publisher: EuroVideo Medien; Developer: Bonus Level Entertainment, Independent Arts Software; Players: 1 ; Released: May 17, 2018 ; ESRB: E ; MSRP: $19.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Fox n Forests provided to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.