When gamers discuss the difficulty in the titles they play, they will often reminisce about the platformer genre. Earthworm Jim, Castlevania, Super Ghosts N Goblins and Mega Man, for example, were fantastic games, praised for their action, soundtrack, and stellar visuals. However, they are widely notorious for their challenge.
Platformers, especially early 1990’s platformers, are considered to be some of the most challenging games ever made. From the enemies to the boss fights to the navigation of certain obstacles, these games required patience, skill, and a constant desire for trial-and-error.
Despite their difficulty, there was a day where these games were finally conquered, and for the players who achieved that, a feeling of reward, and accomplishment swept over them. Whether it was conquering the Death Egg in Sonic 3, defeating Bowser in Super Mario World, or saving the Earth in Cybernator, it is a truly remarkable feeling that is seldom felt in games today.
This is the feeling that Bonus Level Entertainment and Independent Arts Software hope to bring forth once more in their newest game, Fox N Forests. Like the game’s vulpine protagonist, Fox N Forests appeared from under the radar, being discovered back in March. After playing this at PAX East 2018, it became one of my favorite games at the convention. Making my way through the crowds, I arrived at the Bonus Level booth, where I sat down and began playing the game.
The first impression that hits you is the extremely vibrant and well-polished 16-bit visuals. If I wasn’t holding an Xbox gamepad, I probably would’ve mistaken this for a SNES game. There is an extreme attention to detail in the character sprites and their movement. Everything feels just right and full of life, which, considering this place in the forest, is quite important. However, this was only the beginning of the surprises the game had in store.
In Fox N’ Forests, players play as Rick The Fox, an independent scavenger who is known for his mischief but can hold his own in a fight. I was quickly introduced to my hero, his ranged attacks, and his melee attacks. Rick’s crossbow has the ability to fire different shots, including standard, spread, and others. Additionally, players can use the crossbow, and Rick agility to perform effective melee kills. Moving Rick around, jumping on platforms and shooting enemies was fun, but it was Rick’s special ability that really set the game apart.
At one point, I came across a lake and was unable to cross it. It is then I was granted a special power. At any one given point, Rick can switch the season at will. In an instant. Through an awesome transition effect, the lake, as well as the forest, became covered in a sheet of ice. Suddenly, I was able to go across, freezing some enemies and also providing a slippery surface. This transition effect was not just to allow me to navigate obstacles, but also to gain an advantage over enemies. After this brief tutorial, Fox N’ Forests really opened up into something special.
I traversed the rest of the level, jumping on trees, running through saves, and avoiding deadly traps. The enemies were varied, ranging from flying bugs to mutant giant mutant trees. Successfully dispatching each one felt like a small thrill, and not some kind of a pushover. Jumping and running through the fertile terrain gave the sensation of a fantasy epic instead of just a generic forest. Switching between the spring and winter was amazing, as it was fun to see how switching between the two perspectives yielded different results. Playing Fox N Forests felt genuine. It felt like a game made from enthusiasm and passion.
Another observation was how insanely deep the level is. This was just the opening forest stage and it felt incredibly vast. I found myself moving to the right, but continuously having the choice of whether to ascend or descend. Each time I moved to another area, I was absolutely astounded. I could easily lose quite a lot of time diving into each level, exploring its secrets and enemies. I am sure players will be revisiting each level multiple times.
After completing the first stage, the developer fast-forwarded me to a special shoot’em up stage, or SHMUP stage. In the early 90’s, spaceship shooters were incredibly common, especially on the SNES such as Gradius III and UN Pilot. In this level, Rick was in a small airship, fighting enemies and dodging the weather. Below me was a flaming inferno, left behind by the evil that is invading the land. Dipping too far to the bottom of the screen would cause Rick to die. Ahead, where the outline of clouds. As the level was in constant motion, I couldn’t stop and there would be an impassable wall of fire.
However, by changing the season from Summer to Spring, I actually made it rain. The rain would douse the flames, but it still posed risks. The clouds would generate lightning, and of course, would electrocute the player. I had to be careful to not only attack enemies but also not fall to fire or lightning. It was an exciting level, and I was soon able to make it successfully across the board. With that, my demo concluded.
Fox N Forests is a special surprise coming out of Pax East and it’s poised to be one of the best games of the year. There are games that imitate, replicate, and emulate nostalgia and previous generation game design. Fox News Forests doesn’t attempt any imitation, but instead, brings the game to life through diligently made design and tight gameplay. I had an absolute blast with Fox News Forests and I cannot wait to see the full game.
Fox N Forests will be releasing on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, Mac, and Linux on May 17th.