Fox n Forests is a retro platformer that sticks to its roots while making a few modern updates. Everything from the visuals, music, and controls will take you back to a simpler, more pixelated time. Some forced replayability mechanics remove a bit of the rose tint from my glasses, but this is the closest you can get to retro without searching your closet for an old console.
In Fox n Forests, you play Rick, a clever and sarcastic Fox. In exchange for the promise of some rewards, he is enlisted to save the forest by a magical tree. To aid his quest, he is given a melee crossbow and the ability to change each level to a different season. Along with his double jump, these simple moves will be used in ingenious ways to traverse the world and uncover the mystery of a fifth season.
There are three levels in each season, and the third level is a boss fight. Beyond the twelve main levels, there is a bonus level for collecting all the seeds hidden in that season’s levels. You will need to work very hard to find each one, and you will not be able to find them on your first time.
When Rick beats a boss, he gains another piece of magic bark to power up the seasons tree and save the forest. He is rewarded with a new type of arrow. The initial arrow is unlimited and not very powerful. Other variants fire three at a time in a straight line, fire a spread of arrows, or fire a boomerang.
Scattered throughout each level are colored archery targets that match the color of your arrows. The levels are made to be replayed, and there are many hidden passages, caves, and secrets for you to find. Each level has different paths, and you can miss something if you don’t search every part of a level.
The levels are well-made, and you can tell a lot of thought went into them. After I gained a new arrow type, I was happy to run through it again to see what new areas I could unlock. Unfortunately, this excitement was dampened by being forced to run through them multiple times to advance.
Remember the collectible seeds I mentioned? Fox n Forests requires that you find a certain number of them, before allowing you to unlock the next set of levels. I am a carrot over a stick gamer, so I don’t mind that a bonus level is blocked unless I collect all the seeds.
As good as the levels are, I did not enjoy having to replay them only to jump and shoot at everything until I found the required number of seeds to move forward. I have never enjoyed this version of gating in games, because I think it forces me to play how someone else wants me to, not how I enjoy. The levels are creative and a lot of fun as they are, but they can wear thin if it’s an obligation, instead of a choice.
With my criticism out of the way, the season change mechanic is very well-implemented in each level and turns them into interactive puzzles. Anytime you find yourself stranded, blocked, or confused, change the season. Vines bear fruit allowing you to climb to new heights. Unpassable streams become frozen walkways.
The seasonal change is not permanent. It’s tied to a gauge that slowly drains, so you have to move quickly. You can expand the gauge with mana crystals found in the world, but there is always a measure of strategy.
- Developer: Bonus Level Entertainment
- Release Date: May 8th
- Price: $19.99, £15.99, €19.99
Combining that mechanic with good level design is what pushes Fox n Forests ahead of some other games. I think the best example is level 3:1, Windy Windmills. The vertical climbing level has moving platforms and gears that can be stopped by changing the seasons. Other times, you need them to move you to reach a difficult area. I am not sure it is my favorite level, but it may be the most impressive for me.
Instead of check points, there are save points throughout the long levels. Retro is an entrepreneurial raccoon who will save your progress for a price, and make sure you read why he is taking a fee. The cost goes up as you move towards the end of a level, but it can be worth it. This is a big help in making sure you can reach the end.
It’s not without a cost. When you kill an enemy in the level, it drops coins. These coins are used to upgrade Rick’s health with more hearts, add new moves, buy powerful attack potions, and make his melee attacks stronger. You will need to decide if you really need to spend all of your savings on checkpoints, or run the level again for a little spending money.
I have waited until the end to describe Fox n Forest’s presentation. It’s fantastically 16-Bit. The developer has crafted some truly terrific sights throughout the game. The beginning focuses more heavily on greenery, but one later level has a Ghosts ‘n Goblins inspiration with its own unique feel and seasonal change. Although it’s inspired by the past, it is still original.
The sounds do just as much as the visuals, if not more, to create an authentic aesthetic. Each sound effect from the attacks to picking up a crystal feels like a step back in time. The songs in each level are varied too, and they nail the feeling perfectly. (If you like this style, you really should check out the gameplay trailers on YouTube.)
Fox n Forests is a very good game that wears its influences proudly and manages to do justice to them. From the music and sound, visuals, and dense level design, it’s a polished experience that I really enjoyed. I wish that I was not arbitrarily forced to replay levels for collectibles to advance in the game, but I would still recommend it to anyone looking for a solid, modern retro game that stays firmly on the retro side of modern.
Fox n Forests PS4 Review
Overall - Very Good - 7.9/10
Fox n Forests is a 16-Bit inspired, retro game that stays true to it’s influences, while still managing to be something original. Everything from the music, sound effects, visuals, and good level design will take you back in the best way.
The only real downside is being forced to replay levels to find a minimum number seeds required to unlock the next set of levels. It’s really annoying and unnecessary.
Fortunately, Fox n Forests is good enough to overcome that criticism, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to someone looking for exactly what it does best – delivering a retro experience on modern consoles.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using a PS4 Pro.