Fox n Forests Review

By Mark Delaney,
As one of the most popular genres in the early 8- and 16-bit games of decades past, platforming titles have never really gone away. They've often looked different, added interesting new mechanics, or otherwise tried to modernize what makes the genre memorable, but they've been a mainstay in gaming since the earliest titles amazed players so many years ago. So what happens when one successfully emulates those trailblazers so closely that it often feels like a reskinned replica? Well, Fox n Forests is what happens.

Fox n Forests

If ever you've played a classic platformer, you've already played Fox n Forests. That's not to say the game is without merits, as the simple fact it so closely resembles those past games will be a huge selling point for some. Add to that the game's changing seasons mechanic and there's something like an original idea here. The game's story is a total afterthought, as it was in games for so many years. You play a fox who goes to eat a chicken but is instead implored by the chicken and other forest allies to save their home. The rest of the game is spent jumping, slashing, shooting, and looting in levels that are designed to be explored multiple times with the acquisition of each new tool or skill. The game's selling point of allowing you to change the seasons to solve platforming and combat problems isn't nearly as cool or well implemented as one would hope, as the transition is slow and requires you stay still to activate it.

The artwork of Fox n Forests is very good at what it wants to be, which is also a throwback to the games that inspired it. The retro-bit design looks great on the hero and his many various enemies. Plant monsters, bats, intimidating walking trees, and so many more all stand in droves between you and the end of each level. Of course, each world ends with a boss battle in classic video game fashion; you learn their maneuvers across a few waves and counterattack accordingly. The movement and mechanics of the game are also well done, offering reliable double-jump platforming and a host of moves that get more complex as you progress and unlock new stuff. You could transport this game through spacetime all the way back to 1990 and not one onlooker would suspect you of time travel — it simply is the epitome of what those games were. Fox n Forests doesn't seem interested in innovating, and that will be completely fine and even potentially lots of fun for a certain crowd.

With such old-school appeal will come some old-school frustrations, though. For one, you have to buy checkpoints. They're always optional, but the penalty for playing cheap and saving your coins is sometimes an annoyance you can't bear, which means you must fork over your hard-earned coins. Each checkpoint deeper into a level costs more than the one before it, no matter if you bought previous checkpoints or not. It seems this would've worked better as the risk-reward system it aims to be if prices only increased if you paid for previous checkpoints.

The zipline takes you to 30 years in the past

Another annoyance comes in the form of the mandatory collectibles. To progress through each world, you must find a set number of seeds. For example, to get to World Two you must have found six of ten seeds in the first two levels of World One combined. They can be pretty well hidden, which means one must scour the land for these items — or stop to use a guide — just to see what all the game has to offer. Bonus levels unlock when you find all of them, and that seems fair. To lock normal levels behind these seeds is a game design idea that went out of favor many years ago, but Fox n Forests wears this like a badge of pride.

If revisiting levels in that classically genre way is fun for you, Fox n Forests does it well. You can choose how to spend your coins across a range of items and skills, which means when you get back to an old level, you've decided which sections of it you can now see. Over time, you're meant to see it all, of course, but in the early hours there's a strong sense of agency in this little but appreciated way. The combat gets more advanced, too, which is good because it starts out quite sparse. After a few upgrades, however, you'll have several ways to take down the many enemies, and you'll have learned each of their behaviors and how best to counter them.

The achievement list is short but not so sweet if you want an easy completion. You'll need to find everything in the game across several collectible types, unlock every skill, perform a few specific tasks, and even finish levels without taking damage and without inflicting damage on any enemies, both of which will be tough but certainly a fun challenge for anyone already buying into this nostalgia factory.

Summary

Fox n Forests dares to be exactly what platformers used to be. It offers no real innovations outside of controlling the seasons, which is a mechanic that only slows down the otherwise strong combination of platforming and combat. In every way, this game is a mirror of early genre titles, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. With old-school design comes both nostalgia and frustration. It knows that and it's surprisingly proud of that. It's clearly made with a lot of love for the genre. If you're nostalgic for such games too, there's really not much to dislike, but neither is there anything new to behold.
3.5 / 5
Fox n Forests
Positives
  • Old school charm of platformers
  • Strong platforming-combat focus
  • Demands you weigh your upgrades carefully
  • Heavy on nostalgia for the right kind of player
Negatives
  • Old school frustrations of platformers
  • Checkpoints must be purchased with in-game coins
  • Collectibles are required to advance through levels
  • Doesn't do much to build on the foundation of its inspirations
Ethics
The reviewer spent five hours as a Fox in a forest, hence the name. He often rejected the checkpoints for sale, then regretted it later, while collecting 2 of 15 achievements. An Xbox One review copy was provided by the publisher.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He has written for GameSkinny, Gamesradar and the Official Xbox Magazine. He runs the family-oriented gaming site Game Together.