It’s no secret that so many games directly draw inspiration from classic titles, I don’t want to even try and remember how many retro-inspired platformers I’ve played in my life. Well, Fox n Forests looks to do one better, not just drawing inspiration from the classic 16-bit platformers, but actually being one itself and for the most part, it does so pretty well. Offering simple combat controls, challenging gameplay and a visual style that will make you question why your console doesn’t look like a SNES. Although it delivers on most of its nostalgic promises, the game also brings along a lot of repetitive gameplay from the 16-bit era which would probably be best left in the past.
Just like all the great platformers of the 16-bit era, the story here isn’t the games selling point. That’s not to say it’s bad, just very generic. You play as Rick the Fox who has been chosen by a Partridge and a Seasonal Tree to search through the four different seasons to find the tree’s missing sacred oak. In all honesty, I actually really liked the simplistic story on offer, so many times I feel a game can try to be too clever, when all we really want is a simplified narrative to purely act as a vehicle to take us from stage to stage, and that’s exactly what Fox n Forests does.
Once you’re finished the very short tutorial section of the first level you’re left on your own, and this is when the game starts to show it’s true colours. Make no mistake, Fox n Forests is a challenging game, not a Cuphead standard of a challenge but more of a reminder that games of the 90’s were genuinely hard. The moment I realise the developers had been brave enough to deliver a suitable challenge along with the 16-bit visuals, a cheeky smile broke out on my face. I literally felt like a kid again.
The main gameplay mechanic on offer in Fox n Forests is the ability to change the season on the fly. As you progress through the different seasons the games leans further into this mechanic, providing more of a puzzle element rather than just platforming. The continuous change of seasons is needed to clear certain sections of a level and help you find the all-important collectable seeds. This change of seasons is delivered to the best effect in a flying stage during the summer season. You’re only given one life and must juggle between winter and summer to avoid stormy clouds and towering high infernos. The different collectables are cleverly hidden between the seasons so switching across too late could result in you easily missing them.
The reason these collectables are so important is due to the game rather annoying stance on blocking your progression if you haven’t acquired enough seeds. If this was just down to a lack of exploration on my behalf then I’d see no fault, but the really annoying issue here is that most of the seeds are locked away until you acquire certain abilities. This shoehorning approach to making you play the same level again, up to 4 times really pulls you out of the fun nostalgic experience. Granted, classic games of the 90’s take the same approach to a lot of their gameplay. However, I think we can all be in agreement that a certain mechanics from retro games should stay in the past, and playing the same level over and over again is definitely one of them.
Luckily, the abilities you get from taking down different seasons bosses can play a key role as you venture further into the seasons. For example, when starting out you don’t have the ability to attack off a double jump, but once I had earned enough gold and brought the attack, it becomes one of my go-to move in most situations. Upgrading attacks and abilities aren’t the only improvements on offer, you can also increase your mana bar, which is used to change the seasons, and you can add more hearts to your health bar. Some of these upgrades are actually locked behind doughnut collectables, which you must find in order to purchase. Unlike the progression barrier the seeds create, I actually like this approach to the upgrades as it offers completionist players more of a tangible reason to delve back into the levels and doesn’t hinder your progression through the main game.
For the most part, Fox n Forrest does a good job of capturing the 16-bit magic of a SNES platformer. The nostalgic visuals, challenging gameplay and tons of collectables all help whisk you back to the 90’s. Unfortunately, the game also includes a lot of repetitive gameplay that would probably be best left in the 90’s. With that said, Fox n Forests is an enjoyable platform adventure game whether you grew up in the 16-bit ere or have never even heard of it.