Demolition Crew

When I bought Demolition Crew, I sort of expected it to be an indie tribute to Wrecking Crew, the 1985 NES puzzle game starring Mario. I mean, the name is “Demolition CREW”, and “demolition” is a synonym for “wreck”, and besides.. look at it!

After taking this pic, it occurred to me that this might have been an attempt at making a game like Fix it Felix too.

“How odd” I thought, “who would even think to pay tribute to Wrecking Crew? It’s one of the most shit-upon black box NES titles. It was such a non-entity in the collective gaming culture that they didn’t even bother porting the Super Famicom sequel to it (yes, there’s a Wrecking Crew sequel) to North America. Most people probably don’t even know it has a sequel.”

My brain says a lot when I see things. A lot of the time, it says so much it starts leaking out of my mouth. And then I get in trouble and have to claim it was the Ambien.

Well, Demolition Crew is a tribute to a 1985 NES black box title. But actually, the game it’s a homage of is Ice Climber. The jumping physics based sometimes around breaking bricks above your head and the vertical climbing sort of make it a dead giveaway. I fucking hated Ice Climber. It’s probably the worst game Nintendo ever made. And I’ve had three words in italics this paragraph. Eh, fuck it’s, let’s make it four.

Maybe what he did was fix-it Ice Climber.

But actually, at first Demolition Crew wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great either, but the concept was solid: platform your way up a building to ring the bell at the top. Along the way, you deal with moving platforms, breakable blocks, movable boxes, buttons and switches, vats of acid or pools of lava, bombs, and mummies. Remarkably, the controls feel like what we all wished Ice Climber controlled like but didn’t. It works. It works pretty good actually. I mean, the combat doesn’t. The combat has no oomph to it, and getting the timing down to smack angry squatters or mummies is brutal. Sometimes you get snowballs to throw at them, but otherwise, I sort of think the game should have eliminated the ability to fight enemies altogether. Or, at the very least, had you use items or the environment to vanquish them. Because the combat in Demolition Crew is some of the worst I’ve seen in a game. Bludgeoning a deadbeat tenant with a hammer should be more fun than it is here.

So, Ice Climber, only done right? Sounds.. okay. Yea, I can’t even pretend Ice Climber at it’s most idealized would be great or anything. But hey, okay is okay, right?! Except Demolition Crew wouldn’t even be okay. It’s be just under earning my seal of approval. The levels are just too bland and repetitive for the most part. Later levels do have much more interesting concepts, like manipulating enemies into blowing up obstructions for you, or using buttons to activate moving platforms to position bombs. These are fine. It just takes too long to get to them, and there’s a lot of dull levels before you get there. Not bad levels, but boring ones. Then again, since the worst thing a game can do is bore, I guess boring is bad.

There’s something of merit here, and with more development time this could have been a very special game. I don’t just want developer xirBX to patch Demolition Crew (though he really should patch it). I want to see more. Maybe he can turn chicken shit into chicken salad with other crappy NES era games like Balloon Fight.

And then, there’s the glitches. Only I guess the glitches must be a feature. Because the developer apparently knows about them. Up until this point, Demolition Crew was just under passing for me, but, I had finally reached some of the more complex, rube-goldberg type of stages. Mostly, I found Crew to be rough. Lots of times I’d jump and the game behaved like I’d hit a wall above my head, only there wasn’t one. This especially happens a lot when you’re next to one of the large walls that hold up the stages. But, whatever. It never really interfered all that much. If it happened once, I could always just jump again. It rarely repeated the invisible wall thing twice in a row. And then, I jumped once and landed on nothing. My character was floating in the air. Then, I tried jumping, and ruined the game. Because now could I clip right through several solid walls and was able to just glitch-jump my way past the entire stage and to the goal. I tried this on other stages and it worked on them all.

I was horrified and felt bad for the developer, because along with the rest of the roughness (one time I died from bad collision detection by hitting bricks that had a pool of lava above my head), this was the final nail in Demolition Crew’s coffin for me. It just plain feels unfinished and completely lacking polish. I see it a lot in indie development: new devs get so excited as they get a working build of their game running that they rush through the all-important play-testing phase and dump it on the market, oblivious to the fact that they’ve sent their baby out to die. I asked someone to find me the developer so I could let them know what I’d found so they could fix it and issue their Second Chance with the Chick challenge to me.

Well, apparently Demolition Crew’s developer knew about it. Because he has a tweet showing a speed runner exploiting the glitches to finish the game faster. As if it’s a good thing.

Dude, you’re supposed to patch the glitches out, and if anyone finds them before you do it, you’re supposed to kill them and any witnesses. Well, that or you just say “I’m going to fix these so enjoy them while they’re there.”

Maybe he deliberately left the glitches in specifically for the speed running community. I guess I’d prefer that over a developer just rushing his game unfinished to the marketplace. Not that leaving glitches in a game in an attempt to pander to speed runners is a good idea. Even if 50,000 of them adopted Demolition Crew as a new tent-pole game for their community at $2 a pop just so they can exploit a glitch that ruins the point of the entire game, they’ll be ignoring the actual effort that went into the levels and the logic contained therein and thus not create any appeal for the general gaming community. And besides, in my experience speed runners are really particular about what games they embrace. And a lot of the community doesn’t like glitching the games they play, so really you’re not even attracting the whole sub-culture. You’re getting a sub-sub-culture. I try to review games here and not developers, but come on dude: the draw of your game is how, when it plays well, Demolition Crew is an effective tribute to first-generation NES games. It looks the part BUT improves upon the originals, like all good classic gaming tributes should do. If it weren’t so rough and had better level design, it’d been a slam dunk for my seal of approval. Neo retro games that improve bad oldies are awesome. That’s why people would want it. That’s why *I* wanted it. I don’t get the logic in a developer showing off that their game that isn’t catching-on is riddled with glitches that can be exploited by a niche game community. It would be like a person losing their virginity offering up their newly-acquired gonorrhea as proof: desperate and kind of embarrassing.

Demolition Crew was developed by xirBX
Point of Sale: Nintendo Switch

$2 couldn’t convince anyone in her family to play the game multiplayer with her in the making of this review.

Seriously xirBX: patch this shit out and ask for a redo.

The Adventures of Elena Temple

The Indie Gamer Chick Paradox: not being nostalgic for older games, but being drawn to neo-retro games. It’s a strange phenomena, but one I’ve noticed in myself, especially lately. When browsing console or PC marketplaces, if a game is all pixel-arty in a convincing way, I’m much more likely to want to try it. I find that strange, because I’m not exactly telling kids about the glory days when all Mario needed was two buttons, a D-Pad, fireballs, and a flagpole at the end of each stage. Frankly, some of those type of gamers are kind of creepy. Like the ones who say they won’t let their kids play any modern games until they play the games of their childhood and learn to like them, or else. That’s not teaching your kids appreciation. That’s brainwashing. Really unnerving shit that turns what should be a beautiful event into something more like indoctrination into a cult.

Still, if I see something that looks like a lost older game that’s been rediscovered and released again for a new audience, it sticks out to me. The Adventure of Elena Temple takes that a step further: it’s presented to us like it really is a lost game from 1982. One that never found its audience because the hapless developer kept porting their work to generic, off-brand game consoles and personal computers nobody owned (like the Nintengo Some Toy or the Maple Computer, a Canadian Macintosh clone that sold 31 units), thus screwing themselves out ever getting recognition (or payment) for what is actually a decent little game.

I wish I was joking when I say I played XBLIGs that didn’t sell that well.

It’s a cute idea, but one that doesn’t factor into the gameplay at all besides changing the shading of the graphics. That’s a shame, because the meta-joke has legs and probably could have been worked into the concept. Like maybe each port of Elena is busted by era-specific limitations or something along those lines. What could have been a truly inspired gag becomes little more than flavor text for different color palettes of the same game. You can’t even change schemes on the fly. You have to exit out to the main menu, which is frankly inconvenient if you’re someone genuinely looking for what style is the most comfortable to use. And to be honest, because of the comedic framing with the dense creator getting conned into releasing on the wrong platforms, I actually thought each different graphics style was going to be a completely different map or even version of the game. They’re not. There is exactly one map and one map only for Elena Temple that plays the same no matter which version you use. That’s fine, but I wish it had been a bit less ambiguous. Sort of like my last home pregnancy test. It’s surprisingly difficult to interpret whether a tiny line is blue or not when you’re stressing over the effectiveness of condoms.

Also, I had to fixate on that stuff because I really don’t have very much to say about the actual content of Elena Temple. It’s fine. There’s only fifty rooms to explore and gameplay is kept very limited in order to stay true to the 1982-developed-game theme. Exploring is limited to hoping around on platforms, occasionally hitting a button or firing a gun to break jars or knock down walls. I asked myself why she had to shoot jars instead of, you know, just kicking them or picking them up and dropping them or anything really besides busting a cap in them? Who shoots a jar unless you’re a Branch Davidian or something? In fact, guns are the solution to almost everything in Elena Temple. It’s like the NRA’s wet dream. Nearly every puzzle requires shooting it, and sometimes I found myself shooting buttons I could have pressed, but you only get two bullets at a time. There’s refills scattered around the map, some of which respawn without having to leave the room and come back in it. It does work, but it never gets more involved than base-level puzzle elements. You can shoot enemies too, but there’s seriously only two types: snakes and bats, both of which can be plugged with a single bullet. It contributes to the consistent theme of Elena Temple: everything works but there’s not enough of it.

You can zoom in for a closer view if you wish, but then you can’t admire the off-brand equipment you’re playing the game on. Come to think of it, maybe Elena Temple is a scathing commentary on cheapskates buying generic brands. Fair enough, though my father insists that Soni televisions are just as good as the real thing.

To developer GrimTalin’s credit, everything that’s actually here is fun. Each room is over and done with so quickly that you don’t have time to ever get bored despite many of the rooms feeling kind of samey having very little in the way of actual content. It wouldn’t be out of the question for a first-timer to knock the game out in an under-an-hour with a 100% completion. It controls good enough to never be annoying. Jumping takes a bit to get the hang of, especially with the rooms being as claustrophobic as they are, but after ten minutes it becomes instinctive. There’s a few hidden secrets that shows the location of the eight diamonds you need to finish the game, or whether a room is finished (never found that one) or secret passages (never found that one either) but otherwise what you see is what you get. The framing device actually covers for the generic setting, traps, and enemies, which does work in the same way Microsoft claiming bugs are actually features does.

But, what’s here is actually so well made that I can’t help but think almost anyone will walk away feeling a bit unsatisfied. Elena Temple is one of those games that strives for authenticity, achieves it, and it’s not entirely to the game’s betterment. It’s too simple and too straight-forward and doesn’t have enough going for it. And clearly GrimTalin understands that gaming has come a long ways, because without the one modern concession it does make (unlimited lives and thus no game-overing), Elena Temple would have certainly been too frustrating. You know, like 99% of all the games it’s paying homage to. Maybe that’s as far as GrimTalin could take it without betraying the theme, but I don’t know. The most randomly strange thing I could “complain” about in the game is that the Elena character is perhaps too tall. Hear me out: she’s roughly 1/5 the size of the playfield, with the spikes, coins, snakes, etc being half-as-tall as she is. If she was shorter, along with things like the spikes and coins and traps and enemies being smaller, rooms could have been bigger and thus been made more elaborate. I don’t know why, but it’s something that was in the back of mind nearly my entire session with it. Or maybe I’m off my rocker and it just needed more rooms. Probably just more rooms would work. And enemies. And traps. And weapons. And.. really it just needed more.

This is what a sucker I am: I actually found a blue/yellow color scheme to be the easiest on my eyes, but played in the gross Game Boy mock-up because my fans liked the authenticity of it. That’s how it starts. Next thing you know I’ll be dancing on command.

But it doesn’t need more to be fun. Elena Temple already is fun. The stuff I’m suggesting is merely to push it to a higher level. And, while the stages are basic, they’re not exactly crap either. Elena Temple never bores, and is inexpensive enough that you don’t feel ripped-off by the length. Unlike some other shorter titles that have little in the way of innovation, like Sigi, it feels like what we do have here is fully fleshed out. Like a gourmet chef took bland ingredients and made something very delicious with them without resorting to seasoning or other culinary trickery. When I went to determine Elena’s leaderboard position, I was actually taken off guard by how high it ended up. So if I came across like I didn’t like it, it’s only because what was here was so good that I realized Catalin Marcu’s only sin was not aiming higher. Hardly a sin at all, really. What do you call something that is close to a sin but not? I was going to say “a blowjob”, but I looked into it and it turns out that actually is a sin. I didn’t know that! Well, my next confession on Sunday just got awkward.

The Adventures of Elena Temple was developed by GrimTalin
Point of Sale: Switch, Steam

$2.99 (normally $4.99, really $2.99 should be the permanent price) asked why explorers in all these games break the priceless antique vases instead of, you know, gathering them to donate them to a museum in the making of this review?

Elena Temple is Chick-Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard

Left-Right: The Mansion

I’ve played good ideas made badly, and dumb ideas made well. Left-Right: The Mansion is one of those heartbreaking “dumb idea made badly” type of games. Now I’ll be honest: I don’t even remember buying this. I apparently had a seizure afterwards. But going off the marketplace page, I expected one of those “escape room” type of games with puzzle elements. There’s nothing like that here. The idea is you’re given a left door and a right door. One of them leads to another room. One of them leads to a dead-end that forces you to start the sequence of rooms over. That sounds fine, right?

I spent almost $4 on this 😦

Well, there’s actually no way to tell which door is the correct door and which one is the dead-end. 50-50 odds. A coin-flip. Pure luck. You can’t study the layout of the rooms for clues. There are none. There’s no use for power-of-deduction. It’s completely random chance. The gameplay comes from the fact that the correct order remains the same for each floor, each play-session. So basically you’re playing the Ralph Baer classic Simon with only two options instead of four and without knowing what the next move is. Yea, this is one of the worst ideas for a game I’ve seen in over seven years.

I really don’t have that much to say about this one. I honestly think this wasn’t something designed for grown-ups. The very, very tame horror setting and the concept are more suitable for very young children. I tested this out on a few kids. Ones age 8 and upwards found Left-Right: The Mansion to be boring. The seven-year-old wanted to keep playing, and in fact just came in the room as I was typing this to ask if they could play more of it. Take that for what it’s worth. The issue is I can’t review from the perspective of a seven-year-old. I can only continue to behave like one. Left-Right: The Mansion is one of the worst games on Switch and no amount of infinite modes or “challenge modes” (really the same game with a time limit) help. It’s boring. Who would look at Simon and say “what this really needs is two less buttons and the element of random chance?” I made it about halfway through before finally surrendering to instead do anything else. Shampooing my carpets has never looked more exciting.

Left-Right: The Mansion was developed by Triple Boris
Point of Sale: Nintendo Switch

$3.59 (normally priced $3.99, yea I even pre-ordered this, derp) noted the seven year old REALLY wants the Switch back so parents, this could very well raise your kids for you in the making of this review.

Revertia

Anyone who thinks I’m just looking for attention when I don’t like games like Hollow Knight or Cuphead, you really should go look at how many puzzle games I review. It’s a lot. And trust me, I don’t do it for the page views. Even when I covered one that paid homage to 80s slasher films, where you solved puzzles by splatter-killing teenagers, nobody read it. But remember, puzzle games are people too.

Well, actually no I guess. They’re games, not people.

So uh..

Yea, I bought this game for my Switch called Revertia. It’s a platform-puzzler (a pluzzleformer? Admit it, that has a ring to it) with the hook being the “action” is based around the 1880s board game Reversi. Which you might also know as “Othello” if you bought it in the United States or Japan, because that’s the name Milton Bradley released it under. Fun fact: you owe your Nintendo Switch, and actually the video game industry as a whole, to Othello. Because Hiroshi Yamauchi was a personal fan of the game and one of the reasons Nintendo got into the home video game market is because Yamauchi was convinced a video game version of it, which would eliminate the slowness of playing with physical chips, would be a big hit. So first they made an arcade game for parlors in Japan, and then transferred it to a stand-alone home console. I personally think Othello is boring as fuck, but hey, thanks Othello!

I grew up in a different era but I still love the clunkiness of those old-timey stand alone consoles. They look so 1930’s idea of futuristic.

But, while I’m not a fan of the classic board game, the novel idea of turning its play mechanics into a platformer certainly caught my attention. It sounds inspired. The idea is basically if you turn a block black, if there’s another black block in the same line as it, all the blocks between them will also turn black. If you turn it back to white, they’ll all turn white again. If an enemy is in the path of the blocks being changed, it dies. It’s simple, like the board game. Here, the black blocks can be used as platforms to jump on, and the object is simply to get to the door. It sounds like a cool idea.

But, Revertia is, without hyperbole, the easiest puzzler I’ve ever played in seven years being Indie Gamer Chick. The thirty levels you’re given here are so toothless that I rechecked the title’s marketplace page to make sure I didn’t accidentally buy a game that was designed specifically for young children. That’s not a joke or something I added to this review for comic effect. I really did, because it was so absurdly easy. Apparently Revertia wasn’t made specifically for a young age set. But that’s the only group I think would get enjoyment out of it. I’d say beating stages in it is like shooting ducks in a barrel, but in this case the ducks are dying from self-inflicted gunshots.

I suspect this is one of those instances where the developer planned out elaborate steps that a player would go through to beat stages. But even deep into the thirty stages I was able to clear stages in a matter of seconds with literally no challenge by just placing one or two blocks and having a clear path to the door. It almost felt like the game was still trying to do tutorial things for most of the levels, with maybe two or three stages at most necessitating me to stop, scope out my surroundings, and then start to make my way to the door. ONE stage out of thirty I died on because I made a mistake plotting my course, and two other times I died because the controls are a bit unresponsive and it took me too long to highlight which block I wanted to change colors. One challenging level in thirty, and it wasn’t even the last level. I’ve been more puzzled by how to open shipping containers than I was at any point in Revertia. It does keep track of how many moves you’ve taken per stage (but doesn’t tell you the MINIMUM number of moves needed, which defeats the point) and the time you’ve taken, but without online leaderboards, what’s the point?

I didn’t like the game due to the utter lack of challenge, but I’ve always dug the “drawn with a pen” look. I wish more developers would do it. Just not too much you know. If it becomes over-saturated, I don’t want to get blamed for it.

Let’s not completely poo-poo the idea though. While Revertia completely fails to challenge, I think there’s a good idea in here somewhere. I’ve always dug the “make your own platforms” puzzle platform thing, like Solomon’s Key or Escape Goat. Revertia just really needed more time to cook. It feels like it was rushed out the door. I hope PLiCy continues to develop stages for it. The Revertia you can buy on Switch right now feels like a really good proof of concept that should never have been released in the state it’s in. It needs the controls smoothed out and the challenge significantly ramped-up. I do believe this is a good idea for a game, but a good idea doesn’t become a good reality unless you take the time to refine it. So I issue this challenge to PLiCy: take one year to build this game back up with new, more challenging stages and more responsive controls. The idea is a winner. The current product? Not so much.

Revertia was developed by PLiCy
Point of Sale: Nintendo Switch

$4.99 hope the developer REVERSIes this review with some new levels that challenge in the making of this review.

SpiritSphere DX

SpiritSphere DX is the Clamato of gaming. For those of you lucky enough to have never heard of Clamato, it’s a “beverage” we have in the US (and I use that term purely ironically) which combines tomato juice (which I love) with the steamed bodily fluids of what some people insist on calling “clams”, when really what they are is bottom-feeding, armor-plated sea-vaginas (oddly enough, that’s also what my detractors say I am). People pay money for this. Many add it to cocktails, which makes sense to me since I would need to be properly blitzed before I would ever consider letting that disgusting swill drain into my digestive track.

SpiritSphere DX for the Nintendo Switch isn’t really disgusting, but the combination is every bit as baffling from a “what kind of madness saw potential in THIS combination?” point of view. And what’s that combination?

How about crossing Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX for the Game Boy Color with Tennis. Any Tennis basically. Or Pong since that’s more gamey.

Bonkers.

The girl I’m playing as is named “Lin.” K.

Now I’ll be honest: I played Link’s Awakening DX once. I finished it, but of all the 2D Zelda games, it was the weakest and left the least impression on me. I vaguely remembered having some sort of “use the sword to knock an attack back at the enemy” section where it basically turned into an extended tennis-with-swords part of the game, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember if it was a boss or a minigame. It was a boss. The shadowy version of Agahnim from Link to the Past, and there was no “volley” part of it. Just knock the attack back at the enemy and that was that. Still, someone clearly liked the idea of turning that into a full-fledged Zelda-meets-Tennis game because that’s what SpiritSphere DX is.

And it’s sooooooo boring. The problem is the pace of the matches is too slow to be exciting, and without excitement, what’s the point? Wacky “can only be done in video games” sports are one of my favorite unsung genres, and a tennis game with swords and items sounds like maybe it can be fun. But the ball glides back and forth at such a casual pace that it’s just a snoozer, and even during extended volleys it doesn’t gain enough speed. You can eventually unlock a “fast sphere” for matches (through an overly-convoluted and apparently random coin-grindy shop thingy) but even that feels off. Games of SpiritSphere DX feel like watching two old people pass a wadded up piece of paper back and forth.

Probably the best ball to use is the “item ball” which, like the name suggests, drops items. Some of those are inspired, like a shield that you can place anywhere on your side of the court for added defense. Others, like the bow & arrow, are used to temporarily stun your opponent. That sounds nifty, but it comes with two problems. First, you still have to be paying attention to the ball, which makes getting clean and accurate shots off a bit of a chore. Of course, the ball is erosion-slow, so it’s not too hard to keep up with. But, if you become skilled at using the bow and play against anyone who isn’t, SpiritSphere DX suddenly becomes a game of the Golden State Warriors versus your local high school girl’s JV team. The bomb item does that too. Unless you play the single-player mode, you won’t grind up coins fast enough to add variety to the multiplayer matches (which, again, you unlock randomly, horrible choice), but if you grind up coins to add variety to the multiplayer matches, you won’t find an opponent equal to the challenge of the skills you’ve picked up. And since SpiritSphere DX is local-multiplayer-only, you might struggle to find someone able to keep pace with you. The single-player campaign can only stimulate you for so long. In my case, it was a single play-through that took me about fifteen minutes. Not a lot of value there.

This is the tabletop mode. It’s neat and it works, but the problem is you’re still playing a dull game with it.

The one and only curio that held anyone in my circle of family and/or friends attention was the tabletop mode, where two players hold opposite ends of the fully-assembled Switch and use the screen like one of those old Ms. Pac-Man cocktail machines. It works, but it’s still the same, boring game and the novelty of the layout gets old quickly. I feel horrible because developer Eendhoorn did nothing wrong here, mechanically speaking. SpiritSphere DX has accurate, responsive controls and a nice, simple visual style that invokes nostalgia successfully. The game isn’t broken, and he did his best to break up the monotony with a variety of maps and characters, each with their own special moves or quirks. I *wanted* to like it, because it looks like it should be fun. But it’s not. It’s boring, and there is nothing worse a game can be than boring. You know what? You can’t know it won’t work until you try, and so all credit to him for trying. I hope Eendhoorn keeps this indie development thing up though, since actual talent is on display here, even if the concept was DOA. I mean, it didn’t work. Dead on Arrival, not Dead or Alive. It wasn’t anything like DOA the game series. Not enough boobies, among other things.

SpiritSphere DX was developed by Eendhoorn
Point of Sale: Switch (non-DX version on Steam)

$10 said everything is better with boobies in the making of this review.

FOX n FORESTS

Hi there, Fox n Forests. Take a seat please. We need to have a talk.

First thing’s first: the name. Do you know how many times I accidentally called you Fox & Friends? The name is basically begging for mockery or to be botched when spoken by sloppy wordsmiths such as myself. Also, the name is technically FOX n FORESTS, as if it were being screamed by a narcoleptic that briefly nodded off after the first syllable. What is with that “n” anyway? It’s so clumsy and distracting. You have a gorgeous sixteen-bit era game with magic spells and upgradable weapons and treasure chests that sometimes have traps designed to unfairly screw the player and..

Oh, I get it.

You were trying to dress up like Ghouls ‘N Ghosts huh?

It’s okay, you can tell me.

As far as I can tell, the dialog with the checkpoint critter has no payoff and is just supposed to be an “LOL, this character collects games, just like the majority of Kickstarter backers did judging by the end credits” joke. Also, whoever is the person shown in this picture, I want to thank you oh so much for the nightmares I’ve been having these last few weeks, you fucking monster, you.

Well, that makes things awkward. You see, I’m a child of the 2000s. I’m not nostalgic for the type of game you aspire to be. Oh, I don’t really care if a game is neo-retro or not. Take a look at the two games I hold up as the best two indie games ever developed: Axiom Verge and Shovel Knight. Both of them aspire to invoke the era you dress yourself in. So when people will inevitably say I had it out for you from the start, obviously that’s not the case. Truth be told, I haven’t followed your story at all. I had no idea you raised over $125K USD on Kickstarter. I had never heard of the studio that birthed you. I just said “hey, neat looking game.”

And you are neat looking. Authentic SNES look and feel. Of course, that’s where the issues start. Like having melee and projectile attacks mapped to the same button. Why? Because “back in the day” games had fewer buttons? Well, you see, I don’t really buy that. The SNES had four face buttons, just like the PS4 and Xbox One controllers I used playing you, plus two shoulder buttons, select, and start. Why do you have the same attack mapped to two different face buttons, when ranged attacks and melee cause different damage and are upgraded separately? So, in order to do a melee attack, you must either be in the act of jumping (when you can’t fire your projectiles) or you must be ducking.

Now, I’m not an anthropomorphic fox. Hell, I’m not even foxy. I’m sultry at best. But if I were an anthropomorphic fox, I would think that I would be able to comprehend that if my melee ability caused more damage than my ranged attack and an enemy was within close proximity, it would make more sense to just bonk them with my magical club thing without going through the effort of ducking or jumping to do it. It is so unbelievable that you can’t just swing your weapon while standing still that I kept checking the control screen to make sure I wasn’t missing it. I did this the entire length of the game, because it is that unfathomable.

It’s not even an exaggeration to say, as I uploaded this screenshot, I gave it one final glance over to make extra, extra, EXTRA sure I wasn’t missing something. I’m not.

That was pretty much how I felt about the entire Fox n Hannity experience. For every step forward, you stepped backwards into a cow patty. You have eight levels and five boss fights, one of which isn’t even really a boss fight. Of the eight levels, six of them are platformers and two of them are shmups. I’ve never understood why platform games do that. Oh, don’t worry Fox. I mean, even Nintendo did it with Super Mario Land, a game that came out in the United States exactly three weeks after I was born. Incredibly, in the nearly twenty-nine years since then, nobody has realized mixing these two completely incompatible genres is a combination surpassed in stupidity only by teriyaki-flavored soda.

Anyway, your shmup levels are bad. Like, bad-bad. Like, seriously, go put your nose in the corner for the next ten minutes. What were you thinking? No matter how much effort I put into building my health bar up, everything in those levels is a one-hit death. Even touching floor or ceiling. It’s a jarring, cringey gameplay shift, going from a very slightly above-average platform experience into a very mediocre Gradius-type of one. Cuphead did this too, and while I hated Cuphead, at least those shmup sections felt inspired and not out-of-place. YOUR shooting stages feel so lifeless and generic that they come across more like filler. And given how much you were already dipping your toes in the lake of blandness, that type of filler is like adding sawdust to bread and then chowing down on it. Not good for you, Fox n Forests. Your poop will be all pulpy, now.

See that itty-bitty little orange plant in the bottom right corner? Yea, the tip of my bird’s feet brushed up against it and I died. These stages are brought to you by Valium because you’ll need it to get all the rage you’ll feel playing them under control.

But let’s talk about the platform levels since that’s your bread and butter here. They’re not bad at all. Mostly nice design. Cool variety. The difficulty-scaling is a bit off since I had more issues beating stage 1-2 than I did stage 4-2. That could be because I had upgraded my offense significantly by that point. But otherwise they’re fine. They’re the best part of you. And while you’re not the first game to use the “change the level on the fly” mechanic (represented here by changing the seasons), what’s here mostly works. I mean, it was kind of annoying that there’s a pause every single time the main character raised his weapon up and was frozen while he was doing the “THUNDERCATS, HOOOO” pose every time you change the season but NOT when you change it back. But even then, while it’s not exactly original, it keeps things interesting.

Or, at least, it does the first time you play through a stage. Unfortunately, you relied heavily on forced-replays of levels to pad-out your length. I’ve tried padding myself to make up for my own inadequacies, so I get it. But nobody bought that my boobs had grown four sizes overnight, and nobody is going to believe you’re actually longer than your eight stages no matter how much gauze you stuff into your shorts.

Each of your stages contains five hidden acorns. If you do not find enough of these acorns, you won’t have access to the later stages. And I don’t mean the bonus stages for each game’s world (worlds consisting of two levels and a boss fight) that you unlock by finding all ten acorns in a world. Oh no. I mean actual levels that you need to finish to, you know, beat the game. Well, that fucking sucks.

Even THAT wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been possible to get all the acorns on your first run through each stage. But you had to be a dick and not allow that. Sometimes you won’t be able to access them until you have special arrows that you acquire only from beating bosses. Stages have bullseyes of different colors scattered around them that you must shoot with the matching color arrow to unlock access to different areas of each stage. That sounds fine, but the areas you’re unlocking are teeny-tiny. It might just be an extra platform or two that gives you access to the acorn, and that’s it. So you forced myself and others to fully replay the entire stage to get to these sections, and then finish the stage to keep them. If we were unlocking vast new areas of levels that contained new and innovative gameplay mechanics, maybe this would be justifiable. But we’re not. This is one of the worst instances of forced-level replaying I’ve ever seen. It’s like being forced to sit through a rerun that promises you never-before-seen deleted scenes that are really just 20-seconds long and add fuck-all to the plot. There might be an entire extra section to the game if you get all 40 acorns (it does unlock something), but I would have to care enough to get them all to find out. And I don’t.

Actually, I only enjoyed five of the platforming stages. This vertical level (or was this the vertical non-boss boss-fight?. Meh, both are boring) is hampered by some spotty collision detection and became such a chore that it’s where I declared my status as a wuss and started the game over on easy mode, just to finish it. Which is another issue: no on-the-fly difficulty switching. Fuck that noise. And I REALLY didn’t want to have to replay this one to grab the stuff I missed the first time around. So I didn’t. Because it was boring the first time.

Fox N Forests, you have fine level design, but not so fine that I want to play the exact same fucking levels again and again. There was nothing more agonizing for me than to play a stage for the third time, get to the end of it and STILL have a missing acorn. “WELL FUCK ME” I screamed as I hit the teeter-totter to end the level and then start over AGAIN, this time making sure to push up against every single fucking wall or making blind jumps off every platform, constantly switching between seasons while looking for the hide-and-seek champion of acorns. Yea, this was adding to the game’s run-time, but it long ceased being fun. This was busy work. Fox N Forests, you would have been SO much more enjoyable if finding these things hadn’t been forced upon me and I could just play the levels one time in sequential order and only go back if I wanted to grind up money and resources for better upgrades. An optional grind is always preferable to a forced one. Your parents, Bonus Level Entertainment, apparently never got that memo.

I hated you, Fox N Forests. I really and truly hated you. Mostly because it was frustrating watching you throw away so much potential. There’s a running gag I use about “minimum indie badness” that games must achieve for their indie cred. In your case, it’s like you were worried about not meeting your quota and overcompensated. Your levels are creative (except the shooting stages, which can go fuck themselves), but get boring when you forced me to replay them. Your controls are good, except the nonsensical button-mapping. Your bosses are well designed, except one encounter with a giant spider that is more of a copy of Metroid’s escape-the-shaft finale, only longer and less interesting. Your weapon upgrades are nifty, but I only bought one of the potion-weapons, used it once, never bought another, and was no worse off for it. Plus upgrading the weapons required even more forced replays of stages to find hidden mana-cores and stone wheels, to the point that I never even got all upgrades. Everything you did right is immediately nullified by something you did wrong, to the point that I didn’t like my time with you at all.

And the Children of the Forest approached the First Men and said “on second though, you can cut down SOME of the Weirwood Trees.”

So yea, you’re grounded Fox n Forests. Go to your room. I’m not your parent or anything. But fuck it. Go to your room, think about what you’ve done, and make some DLC that rights all the wrongs you just did. Be the first indie game I’ve ever played where the DLC is better than the main game. Because you have so much potential, and the fact that THIS is what you ended up being? You’re better than this. Way, way better than this.

Even your story was bland and predictable. During the open intro, the framing plot device made the finale so easy to guess that I wrote it down on a piece of paper and sealed it in an envelope. When the final boss battle began, I told Brian he could open the envelope. He shrugged and said “did you expect something better?” Yea, I was completely right, but it wasn’t exactly impressive. Helen Keller could see the big twist coming a mile away, and she’s not even a platforming game fan.

Fox n Forests was developed by Bonus Level Entertainment
Point of Sale: Steam, PlayStation, Xbox (Coming Soon), Switch

$17.99 (normally $19.99) accidentally called the game “Fox & Friends” 8 times for those who were taking bets in the making of this review.

Pre-release review copies were supplied to Cathy by Bonus Level Entertainment. She purchased a copy of Fox n Forests upon the game’s release. All games reviewed at Indie Gamer Chick are paid for by Cathy out of her own pocket. For more on this policy, read the FAQ.

Developers who receive review copy requests from Indie Gamer Chick: make sure you’re really getting them from me and not someone pretending to be me.

Check out Indie Gamer Team’s Obscure Games and Consoles review for an alternate take.

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