Developer: Zoink Games
Release Date: 16 February 2018
Price: $19.99 / £17.99
Reviewed by Gary Gray
Fe is beautiful and mystical from the get go. Stunning pallets of colour quench a thirst that you might not know you have. Purples and blues shroud the forest with an ethereal haze, shrouding a mystery that needs exploring.
Art is definitely the focus of Fe, with the bright background colours contrasting against the darkened foregrounds, it's hard to deny that the artistic angle is by far one of the game's greatest assets.
Even the most glorious pieces of art can occasionally grow tiresome to the eyes, but Fe never felt like that in style, only in the landscapes. Trees and rocks scatter the hills and forests, but they're all too familiar, and unfortunately hardly any major landmarks exist, making it easy to get lost in a world of familiar assets.
Later areas are a little more diverse, from snowy mountains to watery beaches, but the same features still pop up, making them feel all too familiar.
Bark at the moon
Devoid of any major combat, Fe has a unique set of characteristics including no health bar, no user interface and no attack button. Tutorials are often given by small window prompts with next to no description, and while I praise it for trying something new, this can lead to utter confusion at times.
The main fuel on the fire here is a howling mechanic, letting you communicate with the forest itself, from the smallest animals, to flowers and plants, creating new ways to move forward through the dense woods. Keeping in tune with the elder animals of the forest teaches you new languages, so you can communicate with their species. For example, learning a chirp from a giant bird will give you the ability to communicate with other birds of the forest, and hitch a ride on their back to get to new places.
Holding the pitch of your howl can either be done by tilting the controller, utilising the motion control, or there's an option to have control tethered to the right stick. Learning this action was the first major frustration I encountered, as the visual prompt makes it seem like you have to rock the controller in a repetitive motion, as opposed to finding an angle to hold the controller at.
An interesting feature tethered to the howl is a guide bird. It's summoned by howling as high as you can for a couple of seconds, and when you howl at it a second time, it will fly off in the direction that you should be heading. This comes incredibly handy when your really not sure what to do.
If these woods could talk
The haunting sound of the cello and violas only increase the feeling of fantasy and wonder that Fe already radiates, and honestly, is one of the most fitting soundtracks that could've graced the game. Almost ambient in places, the soundscape of animals and life complements the dark, yet warm soundtrack amazingly. From creepy screeches to echoing roars, there really is so much depth to the sound, if you just stand there and listen.
The main narrative is quiet to say the least, with bulks of it being optional as collectables. You're treated to some short cut scenes every once in a while, but nothing that will actually tell you what the story is. That you have to decipher on your own.
The basic premise though, is that the forest itself is under threat. A robot like race of cyclopic creatures known as 'The Silent Ones' are taking the animals of the forest. Hiding from these enemies is all you can do, as you can't attack, and this actually makes Fe feel fresh compared to other 3D platformers. Diving for the nearest patch of long grass will help you stay away from their headlight-like gaze.
Gotta collect 'em all
As with most 3D platformers there's a variety of pickups and collectables for you to locate. Tracking down and collecting things at a steady pace is almost essential, as they not only make story the little less confusing, but also unlock handy abilities. Pink crystals for example, unlock new moves to help you progress, such as being able to hop up trees. This particular ability feels great thanks to its fast, swift movements.
There's also giant stone tablets to hunt down, with hieroglyph style story cues etched onto them. Where short in narrative, these can help you slowly piece together the game's story. Finally, we also have small crystal orbs which you look through to relive part of the past. This is where the majority of the plot is at it's smartest, giving you an insight to the story from the other side.
While full of charm and breathtaking moments, Fe unfortunately falls short when it comes to pure performance. The first half of my playthrough was tormented with frame rate halts and crashes, closing the game down entirely. Nor were these once in a while events, happening multiple times in a hour. Fortunately, Fe has a fantastic auto save system so I never lost anything, but it doesn't remove the annoying fact that the software kept closing. There's a few other moments where you'll clip though something or get stuck for a short while, bringing the fun down a peg. Thankfully it does ramp back up again as you head to the next area and discover yet another new mechanic to experiment with.
For those with an artistic side, be it visual or musical, there's plenty of impressive moments that shine through, complimenting the grand ideas and mechanics that make Fe truly charming and a candy to the senses. A small gem of a creative platformer is unfortunately lost to a variety of confusion, repetitive landscapes and performance issues that hold back a strong 3D venture from shining in all it's glory. Fans of 90s platformers may be completely at home, with some cleverly designed moments keeping you on your toes, but Fe feels like its a little under-cooked, and in need of a care patch to really dig out the glory that's buried beneath.
Pros & Cons
+ Visually pleasing
+ Incredible audio
+ Interesting mechanics
- Confusing at times
- Repetitive landscapes
- Bad Performance