This might be something for another one of our regular columns, but member Magical Quest starring Mickey Mouse? Well, you should. It was a classic platformer from Capcom that was lauded upon release, a highlight for the Super NES that showed off the best it could offer. Since then, it feels like it’s been overshadowed by the multitude of other platformers that were released in the next few years that followed. Thankfully, German developers Bonus Level Entertainment didn’t forget about it. Their new retro platformer Fox n Forests is a direct ode to Magical Quest and similar side-scrollers from that era and it looks like it may easily do its inspirations justice.
The plot involves a mysterious force attempting to bring a deadly fifth season upon the magical mana woodlands…which our protagonist Rick the Fox couldn’t care about. All he wants to do is devour Patty the Partridge. But after being given an enchanted crossbow and the promise of riches upon victory that can help him capture Patty later, Rick heads into the forest to stop the evil forces. Rick being more of a somewhat reluctant anti-hero opens the door for a lot of neat moments in the game’s plot when it comes to character development, which is always welcome. Also welcome is the elemental crossbow with various powers that comes in handy, be it battling various enemies or hitting hidden targets to unlock rewards.
The various hidden rewards easily highlight what comes across as one of the game’s greatest strengths when it comes to evoking 16-bit classics, namely the huge levels with lots of hidden areas and paths to check out. And during your journey to comb every inch of the land for various treasure chests, you’ll have to make use of the power to switch between seasons. Deadly pits of water become frozen lakes to walk across, eggs hatch into killer birds, plump berries burst on vines to act as platforms, and more. It’s a simple trick, but one that works perfectly. The mix of seasons also leads to even more eye-popping visuals, capturing the classic cartoonish vibe of the lush forest and every detail within it quite nicely, regardless of what time of year it is.
If I had to pick one part of Fox n Forests that irked me, though, it would be Retro the Badger, the critter that marks the checkpoints where you can spend money in order to activate areas where you can respawn after you die. The issue isn’t with the fact that you have to cough up an ever-increasing amount of gold in order to not lose progress, as it keeps things challenging and encourages more exploration, but rather the fact that each encounter has him deliver cheeky gaming meme in-jokes like “All your checkpoints are belong to me.” Weak humor aside, one reason Shovel Knight is considered the gold standard for games such as this it never has any meta angles that draw attention to its own existence. Instead, it just simply plays like a classic late-era NES game. Other old-school games like Undertale go the opposite route and act as full deconstructions, but bits like Retro here only end up making one’s eyes roll.
Overall, Fox n Forests may come off as yet another retro platformer to some, but it’s one that exemplifies the strengths of games from the 16-bit area and also a game with enough clever bits of gameplay and stunning visuals that ends up showcasing a ton of charm. For those who miss particular classics from the likes of Capcom, this is one title that fills the gap nicely, and one not to miss out on when EuroVideo helps release it on May 17 for all major platforms.