Monday, December 19, 2016

Feist Review (XONE)

Feist is a new indie 2D platformer that immediately grabs your attention with gorgeous visuals and incredible music and then just as quickly loses your interest because it simply isn’t very fun.  While it is fairly obvious that Feist heavily borrows its visual style and puzzle / platformer gameplay from Limbo, it also reminds me of another stylish 2D platformer in Unravel in that both Unravel and Feist have top-tier presentation but thoroughly mediocre gameplay.  We cover all of the details here in our full Feist Xbox One review.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Finji
  • Developer: Bits & Beasts
  • ESRB Rating: “E10” for Everyone 10+
  • Genre: 2D Platformer
  • Pros: Gorgeous visuals; great music; some clever puzzles
  • Cons: It isn’t very fun
  • MSRP: $10

In Feist you play as a fuzzy little something-or-other whose village of other fuzzy little creatures was raided by a bunch of big fuzzy monsters who proceed to kidnap your friends so you set out to rescue them.  The big monsters aren’t the only things out to get you, however, as pretty much every other living thing in the forest is trying to kill you.  That is, if the devious traps all over don’t get you first.

If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is.  Just like Limbo and INSIDE, Feist is a trial and error puzzle platformer where you have to navigate 2D side-scrolling levels while avoiding traps.  Unlike Limbo or INSIDE, however, Feist actually lets your weak little hero fight back and kill enemies rather than having to simply avoid them.  Your offensive capabilities are limited at best, though, and are where Feist starts to unravel a bit overall.

First, though, the platforming itself.  Feist has somewhat floaty jumps, but it generally feels pretty good to actually play.  Everything is physics-based and little details like jumping on a tree limb and having it slump down from your weight is a neat feature.  You also use items to set off traps, slide heavy rocks downhill with good ol’ gravity, or stick spiny chestnuts to walls to create your own platforms to jump to.  The puzzles and platforming overall are decently solid in Feist.   

Too bad the cruddy combat gets in the way.  As I mentioned above, just about every other living thing in Feist is trying to kill you so you have to either fight back or die.  Weapons include pinecones to throw at enemies, sticks to swing like a club, or even flying creatures you can capture and use to shoot projectiles, but actually using any of them is an exercise in frustration.  Everything is physics-based and while it is fairly consistent, every encounter has to be done in a very specific way in order for you to be successful.  If you aren’t absolutely precise in the order and timing and technique you dispatch enemies, you die a quick death.  While the floaty controls are fine for the platforming, the lack of precision makes fighting enemies extremely frustrating. 

The game also gives you zero feedback on how much damage you’re doing, how much damage you’re taking (you can, thankfully, usually take more than one hit, at least), or even how much health the little insects you collect can re-fill.  More troubling is that the game doesn’t seem to be consistent at all in how health and damage are calculated so the same combat scenario can play out a million different ways.  You never know if that attack you survived on your last attempt is going to instantly kill you this time.  That inconsistency ramps up the frustration factor ten fold.

The result is a game that just isn’t fun to play.  The combat is awful and inconsistent and even though the platforming is generally fine, it isn’t anything particularly special either.  It is a shame that is the case, too, because the presentation in Feist is absolutely stunning.  While it borrows the silhouettes in the foreground style of Limbo, Feist has brightly colored backgrounds that depict different parts of the forest or the time of day and it looks outstanding.  The soundtrack is also incredibly good.  The music is subtle and atmospheric and perfectly matches the mood of the levels you’re playing through.  It is also surprising in that it is electronic and occasionally even industrial sounding, yet it matches the natural organic world you’re playing in extremely well, which is quite the accomplishment.

All in all, Feist is one of the most “indie game” indie games I’ve played in a while.  It is impeccably designed in the presentation but sorely lacking where it matters most in the gameplay.  You’ll want to love it because of the absolutely stunning graphics and insanely good soundtrack, but it simply isn’t any fun to play.  Skip it.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.