Review

Fe

Prickly Platforming
by Kyle Hilliard on Feb 19, 2018 at 02:12 PM
Publisher: EA Originals
Developer: Zoink!
Release: Q1 2018
Rating: Rating Pending
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also on: Switch, Xbox One, PC

With its distinct art style, melancholy tone, and ambiguous story, Fe tries its best to run with the artistic indie video game crowd. While its heart is in the right place, Fe comes up short in nearly every way, delivering an experience that is frequently frustrating and consistently bland.

Controlling a spiky being named Fe, you work your way through a large interconnected forest and save your animal neighbors from a mysterious alien threat. Except for the occasional tutorial prompt, you won't read any text or dialogue or be told about the story in an overt way. Fe unlocks new traversal abilities and learns different languages which are used to communicate with other animals who offer additional traversal assistance. The emphasis on expanding your movement is smart; for example, unlocking wings for gliding is a great reward because it changes how you interact with the world.

I like that my platforming moveset expanded as I progressed, but no matter what skills I gained, it never fully corrected the issues that plague the core movement. Prematurely jumping off trees happens all the time, and sure footing on platforms is rarely guaranteed. I frequently slipped off ledges because of the inaccurate controls, which was especially problematic during a few sequences where I had to climb large structures. Stealth is also required to avoid the alien menace, and the loose controls made me move past the bushes of safety right into my enemy's field of view, which is instant death. Checkpoints are friendly, but when the controls are failing you and not your platforming abilities, it's a problem.

The narrative pulling Fe along is vague, but some parts are enjoyable. Early on you come across story moments in the world naturally, and you can figure out what needs to be done from context clues. The further along you go, however, the more traditional cutscenes are triggered. A laughable moment occurs near the end where the story conveniently forgets Fe learned how to fly hours ago. Ultimately, the story has a satisfying conclusion, but the path there is just so bland that nothing stands out as memorable.

The art direction is undeniably unique, but I never found it inviting or particularly pleasant to look at. With the myriad spikes, every creature in the game looks like an enemy, which is a gameplay problem, but I also struggled to sympathize with any of the creatures based on their designs. Every area of the forest also feels similar, even if the color scheme is working overtime to try and make locations feel distinct. Since it was always hard to tell if I was in a new location, I had to rely on in-game markers to point me in the right direction too much.

I don't want Fe to be the red flag that makes Electronic Arts reconsider the great idea of supporting comparable projects, but nothing about Fe is exciting or interesting. It tries to tell a story about animals overcoming adversity in a large interconnected forest, but falls short in just about every aspect.

5.5
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Game Informer's Review System
Concept Save the forest as a spiky little creature named Fe who learns the assorted languages of the forest
Graphics Every element of Fe has a jagged, spiked look that is unique, but not particularly attractive
Sound The soft music is a highlight, and I like how each of the distinct howls delivers a pained emotion
Playability The loose jumping doesn't keep up with platforming that requires accuracy. I often knew a puzzle's solution, yet struggled with the controls to deliver the solution
Entertainment Fe is neither a good platformer or a compelling puzzle experience, and its narrative inspires a disinterested shoulder shrug
Replay Moderately low