Fe Review: Sing for the Moment
Kalvin Martinez / Mar 9th, 2018 No Comments
Fe is a surprising turn for Zoink Games. The developers previous work includes titles such as Stick It to The Man, which featured taut narratives driven by excellent voice acting. To go from the hilarious neo-noir setting to the wordless, visually-driven Fe is a stark contrast.
Fe shows a maturity in its presentation. The story is told through its visuals with its interpretation left to the player. Similarly, gameplay progress is largely up to the player’s discretion. It is a refreshing, subtle approach.
The forest is in danger. A roving pack of bipedal creatures emitting a bright beam of light from their face threaten the great tree at the heart of the forest. These creatures are responsible for the current withering state of everything. From draining a once flourishing jungle to shackling a giant gnarled horned deer and enslaving other beasts, they are strangling the ecosystem. If someone doesn’t stop their machinations, there will be nothing left.
Fe is a wolf-like creature implored by the beleaguered tree to set things right and stop the creatures. Given the power of song, Fe must traverse the diverse lands and free the various animals being terrorized by these monsters. Armed with skills from the tree and the kinship of other animals, Fe might just prevail and save the forest.
What Fe does well in terms of narrative is leave its interpretation up to the player. It trades in subtlety and visual storytelling to impart its meaning. The maturity of this approach is striking. A high level of trust between the developer and its audience is necessary for it to work. Luckily, Fe’s story comes across effortlessly, and there is a delightfully surprising twist ending.
The coolest part of this style of storytelling comes in the forms of objects found in fossilized helmets the enemy creatures wear and hieroglyphs scattered around the world. Fe can unveil the hieroglyphs by singing near them. The only drawback is they are out of order, so it is up to the player to translate them.
When Fe sings near these helmets in the right octave, it can cause the object to come loose. By putting the object on its face, it gets a glimpse into the past of what these creatures have done. Much of the conclusions you draw are largely how you interpret these scenes.
The core of Fe’s gameplay is the ability to sing and make connections with animals.
While you gain new abilities from the tree at the center of the forest for collecting gems, these only aid your platforming, which isn’t the crux of Fe. Mostly, you need the ability to climb, glide and run to finish the game, while additional abilities are fun rewards for gathering up all the gems.
But let’s not discredit the platforming. Climbing trees is super snappy. Moving between them can be a bit odd at first, but once you get the hang of it, it is remarkably smooth. Adding in the ability to glide opens up more mobility options. This becomes especially apparent when you utilize different animals’ songs to clear mushrooms or open up flowers to bounce off of, which uncovers new paths to explore. There is a cool symbiosis between the various songs in the game and platforming options.
Fe starts out with only one song to sing, which is mildly effective for communing with basic creatures, tree offspring and calling birds to help. Unlike new platforming abilities, Fe learns new songs by helping out the matriarchs and patriarchs of specific animal clans.
This could be as simple as collecting stolen eggs scattered across an area, while some are much more complex, like destroying the shackles imprisoning an animal. More often than not, the task is to solve a puzzle in order to learn a song and continue on your journey. There is a great satisfaction to resolving these issues and gaining the power of song.
The interplay between songs, puzzle solving and platforming is more apparent when you learn all songs in the game. By the end of the game, you’ll be combining these elements to different ends. For instance, to get past one area of the game, I glided from a tree, opened up a hover flower through song, then triggered a bomb plant to dissolve a barrier.
Knowing when and how to utilize Fe’s arsenal is key to completing the game. It is exciting when a game doesn’t let any gameplay element go to waste and makes every little trick important to the game’s finale.
Fe is impressive in its scope and storytelling. Its gameplay is novel and bonding with other animals plays a driving part in its puzzles. Often, smaller developers struggle to bring a world alive and craft with such polish, but Zoink Games succeeds admirably in accomplishing both feats.
Fe was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher
tags: Fe , Fe Review , Fe Switch Review , review , Zoink Games