Singing a dif­fer­ent tune

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - Dom Pep­pi­att

There’s a lot to like about the world of Fe. It’s one of the dreami­est games we’ve played on the Xbox One in re­cent months—a strange jour­ney into a vi­brant but in­tim­i­dat­ing wood­land. You can tell the ti­tle was de­vel­oped in Swe­den—the forests of the game all have a proper sense of place to them. From tow­er­ing oaks that block out the light from above, to steamy swamps brim­ming with life,

Fe does an in­cred­i­ble job of mak­ing you feel at home in its gor­geous but un­set­tling world.

Fe is an odd mix of gen­res in one game—for the most part, the ti­tle feels like an ad­ven­ture ti­tle. There is an em­pha­sis on ex­plo­ration and Metroid­va­nia-style back­track­ing once you’ve un­locked new abil­i­ties, but there are also el­e­ments of stealth games and even light RPG me­chan­ics, too. Imag­ine some­thing like Jour­ney, but with a lit­tle more nar­ra­tive thrown in— Fe seems more con­cerned with telling you about its world than force­feed­ing you a story.

Wood you be­lieve it

The main game­play con­ceit sees you com­mu­ni­cate with var­i­ous wood­land an­i­mals, singing in har­mony with them in or­der to con­vince them to help you on your jour­ney. Dif­fer­ent an­i­mals will help you in dif­fer­ent ways, and you need to care­fully ap­ply pres­sure to the right trig­ger in or­der to find the right pitch and sing with them. You can sing to the plants, too, once you’ve learned the right song from the an­i­mals in a cer­tain area. It’s a pretty unique me­chanic, and one that breathes a bit of life into what could oth­er­wise be seen as a stan­dard ad­ven­ture game. The most in­ter­est­ing thing about Fe is that there is no com­bat in the game: You are a ves­sel of peace, it would seem, a force coast­ing through the world to unify the for­est, bring­ing ev­ery­one (and ev­ery­thing) to­gether. That does lead to some frus­trat­ing mo­ments later on in the ex­pe­ri­ence, though: Jump­ing away from the threat­en­ing black masses of preda­to­rial en­e­mies and hid­ing in bushes can only be en­ter­tain­ing for so long.

While Fe does a good job of com­mu­ni­cat­ing its world and guid­ing you through some fan­tas­tic set­pieces, there are also is­sues with the game­play. The con­trols are cum­ber­some, and as you ob­tain more abil­i­ties, they just get more un­wieldy and frus­trat­ing—you’ll of­ten find your­self glid­ing past a plat­form you need to land on and sail­ing down to the bot­tom of an area, forced to climb back to it a few times be­fore the game does what you want it to do.

“Fe is a smart ad­ven­ture game try­ing very hard to do some­thing new”

Con­sid­er­ing the later part of the game re­volves mostly around chain­ing hops and glides, this can get tire­some—es­pe­cially if you get to a ledge, only to have the hop-up animation fail to trig­ger for what­ever rea­son. As the dodgy con­trols get more frus­trat­ing, you start to see past the charm­ing wilderness and see Fe’s con­stituent parts… and they’re not that im­pres­sive.

Seedy be­hav­ior

Most puz­zles re­volve around fig­ur­ing out which an­i­mal you need to guide where, or throw­ing seeds at break­able ob­sta­cles to clear the way ahead. At first, they’re in­ter­est­ing, and the cookie-cut­ter puz­zles are bro­ken up with some in­ter­est­ing, Jour­ney- es­que set-pieces. But even­tu­ally, even the puz­zles start to wear thin—all the singing and seed-throw­ing and jump­ing comes to­gether to form a fi­nite num­ber, and by the end of the game we were left feel­ing pretty un­der­whelmed by the puz­zles and their pre­dictable so­lu­tions.

But per­haps that’s be­ing too harsh. Fe is a short game—maybe three to four hours if you take your time—and over­all the ex­pe­ri­ence is pretty, soul­ful, and a bit dif­fer­ent. Once you’ve played through the main nar­ra­tive of the ti­tle, you’re left with a sort-of open world you can ex­plore at leisure—no more ar­bi­trary stealth non­sense holds you back here. The soundtrack also sub­sides a lit­tle once you fin­ish the game… and it’s ac­tu­ally quite nice. We know this is a game all about har­mon­ics and sounds, but at times the soundtrack is far too in­tru­sive, and doesn’t feel like it fits the rhythm or pace of the game.

So Fe is not a bad game. There are frus­trat­ing el­e­ments to it, sure, and the con­trols re­ally do hold it back from be­ing as spe­cial as

Jour­ney, or even Rime. Fe is a smart ad­ven­ture game try­ing very hard to do some­thing new, and the singing me­chanic is gen­uinely in­ter­est­ing for the first hour or so. It’s just a shame that for such a short game, Fe starts to un­ravel a lit­tle to­wards the end.

It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing ap­proach from de­vel­oper Zoink—and some­thing pretty dif­fer­ent to what they’ve put out in the past. We hope that Fe proves a sat­is­fy­ing proof of con­cept for the stu­dio to build on for its next soul­ful ad­ven­ture.

Left The game’s blue hue can be re­lax­ing and vaguely hyp­notic.

far left The var­i­ous ner­vous crea­tures in the game all speak their own lan­guage and be­have in their own spe­cial way.

Right If you can get over the oc­ca­sion­ally frus­trat­ing con­trols, Fe’s world is a joy to ex­plore— es­pe­cially in the post-game free play mode.

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