Critiquing games seems like one of those things that’s a party all the time, but no one ever tells you that the vast majority of games that get released aren’t any good. Having to play through them anyway to build up a list of examples and informed criticisms has a way of slowly transforming you into a joyless husk of a person. Every so often, however, you’ll come across a game that charms its way to your core and reminds you that you’re not actually a one-person parade of negativity, and Foxtail is looking to be one of those games. This game is oozing creativity, from the pixel art that somehow manages to fit oodles of personality into its areas and animations to the way items can be lost and regained in a way that’s incredibly rare for an adventure game. I’m difficult to please, but Foxtail is proving truly special.
For once, I have nothing negative to say
The closest thing to a negative remark I can muster right now is “this game is being released into Early Access in a couple weeks, and I hate knowing that I’m going to reach the end of the current content and have to wait for more game to be released,” but that’s more of a compliment than anything. Speaking of compliments, I’m blown away by how well the pixel art is able to communicate the surprise, frustrated resignation, and mischievousness of main character Leah. Pixel art is rarely this effortlessly expressive, and that’s to say nothing of the backgrounds.
The second Leah’s train pulls up, causing lens flares to realistically come and go as the windows pass, it becomes apparent that there’s a level of detail here that most games simply don’t bother with. Now, games with a lot of detail can sometimes become a problem as they force you to pixel hunt, but the areas here are designed so that the eye is drawn to certain focal points despite all of the surrounding art. Besides which, items tend to be large and colorful enough to be obvious, which has made finding them much more natural than it was in, say, Simon the Sorcerer.
Here’s some gameplay
I’m not going to post long videos of every play session because that could potentially ruin the experience for someone, but I do think it’s important to show off some early gameplay to help give everyone a sense of what makes Foxtail so special. For one thing, I didn’t do practice runs or anything ahead of time, and yet I kept making steady progress because the puzzle solutions always felt natural. And even when hitting a rare snag, I’d end up finding something new in the process. More than anything, though, I love how Foxtail doesn’t feel like a linear sequence of things you have to do; adventure games often have points where you’re wandering around and nothing can be accomplished until you solve a single puzzle that stands in your way, but many of the items I picked up here were able to be used in some way even before I accomplished the task at hand. It always feels more realistic having items that are usable before their importance (or lack thereof) becomes apparent.
For example, at ~22:27 I grab Leah’s grandmother’s geranium plant while she’s sleeping. At ~35:02, I wake her up to ask her about some stuff and she ends up offering up a book that explains what certain plants I need to find look like, only for her to bring up the missing geranium afterward, forcing Leah to put it back. Shortly after the video ended, I was curious and went back into the room, only for the game to let me steal the geranium again. Is it an important item? I have no idea. Same with the pie I kept using up and having to replenish. At one point I gave a character the pie slice and received some oil that smells like roses in return, only to drop it down a tree and lose it. It might not be important, but if the situation ever calls for oil like that, I’ll know where to find some. This is a much less rigid type of adventure game than most, which functions to make it both beginner-friendly and enjoyable to play for those of us who have a fair amount of adventure game experience.