With games like Unravel, EA has broadened its approach to its gaming offerings – and Fe follows in those footsteps quite nicely. As the debut title in the newly-christened EA Originals line, Fe has quite a burden on its shoulders. Zoink Games has crafted an entertaining puzzle-platformer with a unique premise. Beyond having a neon-lit world to enjoy, you also have a variety of animal languages to learn as the title character – and doing so will enable you to solve the game’s puzzles. Fe takes a few cues from thatgamecompany’s best works, but does things in its own way at the same time. The tranquil experience evokes Flower in many ways, while the ability to solve puzzles and progress through the world at your own pace is a gentle reminder of Journey.
Fe is a charming adventure and one that combines a little bit of many things to create a memorable, but flawed experience. Fe brings a bit of singing with a small amount of the old Lemmings games, and the aforementioned thatgamecompany catalog with a dab of Shadow of the Colossus-style enemy-scaling. The dark and neon-infused color schemes of each stage help it stand out from any platformer on the market, while it’s puzzle-solving is rudimentary. What truly makes the adventure stand out are its stealth-based friendship-gaining mechanics. Fe explores a world full of many kinds of creatures – but they’re initially afraid of him. Given that he’s a tiny and fairly unimposing fox-esque creature, it’s a bit of a mystery. However, it’s one that can be unraveled with a bit of cunning.
By slowly coming up to them and slowly depressing RT, you will engage in a bit of a mind-meld with the animals. Each type has its own pressure-sensitive approach to things – so going with a light touch on one may not work well on another type. The key to gaining their trust, much like life itself, is to learn from mistakes and soldier on. It may take you a while to woo a new ally over to your side, but once you do, you’ll be able to make use of them to move throughout the world. By default, Fe’s a bit limited in how he can get around. Hopping with the A button is easy, and jumping up trees bit-by-bit is a thrill, but he doesn’t have a double jump or any fancy traversal techniques.
However, thanks to his friends, they can boost him to new places throughout the world. They may send him up higher, or open up new passages to explore the world. While this is an open-world game to an extent, the core adventure is quite linear. This works to the game’s advantage from a narrative perspective since you are always where you need to be to see what has to unfold to build the world up – no matter how painful it is. The bonds you form with the animals can be easily undone by the world’s large robotic overlords, showcasing just how important everyone in Fe’s life is during the time they’re in it. These bonds, much like in life, can get you through troubled times – even if it’s just a matter of climbing on a back to soar to a new location or blast through a barrier you aren’t strong enough to take on by yourself.
Fe brings different animals together and allows you to learn their languages to control their actions. It’s not quite like using Cappy, but does give you a sense of power beyond yourself. Using the animals to solve puzzles is fun, but usually something that is a bit fleeting as well since these animals are the key to solving the game’s puzzles – and they aren’t that hard. The toughest part of the game requires using stealth to either evade enemies or sneak up on animals to befriend them. The core platforming sections are usually pretty simple, but do allow you to chain things together with ease. Leaping from tree to tree in mid-air provides some of the game’s biggest thrills – but moments like this are few in number. Fortunately, the sheer thrill they provide makes them worth the wait as you soar from tree to tree.
There are a lot of little issues with the core gameplay – mainly a lack of variety. Everything amounts to platforming sections, a bit of stealth, animal-usage leading to puzzles being solved, and then a boss battle. There isn’t a wide variety of things to do, but what’s here is usually done well outside of some iffy-looking animations. Sometimes, jumping around on hills leads to Fe just getting stuck in an odd frame of animation for a little while. Fe controls like a dream throughout most of the adventure, and things like the timing-centric jumping sequences make you grateful that the controls are not only logically laid out but also quite responsive.
Visually, Fe is stunning from beginning to end – with a few problems. The aforementioned animation issues creep in from time to time, but when the animation can play out fully, it’s beautiful. The neon-soaked world stands out immediately in every level, but each stage could definitely stand to have some more visual variety. Everything is a bright color contrasted by black and a heavily-saturated color that varies depending on the stage. It’s a set formula and while it does give the game a uniform look, it comes at the expense of visual variety and makes the adventure a bit too samey.
Musically, the slow and melodic score sucks you into the world and makes you want to see where things go just to hear more of it. The small songs formed by the animals are also quite cute and amusing to listen to. There’s a sharp sense of terror when large enemies roam in and much of that is due to how loud they sound just filling space in the world. The overall sound design of Fe is incredible, and really stands out with either a great soundbar or a solid set of gaming headphones to listen to the game with.
Fe is a well-crafted game from beginning to end. The adventure isn’t the longest in the world, but is rewarding and fun while it lasts. The platforming is mostly great, with a couple of nagging issues holding it back, while the larger-scale world-usage gives the adventure a greater sense of scope than most platformers. Its neon-soaked graphics and atmospheric soundtrack makes it a joy for both the eyes and the ears, and anyone with a thirst for a new platforming adventure should give it a shot.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Electronic Arts
This review is based on a digital copy of Fe for the Xbox One provided by Electronic Arts.