Despite my stubborn love of physical games over digital, I have started to amass a small collection of digital games on the Switch (“amass” meaning about five games, which accounts for about 50% of my entire Switch collection, so…it’s all relative, I suppose). This all started when I was perusing the Switch eShop out of curiosity and saw a whole bunch of games on sale for $10 or less. The very first game that caught my eye was Fe, an indie game that was being sold for $5! With a price tag like that, how could I possibly pass it up? Fe was, what I’d like to call, an experimental game. I bought it out of curiosity and because I wanted something unique to add to our YouTube channel. I have most certainly accomplished that goal, but is it an actually good game? And furthermore, would I recommend buying it for its full price of $20?
The premise of the game is that you must protect the forest from creatures called the Silent Ones. In order to do this, you have to learn the languages of various forest animals, which grants you the ability to speak with the adult animals of that species and interact with certain plants. Speaking to animals provides certain benefits, such as being able to ride a bird to a new location, while certain plants can be used in your platforming endeavors, while another type gives you a little item that allows you to break barriers. You can also collect crystals to unlock new abilities, the first two being necessary to complete the game, while the later ones are just for fun, like the ability to run faster on all fours.
The aspect of the game that caught my eye initially was the graphics, so let’s start with that. This game has a unique art style, and when viewing screenshots, it all looks pretty intriguing, with the vibrant and saturated colors. While I typically love games with unique art styles, I have to admit that those same saturated colors that originally caught my attention also make the game rather unpleasant to play. There are moments when the game’s beauty does shine, but other times, the colors are so intense, it kind of hurts my eyes. Fortunately, the soundtrack is very pleasant and calming, so even if your eyes won’t be happy with you for playing this, your ears will be thanking you, so there’s that.
Okay, so the graphics are a bit jarring. But how fun is Fe to control? Well, your main character is a little “fox-like” creature, whose main abilities include climbing trees, gliding, grabbing objects, and of course, singing. Controlling Fe is pretty much what you’d expect from a platformer, but let me nitpick for a moment by saying that climbing trees was a bit troublesome. Climbing trees is a very necessary way to traverse the environment, and sometimes, you have to climb up very high or across a large distance. And if your camera is not lined up just right, instead of climbing upwards, Fe will jump off the tree, potentially losing you a decent amount of progress if you had climbed a great distance. I kind of wish that Fe couldn’t jump off until reaching the top of the tree, or something else that would have prevented me from making silly mistakes just because I didn’t align the camera perfectly.
On the positive end of the spectrum, I do enjoy Fe’s gliding ability (it was great in Breath of the Wild, and it’s great here), which you get fairly early into the game. I also like that Fe cannot fight enemies. The only enemies in the game are the Silent Ones, rather tall and eerie creatures that can also walk on all fours in a decidedly creepy fashion and ensnare you if you happen to be caught in their gaze for too long. The fact that you can only hide from these creatures (or in rare cases, get help from another animal to defeat them) makes Fe feel that much smaller and more vulnerable and makes the Silent Ones that much more menacing. It’s a very nice tough when the vast majority of games simply have you defeating any enemies that get in your way.
The most unique aspect of this game, however, is Fe’s ability to sing with other animals. You can sing with young animals at any time, but you need to learn an animal’s specific language in order to speak with the adults. Singing was accomplished, for me, by tilting the Switch’s Pro Controller up and down, and the controller will vibrate once you’ve found the right tone. (Obviously, this may be different depending on what controller you’re using.) I had initially worried that this would prove to be an issue that would fall into the same category as the drawing in Okami, where you have to draw things just perfectly, or else the game won’t accept it. Again, I have no idea how this game plays with different controls, but for me, I never had any trouble getting the correct sound.
Before I get into my parting thoughts, let me say that, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t really motivated to spend tons of time with this game. You can use the map to see where to go next, which is very useful because the game employs a decently sized, open world that can be easy to get lost in. And while I’m usually the kind of person who loves getting lost in a game, spending countless hours exploring, I wasn’t really motivated to do that in this game. Sure, you can seek out crystals to learn extra abilities or these little orbs that show you memories from the perspective of the Silent Ones. But I didn’t really care. The reward for looking for these items just wasn’t enough, the graphics were too bright and unpleasant, and the world was just a tad too confusing, so I spent the entire game just checking the map and traveling between point A and B.
And for someone who usually adores exploration, that’s not really a good sign. Sure, the game was fairly fun to play, but I didn’t really want to veer off the beaten path too much. I just wanted to accomplish the important tasks and be done with it.
So is the game worth buying? Well, the game took me about five hours to complete, and I’m rather slow-paced. So you aren’t getting that much for your money. What you are getting is a unique, if imperfect, experience. Where this game really shines is the ability to communicate with animals. While I had no motivation to explore for the sake of optional collectibles, I think I found the greatest pleasure in simply befriending my fellow wildlife. An animal might appear shy at first, but if you approach it with care and sing with it, you can form a connection (literally, in the sense of the song that connects both animals via a vibrating line that steadies once you get it just right) and figuratively, as the animal will follow you around afterward. My greatest joy was in befriending animals even when it served no actual purpose, the only moments in the game where I was motivated to slow down and just enjoy the experience. This becomes all the more important when you reach the game’s ending, which is actually quite beautiful. I won’t spoil it, but I really loved that part of the game.
Fe is not a bad game. It’s just short and a little unpolished. If you can find it on sale again (I’d say no more than $10), then I would certainly recommend giving it a try, if only for a single playthrough. The game is unique, it won’t waste much of your time, and the payoff at the end made the whole experience worth it.
Now, I would like to inquire, has anyone else here played Fe? If so, what did you think of it? What was your favorite aspect of the game, and what was your greatest frustration? Please let me know in the comments below!
This post was originally published on Virtual Bastion on July 28, 2020.