Ever since it was formally revealed, there’s something interesting about Fe for the Nintendo Switch. The tasteful art style, deep colors, and cute creatures had me intrigued from the very start. The world could do with more quality 3D platformers anyway.
Basing an entire adventure on a Nordic forest was something that had never been done for a game like this, so there was a lot of excitement surrounding the game. After sinking several hours into it, does Fe belong in the Switch Hall of Fame along with other excellent games like Celeste and Dandara?
Save the Animals
Fe starts out when some strange cyclops monsters enter the forest. They begin capturing the animals and disrupting the balance of nature. That’s where you bring in Fe, a weird bird, fox hybrid critter. Fe can interact with the world around him by singing.
From the very start, it’s clear that Zoink! had that mechanic down pat. You can sing to certain plants and animals from the very start, but not everything will respond to your voice. In order to communicate with every type of animal, you’ll need to save more creatures, who will then teach you their song.
Once you actually start connecting with the wildlife, there’s something mesmerizing about hearing a low note accompanied by two animals matching pitch before they become your friends (more on that later).
On top of that, you can increase Fe’s abilities by collecting red crystals that are scattered across the forest. You’ll start by unlocking a climb ability, but you’ll quickly upgrade to gliding and running on all fours. It’s a nice system that encourages exploration, and I was excited to see how Fe would expand his moveset throughout the game. What makes this system better is that many of the later abilities are optional, so you’re not required to scour the land for all of the power crystals.
In the Shadow of the Colossus
There are moments in Fe where my jaw nearly dropped to the ground. The first time I saw a massive deer creature roaming the land, knowing that I had to use my platforming skills to climb to its head was a sight to behold. Riding a bird for the first time was a rush from start to finish, and helping out a herd of rhinos had me captivated.
That said, for those standout moments, Fe has a serious problem that prevent it from really shining as a game. The first of these is how it designs its world. For the most part, Fe has a sandbox world that you can explore, but the problem here is that could’ve been totally ditched and the game would remain the same. What I mean is that you’ll be stuck going on linear paths the entire game, never fully allowed to explore the forest. What happens with this design is the environments were so open that I often didn’t know where to go (thankfully I had a bird to show me the way). Had the game been designed with this linearity in mind, I would’ve appreciated that much more.
An Audible Treat
I won’t beat around the bush. Fe is a marvelous treat for both the eyes and ears. Its world is well-visualized, but it’s the sound where the game really stands out. Everything sounds distinct, and the music is downright phenomenal. It makes the whole world come to life, and I strongly recommend playing with headphones (or a stereo speaker system) if you can. There were times when I would just stop and appreciate all the sounds that are going around me.
The graphics in the game are good, and when you see massive beasts or ride ice rhinos, you really appreciate the level of care the developers put into the game. That said, the graphics are held back by one issue: the frame rate.
Fe, on the Nintendo Switch, runs at 20 frames most of the time with several pauses for the game to catch up with me, and it really detracts from what would be a smooth experience otherwise. Couple that with some jarring animations by the wildlife, and it became hard to look past the more I played. I also encountered a few bugs with the camera, but nothing that would totally break the game.
From what I’ve played, the game seems to have a better frame rate in handheld mode, though it could be a difference of me noticing the stuttering more on a bigger screen.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: The reviewer purchased a copy of Fe for this review.