STAFF REVIEW of Feist (Xbox One)

Friday, January 20, 2017.
by Adam Dileva

Feist Box art There was a time when smaller games, including indies, were sparse in the Xbox One library. Since the launch and support of the ID@Xbox program however, there’s been a non-stop slew of smaller titles, both good and bad, that have seen release on the console. Because of this I’ve gotten to experience many titles that I would have never even known or cared about. One of those games is Feist. Visually inspired by LIMBO, Feist is a game that looks adorable on the outside, but it will challenge you with its punishing difficulty.

Feist tells a story, kind of, as there’s no dialogue, narration, or writing, leaving you to make out what you can of the unfolding events. Your journey begins as a small black fuzzy animal locked in a cage. You are forced to break your way out by swaying the cage back and forth until you’re free. There are much larger furry monsters that appear to be the antagonists, and you’ll need to make your way through some brutal and harsh environments to survive as you make it to freedom, at least that’s how I interpreted the narrative-less story. Be careful though, as everything in this world is seemingly out to kill you, from the smallest bug to the larger insects. The environment is also littered with traps and the world is savage, making surviving very difficult across the handful of stages.

So let’s get this out of the way: Feist looks heavily inspired by LIMBO in terms of its visuals. The world itself has more color, but the foreground and characters are all dark and look like shadows, much like its inspiration. Visually, Feist is stunning, even with its simplistic style and this is one of its best features.

At its core, Feist is a platformer, but a very difficult one at that, as there’s a lot of combat, and some avoidance of it, involved in completing the game's various levels. You’ll not only be running from left to right, trying not to die, but you’ll need to use the environment to get to your destination or to survive against enemies. Feist begins out simple, as you’ll complete the first handful of levels without much, if any issue, but you eventually hit a brick wall in terms of difficulty and it doesn’t get any easier even though the levels are short.

The controls are simplistic, as the jump, grab, throw and toss buttons are pretty much standard fare, but knowing how to use them and where this game becomes challenging. You’ll need to make jumps in the treetops, being precise when doing so, and hope you don’t land on an enemy below. You’ll also need to throw rocks and branches, setting off traps, and even grabbing an insect to shoot at other items/enemies with its stinger. I was hoping for some hidden secrets, as there are many branches that look like they are placed there to be jumped upon, but alas, they were not.

Be prepared to die, a lot. With only a few hits from enemies you’ll be forced back to the nearest checkpoint by death, and there’s no indication if you’ve crossed one or not. Traps will outright kill you, and you can easily get caught in a damage loop, causing you to die almost instantly. Many enemy insects will shoot darts at you, and if you don’t bob and wave they’ll know your position and you’ll die, again.

Most levels have a ‘boss’ of sorts, usually one of those larger beasts that kidnapped and trapped you. These enemies take a slew of hits to defeat, and can easily grab you and throw you into other enemies. These boss fights are quite frustrating and eventually Feist will just throw more and more at you, causing you to die many times. You'll find that the checkpoints are generous, and other times you’ll have to repeat long difficult sections repeatedly until you manage to somehow survive. Many sections will force you to defeat said bosses because it allows you to move on, so you can’t just focus on avoiding combat, and will need to face your foes eventually.

Many times you’ll have to rely on trial and error when figuring out how to progress, as there’s no direction from the game at all on what you should be doing, or how. This ambiguity makes completing sections very rewarding, but if you become stuck and die many times over, the frustration kicks in, as you’re unsure what to do.

When you get into a flow and make all your jumps and throws, Feist is a lot of fun. When you’re having to repeat the same section, not so much. At times it feels like Feist is being difficult for the sake of doing so arbitrarily, while other times it just feels extremely unfair. Normally when you complete a level like that you are excited to play the next, but I knew it was going to be more difficult than the last, which brought on more frustration.

Feist is beautiful to look at, but all of this praise is overshadowed by the unfairness and frustration from its unbalanced challenge. Sure, if it was easier you’d complete it less than an hour, and a bulk of the achievements are almost unattainable unless you learn the game inside out. Casual players will find nothing but frustration with Feist, but those that like a good challenge should find an enjoyable platformer that will, no doubt, test their patience.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 6.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 6.5 / 10


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