It's almost impossible to see Feist and not immediately think of Playdead's game Limbo. They share a certain monochromatic aesthetic and both feature characters that are silhouettes. Even when you take into consideration that Feist has added gorgeous shades of green to their palette, it's hard to shake the feeling that you've already played this game.
That feeling ends after about 45 seconds.
Where Limbo is series of vignettes that pit your character against an environment filled with puzzles, Feist lets you know that in this game there are monsters. And monsters eat things like you.
How it Plays
The game opens with a pack of creatures straight out of Where the Wild Things Are walking through the forest. The ones in the lead are carrying your friends in cages and it's your job to rescue them. Unfortunately, you start off the game in a box, likely the same type of trap that caught your friends. After escaping from the box, you start your rescue mission.
This is the point where things take a drastic u-turn away from Limbo. The world of Feist is full of enemies, and progressing means you either have to avoid them or kill them.
The first enemies you face are mosquito-like creatures, if mosquitoes were just a stinger and a bunch of spikes. They are scary, but easy enough to avoid if you hide under giant mushrooms or in logs as you run through the level. But then you encounter traps that shoot spikes, bees that shoot stingers and centipedes that shoot javelins. Add these together and this pretty little game gets very hard and very deadly.
What ramps up the difficulty even further is that each of these creatures has their own AI and physics. Replay a level enough times and you'll notice that the enemies are never in exactly the same place. They also won't react the same way when they see you or when they interact with each other. This makes it very difficult to get through significant portions of each level on the first - or even fifth - try.
This randomness made me feel like I wasn't using intelligence or skill to make it through the level. Instead, I managed to get the right physics/AI roll and ran in all the right places without getting killed. It definitely makes for frantic, exciting gameplay, but feels like a missed opportunity.
One thing that I very much enjoyed was capturing one of the bee-like creatures and using it like a gun. Every squeeze made it fling a stinger across the screen into another enemy, which then explodes in a very satisfactory way. The game has tight controls - running and jumping feel perfect - so the addition of a bit of gunplay is the perfect way to spice up a level.
Throughout the game, you will encounter "boss" characters, which is where the monsters from Where the Wild Things Are come in. They are huge, at least compared to you. They can outrun you. They can block the random sticks and logs and rocks that you use as weapons. And if they catch you, they will not hesitate to throw you across the screen right into a cliff face.
You start out fighting them one at a time, but as the game progresses you end up fighting entire packs. The only way to defeat them is by throwing a rock or log at them over and over again without them catching you. Again, it often feels like you are getting the right roll of the dice when you defeat one of the boss creatures, as opposed to skill. But after a couple of tries, you kill them and they poof into the air with a satisfying explosion of fur. The ground shakes and rocks fall into place allowing you to move on to the next level.
And that level might be full of spiders. The spiders are horrifying and plentiful, like spiders should be I suppose. By the time you make it through these levels, you are going to miss every other enemy you have fought up until that point.
How it Looks and Sounds
From a graphics standpoint, the game is gorgeous. The minimalist color scheme is beautiful and the different colors of green make the silhouetted characters pop. In the final level, a gentle snow starts falling, adding another layer of texture to the environment. The character design, on the other hand, is the opposite of minimalist. Each of the silhouetted creatures is very detailed, from the spikes on the mosquitoes to the heavy fur on the boss characters. And the spiders. I'm not arachnophobic, but the spiders are creepy, with their twisty, wiggly legs and random twitchy, jumps.
A game with no dialog doesn't always need much in the way of sound design, the grunts of your character as he falls down from a tree branch or is attacked works well within the game world. At worst they are non-offensive and give you feedback when you are taking damage.
The music though never seem to quite fit. I had a few other people watch the trailer and got the same feedback. The music has a definite electronic sound and leans towards the ambient, but with a definite bass groove. This doesn't sync up with the organic outdoor and underground environments you are playing in. It feels more like the music you're listening to on your headphones while playing the game instead of the music in the game. This is even more obvious when you compare it to games like ABZU and Inside that had incredible sound design.
The three hours I spent beating Feist were fun, although not revolutionary. I recently played through both Inside and Limbo and those games made me feel smart when I passed a puzzle. Feist made me feel lucky. If you prefer your games a bit frantic and messy instead of more measured, it may be the perfect game for you.
It's attractive, with levels that offer enough variation to keep you on your toes. The character design is wonderful, with different, interesting enemies that perfectly fill a game of its length. The main character is delightful and I felt bad every time I got him killed. It handles very well, with good controls and jumping mechanics. I never felt like I died because the game didn't handle right, it was always because of the somewhat random nature of the AI and environment. It also has a much clearer narrative than games like ABZU, Inside and Limbo. When you finish it, you will know exactly what you have accomplished and it has a very real sense of closure.
Our Recommendation: Buy it
We liked the way Feist looked and handled and thought it had great enemy and level design. We weren't as thrilled with some of it's gameplay decisions or sound design. Still, it's worth $10. We played it on Steam, but it would look great on a big TV.