Fe is an open-world action adventure platformer available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Swedish developer Zoink originated from Klaus Lyngeled rather ambitiously quitting his job at Shiny Entertainment in favour of creating his own studio which would enable him to work on his action adventure project called The Kore Gang on Wii that would eventually be released in August 2010 in Europe and November 2011 in the US. The development team is most known for the indie smash hit Stick it to the Man which released in 2013 on Vita and PS3 before a PS4 version was also released in 2014 and entertaining co-operative side-scrolling action adventure platformer Zombie Vikings released in September 2015. Can Fe achieve Zoink’s proven quality in concept and gameplay from their previous efforts Stick it to the Man and Zombie Vikings?
Fe’s character design is incredible as every nice creature has a playful, enthusiastic look to them which works in perfect harmony with the concept of creatures and plant life communicating with each other. For instance, communicating with a deer allows you to jump on its back, venture through the surroundings together and cultivate an upward draft from orange flowers to reach a higher platform that would otherwise be a little out of reach or communicating directly with a flower bulb that provides passage between two sides of a deep canyon through blossoming flowers that bounces you in the air onto the next flower until reaching your designated area. Communicating with a bird makes the bird not only become a friend but also a guide as to the path that you should take and encouraging a plant to produce a seed which can be utilised to free imprisoned friends or fellow creatures from nasty enemies. There are also some side quests involved in communicating and befriending creatures such as finding an owl’s four eggs that were scattered when she was attacked by enemies. Abilities such as how to climb trees are discovered by finding crystals that are entered into a round slot that is usually found in the centre of a circular platform, a large door or monument.
Enemy design is reminiscent of spiders when crawling along the ground that attack all manner of creatures in packs before rapping them in a strong web, although when standing up resemble something mechanical as they shine a self-contained spotlight to survey their surroundings for prey before going on the hunt. Meanwhile, walking through a lake may result in your character having to leap away from an angry fish that is set on eating you for its next meal. The player actually gets to gradually learn more about the spider enemies through finding silence helmets that positions the player within a first-person viewpoint of where the enemies are moving to and how they are communicating.
Environment design is inspired by Zoink’s development team talent’s childhoods in Sweden as they were surrounded by small trails through forestry. Environments are involving as they are multi-layered with many platforms spread out across the breadth of the surroundings. Environments feature trees that you can climb, flowers that give your character a boost onto an out of reach platform, plant foliage to stealthily hide within from nearby patrolling enemies and even entire areas that have to be opened up by finding, carrying and projecting a seed to remove the cobwebs preventing exploration of that path. In a rather classic artistic fashion; outlines and particles can be seen on walls that upon singing; reveals art reminiscent of cave paintings etched into rocks located throughout the surrounding environments.
It is disappointing not to see Fe release natively on Vita as Zoink’s Stick it to the Man is unquestionably one of the very best indie games on Vita, although at least remote play is a consolation. Fe’s remote play performance is on par with the quality of graphics, audio and general performance of the PS4 version. There are no control optimisations as by default; singing and zooming in or aiming is mapped to the top right and left of the rear touch pad respectively, although it remains comfortable to control; resulting in a relaxing remote play experience.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing X to jump, climb or glide; pressing O to grab, throw or drop; gently or fully holding R2 to sing in different pitches to nearby creatures and plant life; holding R1 to display the map; holding L2 to zoom in or aim a seed; pressing L1 or alternatively anywhere on the d-pad; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move your character; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to pan the camera; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Vibration occurs when landing on the ground for a distant height or when enemies have defeated your character, although there is no touch pad support which could have provided a unique alternative to the singing dynamic by gently swiping across the surface of the touch pad, while there is also no light bar implementation which could have produced the colours of your surroundings.
Graphically, Fe depicts an open-world full of beautiful nature from waterfalls and plant vegetation to creatures roaming around amazing vistas with impressively distant views from tall trees. Character models accurately reflect wondrous interactions between the lead character and nearby creatures and plant vegetation, especially when making friends with a creature or flower as a wavy line gradually transforms into a straight line to signify the approach in finding the relevant pitch as two balls of light conjoin in the centre before celebratory playfulness begins between the new-found friends. Fe performs as 30 frames per second with a resolution of 1260p on PS4 Pro.
The presentation of the game is minimalist in a beautiful way as menu backgrounds are the main focus instead of text options as they show the lead character playfully chasing after another creature, owls flapping their wings as they are perched on trees or enemies scanning their surroundings for prey. The minimalist user interface great nevertheless across various menus such as the main menu, options menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad.
Voice-overs do not include human speech, although there are lots of differing pitches of humming and whistling between creatures, flowers and plants as almost everything throughout the environments are interactive that voice-over artists Kellen Goff and Kristina Issa have audibly brought to life. Sound effects include running, jumping, throwing seeds and climbing trees, while Fe thrives on its ambience such as flowing waterfalls and rustling plant foliage, alongside the tranquil pitches of creatures, flowers and plants communicating with each other; complimented by equally peaceful music composed by Joel Bille who also composed for Zoink’s previous games Stick it to the Man and Zombie Vikings. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which could have produced a multitude of sound effects at varying times such as collecting crystals, when making friends with another creature or flower, freeing a creature from an enemy’s cobwebs and being discovered by an enemy.
The trophy list includes 13 trophies with 2 silver trophies, 10 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. The easiest trophy is the Tree Climber silver trophy for learning how to climb trees, while the hardest trophy is the Citizen of the Forest gold trophy for unlocking all abilities. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 10 to 20 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are no difficulty levels, although the introduction of enemies on both land and sea significantly increases the difficulty curve to infuse a degree of challenge albeit in manageable steps as the player will initially come up against a single enemy or a duo before experiencing sporadically positioned enemies which friends such as the large owl will help in fighting off under certain circumstances.
There is no local multiplayer, online multiplayer or online leaderboards which could have been implemented by having co-operative multiplayer in which two players would communicate and work together to defeat enemies and free their friends from the cobwebs they have been imprisoned within. However, even more interestingly; competitive multiplayer could have seen one player controlling the playable character, while a second player would strategically position spider enemies to spring a trap to catch the creature the player controls in single player. Online leaderboards could have displayed the fastest times to complete the game, collecting every crystal, completing every side quest and learning all abilities.
Fe’s replayability originates from the exploration of an open-world and the quantity of discoveries the player makes through befriending creatures, flowers and plant life in an unfolding story, while collecting crystals and learning new abilities to be able to explore environments in different ways and find further areas that were otherwise unreachable; resulting in many hours of replay value.
- Title: Fe
- Developer: Zoink
- Publisher: Electronic Arts Originals
- System: PS4
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1
- Hard Drive Space Required: 2.97GB (Version 1.01)