Remember the classic board game Fox and Geese? No? Me neither, although it does apparently date back to the 14th century. For those that aren’t familiar with medieval entertainment it’s a board game for two opposing players where one player has an array of pieces (taking the form of geese or sometimes sheep) that are trying to get to safety while the other has a single piece (the fox) who wins by devouring enough of the other player’s pieces. With the release of Fox & Flock on PC, developer Flying Interactive is aiming to bring this somewhat old-fashioned game to a modern audience.
Board games have a long history of being ported to video games with draughts (or checkers for our American cousins) being one of the earliest to make the transition as far back as the 1950s. Fox & Flock bears some similarities to draughts in that it’s a competitive game for two players, although crucially the approach is radically different depending on which side you’re on. Played on a cross shaped board the fox (or sometimes two foxes) achieve victory by eating enough of the flock which is done by jumping over a single piece in any direction, while the flock can succeed by either getting nine pieces to the bottom of the board or forcing the fox into a position where they can’t make a move. It is therefore slightly more complicated than draughts, although nowhere near as complex as chess.
The board is represented on screen from an isometric viewpoint populated by a number of pencil style drawings of anthropomorphic animals. The old fashioned design is quaint and very pleasing to look at, although it can be difficult to tell the characters apart especially as there is no colour. Another obvious complaint is that the isometric perspective is from too low an angle, meaning I spent most of my time checking the basic overheard viewpoint displayed in the corner of the screen.
This whimsical aesthetic is more successful in the audio side where gameplay is soundtracked by a number of famous pieces of classical music (including compositions by Handel and Vivaldi) while the voice actors are entertaining enough as they bring life to the aristocratic flock and dastardly foxes.
As well as the standard games a story mode is also included which is useful in both teaching the player the basic principles and strategies of gameplay. It’s hear that the voice acting is most appreciated with a poetic narrator guiding the player between alternating rounds as you switch control between the two sides. However it’s over far too soon as I’d breezed through the campaign in just under an hour with only one level requiring a second attempt, and no real incentive to play it again.
With the story mode over that just leaves standard games against either the AI or a local opponent. That’s right – there’s no option for online multiplayer which is usually the main reason for playing an electronic version of a board game. This omission is a major drawback considering the limitations of the AI – on even the hardest setting I won the majority of my games.
I also encountered a couple of grammatical errors early on (‘you are are too fat’) and a game-freezing glitch which were noticeable in such an otherwise basic game, and the fact none of my Steam achievements unlocked was another source of irritation.
Overall it’s difficult to award a numeric mark to Fox & Flock. It does an admirable job of replicating the board game it’s based on and presents it well with the entertaining story mode and voice acting. However beyond the campaign there is very little longevity which is a big issue, but it’s the lack of online multiplayer that’s the major problem. Still at such a budget price (just over £1) it’s hard to be too critical, as it does provide at least a solid hour’s worth of entertainment.
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