Feist is a 2d side-scrolling platformer that looks to capitalise on the success of indie darling, Limbo. It is the first title to be developed by the Switzerland based developer Bits & Beasts, and having released in early 2015 on Steam, the title has now been ported to the PlayStation 4.
The story of Feist begins with a small and helpless furry animal that must save its mate from the clutches of a predatory force. To do this players must traverse the world of Feist, running, fighting and even hiding in order to progress. Everything is out to get you, including the extremely aggressive inhabitants that fill it. It manages to feel somewhat like an episode of Planet Earth, where the protagonist is one of the prey that we see being eaten or attacked.
Gameplay is a mix of platforming with light puzzle elements among more action-orientated segments. This makes for enjoyable and varied gameplay, that is never afraid to mix things up. Unfortunately, the puzzle design is never quite as strong as the action elements in Feist. Most puzzles are often solved through trial and error rather than logical problem solving—the obvious way to solve a specific puzzle is often not the correct way to solve it—with the developers instead choosing a much more obtuse way. This is one of my biggest complaints with the game, especially as it completely ruins the flow of the action, forcing players to restart certain sections over and over again. This is made worse by surprisingly lengthy loading times between each death, something that only increases the annoyance of trial and error gameplay.
One of Feist’s strongest aspects is how incredibly violent and desperate it’s action sequences are. There are large enemies prevalent throughout your journey that are able to fling you around, making each encounter with them both scary and potentially deadly. It is during these moments that Feist really excels.
The art style, while very Limbo-esque, is incredibly abstract in its own right. The colour palette is limited, and when there are colours they are often dark and dull. The mix of blues and browns helps create a natural feeling to the world, further emphasising the setting of a forest. There is very little hope and joy to be found in Feist and the art design perfectly reflects this. The world design is the most effective form of storytelling in Feist; something that is needed, considering the actual story itself is very scarce. Trees, vegetation and wildlife increase the further players venture into the game, indicating they are traveling closer to the heart of the forest.
The soundtrack in Feist deserves a mention. It’s visceral and primal, adding to the natural feeling of the world. Sound design also serves its purpose, creating a more menacing depth to many of the enemies around the world. The grass and leaves rustle beneath your feet, along with the wooshing of the trees as the wind blows through them. Everything about the sound design has been created to add depth and tangibility to the world, something the developers have done incredibly well.
Feist is a damn short game. It’s often a given with indie titles of a similar nature, but Feist feels still feels short compared to them. The game would likely take you two to three hours if you didn’t get too bogged down in it’s muddled puzzles, given the lack of any collectables or alternative paths, so there’s not really any reason to replay it either. Considering the game is currently sitting at just short of £10 on PSN, I’d say it’s potentially a little overpriced. Binding Of Isaac cost only a few quid more and I’ve gotten hundreds of hours out of it.
I think Feist is a beautiful and ambitious game that is bogged down by slightly poor puzzle design. It never quite matches up to the intricate intelligence of its obvious inspiration Limbo, but it does manage to create a disparate and bleak world filled with death, danger and despair. It’s current pricing might be a bit steep for how much content is on offer, but it will make a great Humble Bundle offering in the future.
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