Prior to seeing that it was scheduled for a console release this week, I had never heard of, nor knew anything about Feist. Its name intrigued me, though, not only because it didn’t give any clues as to what genre it belonged to, but also because I’ve always associated that name with a Canadian pop star who was briefly popular more than a decade ago. Of course, as was to be expected, Feist the video game has nothing to do with that one hit wonder, and is, instead, a dark and unforgiving puzzle platformer that looks to test our mettle and gauge how much frustration we’re willing to take.
Borrowing heavily from PlayDead’s beloved LIMBO, Feist drops players into a strange world where dark creatures roam amidst artistically coloured backgrounds. Different shades of green, blue and yellow differentiate the world’s regions and time of day, while everything in the foreground is almost as black as night. Just this particular art style makes it easy to draw comparisons to one of indie gaming’s greatest triumphs, but the similarities don’t stop there.
Feist, you see, is very much a challenging puzzle platformer, which requires players to use the environment to their advantage in order to either progress or get the better of dangerous creatures that threaten their livelihood. In this, it’s also a lot like its inspiration, albeit not nearly as tight, interesting, or enjoyable. Simply put, this is a game that’s more challenging and cheap than it is fun or player friendly, making it something that one could easily pass on without much of a worry.
In fact, whenever I think of the game, Dark Souls ends up popping into my mind. That’s because, by all accounts, Feist exists as a mixture of LIMBO inspired gameplay and visuals, along with the “You will die!” mentality that permeates throughout Dark Souls and its peers. To some, that may sound amazing, and perhaps it could’ve been had the game’s controls received a lot more fine tuning.
Playing through Feist – which is far from the world’s longest game, clocking in at about a few hours in length – is an exercise in frustration, and one that made me not want to revisit it ever again. If it weren’t for the dodgy controls and often unfair checkpoints, this would be a much better and easier to recommend affair, but that’s not the case.
In reality, what we’ve been presented with is a game that demands precision yet offers very little of it to the player. Combat is annoying, and trying to grab onto flies (which offer a small amount of protection and gift you with the ability to shoot thorns when held) ends up being a crapshoot when put into practice. Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for the campaign to throw several enemies at you on one screen, some of which have the ability to take both pursue and dive bomb the player at will.
While LIMBO excelled at not only being unique, but also presenting fair enemy encounters, Feist does the opposite. Flies are one thing, but there are often times where you’ll come up against bear-like beasts that you’re never really taught how to tackle. They absorb incoming fire (be it thorns or thrown pinecones) like bullet sponges, and if you get too close, they’ll have no problem throwing you from one end of the screen to another. This can be helpful if they end up throwing you over an obstacle and placing you closer to your escape route, but that’s rarely the case. Furthermore, even knowing how much health you have during any given encounter is seemingly impossibly, as there’s little in the way of visual cues and death comes at random.
I quickly got the impression that eating the gnats that sometimes hovered above the ground would refill my health and allow me to last longer. At least, that seemed to be the case. However, while I was only able to eat them after taking a hit or three, there were times where it felt as if doing so had little impact on my livelihood. I’d still die quickly, and at random, from an ever changing amount of hits or throws. And, needless to say, that became very frustrating.
Feist does, however, offer some half-decent puzzle design, most of which are of the falling log or tough to reach platform variety. They’re not revolutionary, nor are they as well crafted as what you’ll find in the game that this one borrows from so heavily, but they do the job and are generally okay. That said, the gameplay that surrounds them makes it difficult to enjoy their challenges, given how frustrating and floaty the controls are, and how often you’ll be annoyed by enemies who will both follow and dive at you.
At the end of the day, all this game really has going for it – outside of some half-decent puzzles – is its presentation. Its artistic blend of colourful backgrounds with darkened foregrounds, while not unique, is certainly pleasing on the eyes. Still, it’s Feist‘s original score that will stick with you the longest, thanks to its offering of haunting melodies that truly befit a better game.
Unless you’re looking to fill your monthly frustration quota, take a pass on Feist. Despite being easy on the eyes and ears, it’s an infuriating exercise in annoyance that will leave you wishing you’d spent your money on something else.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
Feist may be pleasing to the senses, but it's frustration for the hands.