The silhouette aesthetic has grown in popularity in recent years, with titles on a variety of platforms embracing it. Feist, from developer Bits & Beasts, is the latest game to utilize these graphical stylings, and—like Playdead’s Limbo—it combines dark, shadowed foregrounds with lighter backgrounds for a clashing, almost unsettling result. But trust me, Feist is unsettling in all the right ways. Let’s roll into it.
Feist requires you to be constantly on-guard. Literally everything has needles: the flies have needles; the caterpillars have needles; even the trees have needles. Thankfully, the trees won’t kill you, but everything else will. You’re in a constant, almost frenetic fight for survival, with no other goals and no end in sight.
The forest is a big, dangerous place for the little, Kuriboh-like puffball you control. Sticks, rocks, and pine-cones may all be picked up and used as weapons, but being armed won’t make you a real threat to your enemies; you’ll have to make use of cover—in the forms of hollow logs and fungi—if you want to survive. To make matters worse, the bosses are big enough to pick you up and toss you around like a pine-cone. As a result, you never feel entirely confident while playing Feist, and that, it seems, is exactly what Bits & Beasts is going for.
There is one trait that makes Feist more frustrating than necessary, and that is the game’s lack of a HUD. True, not everything in Feist will kill you in one hit, and health pickups in the form of small insects are abound. But the fact that there is no indicator to show players how many more hits they can take makes for some pretty annoying, Dirty Harry-esque situations.
Feist is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a 2D sidescroller with an almost minimalist aesthetic: silhouettes, no HUD, zero dialogue, little plot narration, and unobtrusive music. The environment, though vicious, is still beautiful and inviting.
I’ve written previously on the similarities between Feist and the 1975 Russian cartoon, Hedgehog in the Fog. My opinion hasn’t changed; playing the game only reinforces the resemblance between the two.
Brief cutscenes between stages carry the narrative, leaving it largely up to interpretation. The vagueness enhances both the mystery and ominousness of the forest. We don’t know who—or what—any of the creatures we see are, where they’re going, or what they want. In this way, lacking tangible goals outside of survival, Feist becomes a game played purely for the experience of playing.
Feist is immediate and strange. The player doesn’t think about what’s going to happen in the next chapter. All focus centers on the ledges, enemies, and health pickups nearest-by. Its a speedy roll through a tranquil forest, a haunting, frill-free title whose aesthetic will cling to you long after you’ve completed it.
Feist is available on Steam starting July 23, 2015.
This review was made with a pre-release copy of the game provided by the developer.
- Beautiful scenery with a silhouetted style
- Ambient music and sound effects
- Frantic, challenging gameplay
- Lack of HUD makes condition difficult to judge
- Frequency of death can be frustrating
- At times, player character feels too fast to control