Of all the different ways I’ve gained new abilities in video games, singing softly to animals as a baby fox is definitely my favorite.
In Zoink’s Fe, players control a small fox-like creature named Fe as it runs, climbs and glides its way through an otherworldly forest. To defend the wilderness from the mysterious “Silent Ones,” Fe uses song to befriend animals and gain new abilities like climbing trees, gliding and singing to flowers to make them open. These abilities help Fe reach new areas in the sprawling woods, where fresh jumping and singing challenges await. It’s a free-roaming Metroidvania sort of game.
Screenshots don’t do justice to how adorable Fe is. When it’s scuttering about, glow-tipped ear feather things bobbing to and fro, it’s simply darling. When it sings its mournful tune, my heart melts. And when it fails to avoid the watchful gaze of the Silent Ones, like in the screenshot below, my heart broke.
There’s a stealth element to Fe, which normally I don’t enjoy, but it’s a pretty stress-free sort of stealth. During portions of the game where Fe must avoid the Silent Ones, conveniently-placed bushes appear. When Fe steps into one of these spiky plants, its ear color fades to black and enemies pass right by.
The enemies in Fe are never much of a threat. The game’s challenges are more of a platforming nature. How do I utilize Fe’s singing abilities to get from the ground on one end of a massive chasm to the high cliffs of the other? Do I climb from tree to tree? Maybe use the call of the mighty deer-thing to make fire flowers bloom, causing an updraft to keep Fe aloft while gliding. Or call your faithful bird companion to guide you to your next objective. You can do any of those things.
Or you can ignore the objective altogether and wander about, searching for secrets and collectibles while taking in the beautiful sights.
Fe is a very chill game. Moments of real tension or pressure are few and far between. It never really demands the player go somewhere or achieve something immediately. There are markers on the game’s map that show where to go next to advance the game’s purposefully ambiguous narrative, but those can wait. A growing young whatever-the-hell Fe is needs to climb and glide and explore. And sing.
I’ve been making hooting, howling and chattering noises since I started playing Fe. Having walked past my office a couple of times during the four hours I spent playing the game through to the finish (without hunting for secrets or worrying about collectibles), my wife now warbles from time to time. Fe’s song is infectious. Sing it with me.