In 2013, a troupe of comedians from Finland known as Ylvis pondered the question “What does the fox say?”. Although intended as a tongue-in-cheek video for their local audience, the song took off on a global scale, amassing millions of views and thousands of parodies. Flash forward to today, I still cannot tell you for certain what exactly the fox says. I could, however, tell you what I (and likely many others) will say during some of Foxyland 2’s most challenging levels. But given that this is a family-friendly website, I will refrain.
Yes, looks can indeed be deceiving. Foxyland 2, an indie platformer that exudes aesthetic charm (the 16-bit graphics are divine, as are the chiptune tracks), can be very challenging at points. The big problem is, most of the game’s challenges are not intentional, but rather a product of baffling design decisions and sensitive controls. However, before we jump into the more problematic aspects of the game, the good should be outlined first, as frankly there is a lot of it.
As mentioned before, Foxyland 2 is a beautiful game. The spritework and environments are clear and crisp. The music by composer Hatebit (whose name is plastered on many of the walls in the game), is incredibly charming and catchy. The story itself is cute, and the main character is rather likeable. All of this makes Foxyland 2, on the surface, a great fit for children and adults alike.
Better yet, the game features two-player co-op. In this mode, players can continue on their journey as either Foxy or his wife Jennie, exploring the levels together. This is a local couch-co-op mode that is a great fit for parents, children, siblings or gaming friends to bond over.
The game performs very well, and I only experienced a few minor glitches over my playthrough. The framerate, thankfully, remained smooth and consistent. The game is also packed with achievements, although only half of the game needs to be completed to achieve 100% (which, as you’ll find out, is a bit of a godsend).
Finally, it is worth noting that some of the levels are incredibly well designed. They perfectly balance challenge with reward, filling the level with hidden caves and coins, flags that unlock other levels, and even cameos from the developers themselves. It showcases how good Foxyland 2 could have been, and with a bit of tweaking it really could be great. However, as it stands right now, there are a lot of problems that hold Foxyland 2 back from greatness.
Beginning with the controls: the thumbstick sensitivity is insane, with even the slightest movement down (i.e. slightly below left or right) registering as a crouch. This can interrupt the flow of gameplay substantially, and in a game that often requires pixel-perfect precision, this can be a real problem. As such, Foxyland 2 is best enjoyed with the d-pad, although that only solves one of the game’s problems.
Foxy’s jumps are incredibly weighty for a platformer. He falls very fast towards the ground, and can be difficult to control within the air. A double jump somewhat rectifies this issue, but not entirely. In many of Foxyland’s more challenging platform sections, he will be unable to double jump due to spikes hanging over his head, or must double jump at the right moment to overcome an obstacle. Given that there is about a half-second delay in inputs in this game, this becomes a major problem fast, as Foxy can fall to his doom despite the player putting in the right command at seemingly the right time.
This problem is magnified by the often atrocious hit detection. Oftentimes, Foxy will be hit by something that he is seemingly not touching, such as the very tip of a spike, or the small end of an opossum’s tail. This would all be well and good… if Foxy didn’t die in one hit. Yes, you heard that right, one hit. From my understanding, the prior Foxyland game included three hit points, so the decision to change this, especially with levels as challenging as these, is beyond me.
The hit detection is not exclusive to enemies, however. Yes, jumps have to be pixel perfect precise in order to land properly, and require momentum in tight areas (such as a 5 pixel wide block). If you touch even slightly past the centre of a platform, Foxy will grab onto the sides. Did I say the sides? I often mean thin air. You cannot climb up the sides, and most of the time cannot wall jump, so if Foxy touches the side of the platform, you’re done. There is no recovering from this. This issue also applies to ladders, that Foxy will often get stuck on for seemingly no reason, making him vulnerable to enemy attacks.
All of these issues come to a head in World 2, Level 3 (in actuality the 15th main level). It includes everything. Pixel-perfect jumping sections, enemies with projectiles that are hard to see (including a cactus whose needle can hit you when hiding under dirt), a number of enemies that you can’t see until it’s too late, ladders for Foxy to get stuck on, the whole enchilada. It is quite possibly the most unintentionally frustrating level I have ever played through in a platformer, and frankly I was ready to give up. However, in order to 100% complete the game I decided to trudge forth. It did get better, but it was still far from great. The remaining desert levels were not great, but World 3 (a Mushroom forest) was a mixed bag. The last two bosses were incredibly aggravating, again due to poor hit detection.
Before I conclude this review, I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I have nothing against a good challenge. Games such as Celeste, Sekiro, Fire Emblem and Hellblade provide incredibly challenging, but satisfying and fair, moments. Foxyland 2 on Xbox One is not a good challenge, as the majority of the difficult moments are due to off controls, poor hit detection and the 1-hit deaths. As such, I cannot personally recommend this game. The aesthetics are great, but the core gameplay is incredibly frustrating. If they iron out some of the issues in Foxyland 3, it may make for a truly great game. But as it stands, I personally cannot recommend this trip to Foxyland.