There is something wonderful about how you scurry up a tree in Fe. Every tap of the jump button releases a burst of hyperactive speed, shunting you up a little more until, finally, you are perched at the top. Once you have gained the ability to glide, you can jump between trunks like a flying squirrel, digging into the bark with your claws and scurrying back to the safety of the treetops without even touching the floor.
If you're looking for another indie platformer then check out Celeste.
Since you play as an unidentified herbivore - some fox/rodent hybrid - trees are your sanctuary. You can almost imagine the little creature’s heart pulsing as you clamber up each woody column.
Taking control of this strange animal, you explore a wordless, muted landscape, and try to parse an alien ecosystem. There are hints of thatgamecompany’s Journey in how you piece together the story, and there are flashes of Shadow of the Colossus when you make your way up the hides of great beasts to unlock new abilities.
From the outset you can jump, pick up and throw objects, and sing. Singing affects the environment, the sound leaving your throat in a wave pattern, breathing neon life into the flora that you pass (an effect that reminds us of Ubisoft’s Ode). The ability is mapped to the right trigger on a controller: hold the trigger down fully to wail at the top of your lungs, hold it lightly and your voice is barely a whisper.
Find the sweet spot in between and you can sing harmoniously, sometimes hypnotising nearby friendly animals, which then let you ride upon their backs, or guide you to and open up new routes. One minute you are galloping through the forest on some light-up stag, the next you are soaring through the canopy on an overgrown owl. Fe’s world is beautiful no matter where you are.
But not everything in this gorgeous landscape is your friend. The forest is filled with mechanical cyclopes who entrap any organism they come across. That is why sticking to the treetops is an essential tactic as you navigate these semi-open maps.
If you do find yourself on the ground then you have to dart between shrubbery. If the one-eyed predators spot you, you will have a couple of seconds to break the line of sight before they encase you in a cocoon, forcing you back to the last checkpoint.
Most of the game revolves around bypassing these threats, or turning the ecosystem to your favour - getting those neon disco stags to impale the cyclops so you can proceed, for example. All the while, you discover new songs, mimicking different animals, so you can interact with new creatures and open up more ways to take care of threats, letting you navigate larger and more complex environments.
Surprisingly, for what is essentially a game filled with insta-fail stealth sections, Fe does not often feel frustrating. Instead, the challenge lends itself to enhancing the sense that you inhabit a small woodland creature in a hostile world. In this game, you always feel like prey.