Feist is a beautiful and atmospheric game. The minimalist art design brings many comparisons to Limbo, but Feist precedes Limbo by two years. Feist’s compelling visual aesthetic is paired with an ambient soundtrack that’s geared towards immersing you into the savage 2-D world your character inhabits.
Feist is also frustrating and punishing in a manner that suggests a conscious design decision to make the game difficult without the option for the player to overcome difficulty through skill. It’s a game that rewards persistence, because persistence is the only thing that will keep you going forward, as Feist will force you to replay scenarios and stages numerous times before allowing you to advance.
The unnamed protagonist resembles a susuwatari, or “soot sprite” from Ghibli’s My Neighbor Totoro and Spirited Away. The world itself, with its green and amber hued forests and dark silhouettes and menacing inhabitants, is reminiscent of a mix between The Dark Crystal and Fantastic Planet. There is no narrative or story beyond the in-game action and several very short cut-scenes. The short version of this very short story: Your mate has been kidnapped by a tribe of creatures that resemble your character in the way that the Incredible Hulk resembles the average human.
There’s no health bar, no ability gauges, and no guidance beyond a brief introduction to the very limited game mechanics of movement, jumping and interacting with various objects. The feeling of being at the mercy of your environment is amplified by your character’s inherent weakness. In the pecking order of Feist’s arboreal arena, you are the hunted, not the hunter. You are powerless to fight back against your foes without the aid of a rock or stick, and even then it’s a risky proposition, because sticks shatter after striking an enemy and an attack with a rock has as much chance of leaving you open to counter-attack as it does of brutalizing your enemy.
At first, I enjoyed the role of being thrust into the game as a meek, spiky ball on a mission to save my kidnapped love. The beginning of the game intrigued me with the concept of my vulnerability and I relished the thought of evading combat and using the environment to shelter me from my foes. However, it didn’t take long before I was disabused of my romantic perspective.
Feist is carefully designed to force you into confrontations where the odds are stacked against you. And in those situations death and failure happen time and time again. Fleeing is simply an option that prolongs the inevitable battle, and it often makes the odds worse, because you find yourself in a situation where you are facing even more enemies before your flight is halted by the environment and you then die seconds later.
These battles, and some of the platform and environment puzzles, are where Feist’s pummels you into submission. The game is beautiful, but the visual splendor wears thin when you find yourself repeating the same sections multiple times. When you do overcome a challenge, it feels as if it was through chance, not through skill. The pay-off for this difficulty is continuing in the game, but there is no sense of satisfaction.
The immersion in the game becomes irreparably broken, and each stage becomes a weary slog to make it to the next save point. You have unlimited lives, and there’s good reason for that, because you will die more times than South Park’s Kenny before you reach the end of the game. Feist’s playtime mileage will vary. Feist is a short game, containing several hours of content, but an initial playthrough could take three or four times as long when you factor in replaying the various sections over and over.
If you enjoy difficult games, masochism, extreme challenges or building a house of cards on a raft bobbing in stormy waters, Feist might be exactly what you are looking for. If you enjoy a game where your skill with your character is the determining factor or casual platformers, this is NOT the game you want to put first on your list.On Steam On GOG Website