Disclosure: I received a key for free on Lurkit.
Let it never be said that I’m a hack reviewers. Developers, if you give me a key to your game, rest assured I will play the entire thing before I review it. Even if that means I spend 93 minutes of my life on a generic repeatable task in an Unreal 5 demo map.
Don’t conflate that with me saying nice things about your game though. Instead, I’ve decided to title this review “Constructive Criticism.”
For the people reading this review who aren’t the developers of Catch the Fox, here’s a brief overview of the game. The player is placed into a large level populated by shrubberies, foxes, and powerups. The goal is to get close enough to touch the foxes. After touching enough foxes, the next level is unlocked. When you touch a fox, its fur gets redder, and then it moves faster.
The core of Catch the Fox’s gameplay is movement. It’s really the only thing you can do. Getting airborne gives you a speed boost on returning to the ground. This allows the player to skate merrily along. Or at least it would, if it wasn’t for a few issues.
The foxes you need to touch have a hitbox for collisions that’s only slightly smaller then the hitbox for “touching” them. And when you collide with them, you instantly lose all momentum. This absolutely kills any sense of pacing or chaining together multiple tags.
It’s like if every time I stomped a goomba, I had to fill out a death certificate, and inform their next of kin before moving on. In addition, the player’s jump is miserable, capable of clearing a small subset of environmental obstacles and absolutely nothing else. It’s not high enough to jump over foxes, or up to any interesting areas.
Environments and Level Design
Speaking of environmental obstacles, let’s talk about the levels. I have two problems with them. The levels themselves are not laid out in such as a way as to actually encourage use of the movement mechanics. One level, Fractal, while quite pretty, has literally no capacity to gain speed or momentum, and might as well be flat once you reach the bottom layer.
Secondly, the other levels have been populated with a frankly ridiculous amount of what I’d politely call “environmental chaff.” The game is about touching foxes, not trying to touch foxes and slamming my wooden head into a tree every five inches.
The strongest level had none of these at all. It’s a great big ocean of sand-dunes that form curving pits. This layout actually lets you leap around and gain speed. This level isn’t the most visually diverse, but that doesn’t matter, because this is a video game. It’s about the game mechanics, not the visuals.
Performance and Bugs
The game was actually fairly bug free, though I did once encounter invisible foxes that couldn’t be tagged. It was on the spooky level, so maybe it’s supposed to be like that? Still frustrating and annoying though.
Performance is frankly terrible. I’m running on a 1080, on low graphics, windowed, and I got like 30 FPS. Maybe it’s my setup, but given how much my frame rate goes up when I’m looking at the ground, or not looking at trees, I don’t think that’s the case here. For a fast paced game based around movement, that’s not acceptable.
And while we’re on the subject of graphics: motion blur sucks. No one likes motion blur. Maybe smearing makes things look neat, but in a game, I want to actually be able to see stuff.
Conclusion – For the Devs
You’ve made a movement based game where every aspect of the gameplay plays counter to that. Your level design doesn’t play with the surf and speed gain systems you’ve developed. All clutter and environmental garbage appears to tank the frame rate. Your primary mechanic of tagging plays counter to that movement.
I liked the music, and there is a bit of zen feel to the game on levels like Ocean Outpost when I could get a flow going.
Conclusion – For Everyone Else
Catch the Fox is not currently worth buying. The most interesting thing I got out of playing it was doing this writeup, and reflecting on the interplay between level design and traversal mechanics. It’s actually something I’ve been thinking about a fair bit since the terrible game I made for Ludum Dare 53.
If for some reason you read all of this, and still want to buy it, Catch the Fox is $3 on Steam.
PS: All the screenshots in this review are from the Steam page. I’m not hugely interested in playing more of this game in its current state just for image captures.