The Evercade’s “Indie Heroes” cartridge plays host to a variety of brand new games for classic platforms — and even if you don’t have an Evercade, you can try most of these for yourself in one way or another! Let’s explore them in detail!
The trend for “cute as a button but hard as nails” indie platformers has been going on for quite some time now, and the “new games for old platforms” market has plenty of examples for you to sink your teeth into. Today we’re taking a look at FoxyLand from Russian developer PSCD Games, available for Mega Drive and Evercade, with the latter being part of the Indie Heroes Collection 1 cartridge.
In FoxyLand, you take on the role of Foxy, a young fox who is on a mission to save his beloved Jennie, who has been kidnapped by nefarious forces. Along the way, he’s decided to collect plenty of tokens of affection for said beloved, just so when everything is resolved nicely he’ll be able to prove beyond a doubt that he is the fox for her. And thus begins a challenging puzzle-platform adventure that will quickly have you gnashing your fangs in frustration!
Mechanically and structurally, FoxyLand is about as simple as it gets. Each level has a few gems in it, and all you have to do is get those gems then leave via the exit. There are also a number of cherries scattered around that you can collect; if you collect all of these on five levels, you’ll get an extra life.
Foxy can run left and right, duck, jump, double jump and climb ladders, and that’s about it. Making it through the game is all about using those straightforward moves to negotiate increasingly perilous situations and retrieve the diamonds — which, of course, are more often than not positioned in particularly inconvenient locations.
FoxyLand might initially look like a mascot platformer of the ilk we saw hundreds of in the ’90s, but it’s actually designed to be much more tightly focused than that. Every level is rather small and can be completed in a matter of seconds; there’s no real exploration or discovery of secrets to worry about, so everything you notice will be relevant at some point or another.
Some levels incorporate switches that can have radical impacts on the level structure — in many cases, they will open up whole new paths that were completely invisible before. Sometimes, though, they also activate traps — so it’s a good job Foxy can take three hits before he’s defeated under most circumstances.
The difficulty curve in FoxyLand is initially quite gentle, but you’ll find that after a few levels it really ramps up rather drastically — especially once the “Thwomp”-style falling block enemies are introduced. These slam down on the ground and then raise back up again in a set rhythm, and getting caught beneath one is instantly fatal to Foxy. This sort of thing is a platforming mainstay, of course — but the potential issue for some players is that the timing is just a little too unforgiving when they first appear; it can seem nigh-impossible to get past them.
Things get worse when just a single level later, you’re up against not only these instantly fatal blocks, but also disappearing platforms suspended over a spike pit and layers of spikes above the falling blocks — meaning that if you attempt to sneak across the top of them, you’ll get spiked too. At the relatively early point in the game where this appears, this may well cross the line between “enjoyably challenging” and “annoying” for some players — though with a bit of practice you’ll be able to confidently nail it.
With this in mind, FoxyLand is definitely a platformer aimed at a very specific type of player. It’s not quite full-on masocore in that there are no completely unexpected elements that come out of nowhere at any point, but it does get very difficult surprisingly quickly — and the limited lives and continues make things a little harder than they perhaps need to be, especially as the game offers no indication that the latter are limited when you start playing!
Were this a game about clearing the levels quickly or with the best score, a lives and continues system would make sense — it would encourage players not only to try for the one-credit clear, but also to try and achieve that clear with the best score or time possible. Without score or time attack features being present, however, the fact that your game can be abruptly over after a few mistakes feels a little mean-spirited — though I guess it does provide some authentic ’90s-style longevity! That and if you’re playing on the Evercade or an emulator, you can always make use of save states to make things a little easier.
Few niggles about the difficulty level and pacing aside, FoxyLand is a very enjoyable platformer, clearly put together by people who know the Mega Drive and its capabilities very well. Cute graphics with good animation, smooth scrolling and catchy music combine to create a challenging platformer that initially seems simple, but which will probably keep you busy for a while — assuming that difficulty curve doesn’t put you off, that is!