FixFox (PC) Review

Fantastic Fixer Fox!
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FixFox is a combat-free, narrative-driven puzzler that solo developer Rendlike (Jaroslav Meloun) describes as a “wholesome sci-fi adventure game”. It’s hard to argue as while FixFox has some darker narrative beats – which typically highlight the dangers of human greed and intolerance – the story focuses on family, redemption, friendship, and community.

In the distant future, human-animal gene splicing has allowed humanity to survive diseases, adapt to climate change, and efficiently hibernate during space travel. You take control of Vix – your preference of he/she/they – an anthropomorphic “SPACR” mechanic sent to the distant planet of Karamel to repair an interstellar beacon that has gone dark. Vix is paired up with an overly-protective AI-controlled toolbox “Tin”, which happens to have several secret memory partitions containing four other famous AI personalities – typically responsible for running many of Earth’s essential services – desperate for a vacation to resolve their crippling logical dilemmas.

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The bulk of the robotic inhabitants offer procedurally-generated dialogue and repair jobs, but it ensures the world feels bustling and alive.

One crash landing later due to an electrical storm, Vix and Tin find themselves among a robot society, broadly split between the supposedly-autocratic Order of Tools and supposedly-tyrannical Pirates – both misinterpreting the same old directive to preserve tools. They recover a cryogenically-frozen human from a time when anti-splicing sentiment was rife, discover the stowaway AIs, and are forced into a relationship of convenience as they attempt to find the beacon keeper, deal with past traumas, and disable the source of the electrical storm trapping them on Karamel.

With charming and legitimately wholesome dialogue coupled with well-paced narrative beats, FixFox does a great job keeping you engaged with Vix’s quest while frequent flashback sequences expand on the background lore.

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Prepare to spend a lot of time collecting, maintaining, and sorting your unconventional toolset.

It’s a good thing the narrative elements are so strong as while FixFox has engaging gameplay, it’s increasingly reliant on repetition in the second half.

Thanks to the overzealous Order of Tools, Vix’s equipment is confiscated after their crash. As a result, FixFox is all about repairing machines and solving puzzles while managing a quirky assortment of tools. The click, drag, and drop interface – which you also use to sift through and manually sort your toolbox – is universal and designed to let you quickly grab items and use them on parts of the machine you’re repairing.

Regardless of whether you’re fixing an optional appliance or an advanced supercomputer, the process is the same: 1) investigate the machine and use your available tools to loosen screws expose panels or wiring; 2) select and apply the right tool to clean, repair, refuel the component; and 3) turn back on the power or solve a simple logic-based switch puzzle to bring the machine back to life.

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So simple, yet so satisfying.

Seeing as you don’t have screwdrivers, tape, solvents, lubricants, or soldering material, FixFox provides dozens of semi-logical alternatives – “relics” you can bring to an oracle for clues on their use – that you’ll accumulate, sort, trade, and modify. Coins and spatulas serve as great flathead screwdriver replacements, but those coins can also be coated in glowing, scented, or flavoured goo to satisfy some of the weirder components. Postage stamps and bandaids replace tape; scrap metal serves as an electrical conduit (or bananas and avocadoes for a potassium conduit!); doughnuts and cookies function as gears; vegetable oils replace lubricants; apple juice can serve as an acid. There are several basic component types you’ll quickly recognise, and some tools that satisfy multiple parameters, but the act of fixing is always satisfying without being overwhelming.

When you’re not fixing machinery, you’re traversing zones on the planet or ships in orbit (by paw, scooter, or spaceship), quizzing the robotic residents for clues on how to progress the story or obtain tools, and exploring junkyards to find parts and assemble “jumbots” – think large, specialised machines with unique abilities (like pulling, pushing, digging, drilling, etc.).

There’s a nice sense of progression and escalating complexity, as your simple toolset expands to include your EVA suit for spacewalks, the scooter, a power loader for moving crates, and a drone service that acts as both a taxi for fast-travel and delivery service for your jumbot variants. Vix also has a fondness for eating, so several quests reward a meal ticket for a local dish – complete with some gossip between bites that point to plot-essential secrets.

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Raiding successive junkyards becomes tiring but they provide more elaborate puzzles that make full use of your jumbot collection.

You can complete FixFox in under 10-hours but it still has a problem with repetition in the second half and features several underdeveloped elements that feel like padding.

As the bulk of their journey revolves around finding the beacon keeper and the source of the electrical storm, setting up scanning nodes – powered by your four AI stowaways – is a primary objective. However, after the enjoyable opening sequence gets you up to speed, you’ll find yourself raiding four junkyards (twice), to find the four components needed to construct a jumbot (twice), that are used for quests to help the local robot population and access a node. Despite the contrived structure, the exploration, puzzling, and brisk pacing kept me engaged – but then FixFix asked me to do it again for a few hours.

The structure of the world, coupled with some arbitrary restrictions, also results in what can only be described as busywork for the sake of it. First up are the unique tool modifiers in each region that you’ll want to stock up on before leaving – unless you enjoy backtracking for 10 minutes because you need a chocolate-flavoured dip to power a plot-essential machine in another zone. The second issue is the presence of the Order of Tools and Pirates. Sure, they play a role in the narrative and provide Vix with several upgrades, but their gameplay function is to randomly appropriate tools should you fix too many objects or raid too many staches respectively. How do you avoid this? Travelling back to an inhabited settlement to reset the countdown using a radio.

These issues aren’t game-breaking, but they highlight the underlying, artificial structure, feel like arbitrary busywork, and impact immersion.

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Do I have to do that again?! And why are we leaving an obvious gap in the northeast segment?!

If there’s one benefit to backtracking, it does give you time to admire the simple but striking visuals and enjoy the excellent soundtrack.

FixFox is viewed from a top-down perspective – without the common isometric skew that adds a sense of depth – and can look like a papercraft collage. Viewed in isolation, the vibrant colours and charming pixilated designs are striking, but it’s a few animated props, simulated shadows from the day-night cycle, and the soundtrack that bring the world to life.

The electronic soundtrack in particular (by Aleix Ramon) is incredible. Most tracks are variations on the theme tune – which has strong frontier vibes – but tweaked for the setting. The desert track mimics a Western theme while the farmland theme features banjo strings. The soundtrack is also dynamic, blending in and out of tracks as you travel around a zone or into orbit. There are unique, chilled nighttime variations – complementing the action as you find a nice spot to set up a campfire for the night – and a catchy tune for when you’re in the repair interface.

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Whether traversing the surface of Karamel or salvaging old space stations in orbit, FixFox looks and sounds great.

Now despite my gripes about some repetitive elements and light padding, FixFox comes recommended for anyone looking for a narratively compelling, puzzle-centric, and violence-free adventure. The quirky cast and novel setting provide the perfect backdrop for a mechanically simple but satisfying puzzler. The visuals and excellent soundtrack ensure your eyes and ears are always pleased.

We need more violence-free adventure games, but we also need more of them that provide compelling gameplay, rather than rely on the narrative and presentation to carry the experience. FixFox does all three and mostly gets it right.

A review code for FixFox was provided to gameblur by the publisher

FixFox (PC) Review

FixFox (PC) Review
8 10 0 1
8/10
Total Score
  • Story
    8/10 Very Good
    Unexpectedly compelling, multi-faceted, and features a quirky, likeable cast.
  • Gameplay
    7/10 Good
    Plenty of mechanically simple but engaging puzzles that slowly increase in complexity, but it has a repetitive second half.
  • Visuals
    7/10 Good
    Vibrant and charming, like a papercraft collage viewed from above.
  • Audio
    8/10 Very Good
    The soundtrack carries the rest of the presentation with its dynamic and regional variations of the main theme.

The Good

  • An unexpectedly compelling narrative with a quirky cast
  • Mechanically simple but engaging puzzles that slowly increase in complexity
  • Charming visuals coupled with a brilliant soundtrack

The Bad

  • A repetitive second half and busywork padding
Total
4
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