Perhaps I’m extrapolating too far with limited data, but between FixFox in April and now TriFox in October, I think there’s a correlation between indie games featuring foxes and their general level of quality. TriFox – featuring a fox that can mix and match the abilities of three distinct classes – is an isometric platformer, with twin-stick shooter and brawler elements, that serves as a homage to platformers of the early 2000s and their charismatic anthropomorphic cast. It’s also very good, with novel and modern features – though its adherence to some classic designs can make it feel a little predictable at times.
What the fox is going on?
TriFox keeps the narrative premise simple. The titular Fox has had his power generator sabotaged and his TV remote stolen by a nefarious villain – one with no shortage of underlings to protect them. Unfortunately for their minions, they’ve clearly messed with the wrong fox. After a brief prologue gets you up to speed with the controls and a few basic gameplay elements – think platforming, hauling around objects, and battering foes into submission – the Fox sets up a high-tech base of operations that allows him to upgrade and equip new abilities, and work his way through the villain’s underlings using a snazzy teleport system.
There’s no dialogue or fancy cinematics, just expressive gibberish combined with humourous animations during brief skits both within and between stages. It’s entertaining, conveys plenty of character, and often feels like scenes out of Jak & Daxter or Ratchet & Clank from the PS2-era – just without voice work. It’s also light-hearted fare, with comedic, non-lethal violence and villains that constantly torment the titular Fox like playground bullies. If you’re looking for a game to introduce younger players to a more challenging genre – one with multiple difficulty levels and frequent checkpoints – TriFox could be a good pick.
Familiar but fresh
During the opening hour, the gameplay felt classic to a fault. The opening stages ease you into the basics, with simple platforming, light puzzling, short bouts of combat, and secrets tucked away in fairly obvious nooks. With only a few skills unlocked, TriFox felt like an attractive but uninspired retread of classic platformers that had me operating on muscle memory. Thankfully, TriFox had a lot more up its sleeves and the subsequent stages – spread across three biomes with unique bosses and mini-bosses – evolve in complexity and ramp up the challenge as you get closer to the finale. Combat involves a greater mix of enemy types, puzzles have more components, platforming sections introduce more hazards, and several boss fights that require a combination of skills to defeat.
The most novel and modern element is the flexible progression system that gives you multiple ways to move and different tools that allow for a range of combat styles. An early choice is your movement ability: a dash for the warrior that’s great in combat, a teleport for the mage with precision targetting, or a helicopter-backpack for the engineer that lets you keep your distance from enemies. You’ll want to master one or all of these abilities, as they’re essential for platforming and secret hunting, and that brings me to the one major criticism I have. The Fox is surprisingly sluggish and unresponsive when clambering around on foot, making some of the later platforming sections more frustrating than they need to be – even with the addition of a landing marker to guide you.
Now platforming is fun, but the most interesting abilities you unlock – using the coins you find in chests, breakable objects, or from defeated enemies – are designed to help you out in combat. TriFox is not averse to locking you into an arena, packing boss fights with lesser minions, or making you run a gauntlet. The good news is there are almost 30 abilities – spread across warrior, mage, and engineer disciplines – that you can mix, match, and map to the triggers and bumpers (with outfit changes based on the mix). The warrior is great for offensive movement and direct attacks, while the mage excels at locking down enemies and homing attacks. However, I found myself drawn to the engineer class, as why fight for yourself when you can hunker down in a mini-fortress of walls, protected by flame and rocket turrets, and an army of drones on repair and reloading duty?
When it comes to the quality of TriFox’s stages, how you feel might depend on your familiarity with the genre. Having tackled a 5-ish hour playthrough over a few nights for review, the structure of each biome containing three stages and a boss fight felt suitably classic – but also rigid and predictable. Some of the later stages – especially in the frigid mountain biome – also start to drag when they ran on for upwards of 30 minutes, with far too many switches to find and combat arenas that only let you exit once every enemy is defeated. That said, TriFox does a great job of ensuring each stage is packed with secrets and has at least one interesting set-piece to keep things fresh. You’ll escape from a flooding trap-filled ruin; go on a wild minecart ride; protect a power generator from giant insects; make your way along a deadly factory production line; take a convoluted rafting trip down frozen rivers; and wreck havoc in some sort of electro-ball. Played back-to-back, some stages can blend together, but it never takes long for TriFox to introduce a new scenario.
Variety is the spice of life
During the autumnal prologue and the early tropical island biome, I assumed TriFox was going to be another indie game built using the Unity engine that did too little to distinguish itself. Now to some extent, the chunky environments, vibrant colours, and character models with cartoonish proportions fit the mould, but TriFox offers plenty of refinement with a striking use of lighting and shadows, interesting boss designs, and cinematic depth-of-field effects that often reminded me of The Touryst. From sunbaked sands to harsh industrial factories, and windswept ice caves, TriFox looks great, has a great atmosphere, and it runs well on next-gen consoles. The soundtrack was not as memorable but it used dynamic variations of familiar themes to complement the action, especially during the aforementioned set-piece moments and boss fights.
Fantastic Mr. TriFox
In short, I had an unexpectedly good time with TriFox after an opening hour that felt a little too authentic to the classics. Once you get a feel for the different classes and begin unlocking new abilities, each stage is an opportunity to try out your character build and experience whatever entertaining set piece the developers have in store. The tone is light-hearted; the gameplay engaging with a good mix of exploration, puzzling, and combat; the visuals attractive; and – aside from a few late-game slogs – it moves at a brisk pace. If you grew up playing early 3D or isometric platformers (or enjoyed any recent remakes), you should find TriFox a satisfyingly familiar – but also a fresh and engaging experience.
A review code for TriFox was provided to gameblur by the publisher.
TriFox (Xbox Series) ReviewTriFox (Xbox Series) Review
Gameplay8/10 Very Good
Visuals8/10 Very Good
- A homage to classic platformers
- Fun and flexible class system
- Frequent set-pieces keep things fresh
- Stages packed with secrets to find
- Stylish visuals and catchy soundtrack
- Movement feels too sluggish and imprecise at times
- Some stages drag on for too long