The space-mechanic adventure patches the soul together with chiptunes, pixel art, and tape
FixFox is a lovely sci-fi adventure indie game about fixing stuff developed by Rendlike and published by Joystick Ventures. The game takes place in a far-off future where humanity has had to splice themselves with the DNA of animals to adjust to the climate changes on Earth. Combining sophisticated AIs and cryogenic technology with their newfound ability to hibernate, humans have managed to occupy the far reaches of space by preserving themselves for the lifetimes required to traverse such distances.
You play as the fox-human hybrid Vix who has an affinity for old tech. She’s (her default sex is female, but you can change her pronouns at any time during the story, even before you start your first save file!) an employee of Space Pioneering Astronauts Circuits Repair (SPACR) and ostensibly their worst member. On the brink of losing her job, she and her faithful toolbox AI companion Tin find purpose on the Planet KR84-M3L (Karamel) where all technology is archaic. However, the planet is dominated by two factions who horde technology with relatively polite but ruthless efficiency. Vix is tasked with enriching the lives of the local population with her handywoman prowess, uncovering Karamel’s secret past, and re-establishing contact with her employers.
The gameplay loop involves exploring the planet to complete your objectives which will involve both collecting materials and helping the local robot populace with repairs, which will, in turn, compensate you with items that can be used for more repairs. Servicing robots like this is outlawed and resources are limited, so you will have to be selective with when and how you conduct yourself—and whether you will conduct electricity with metal or a potassium-rich banana. There’s a distinct sense of progression as you go from mending things with spatulas to actual tools and eventually more sophisticated pieces of technology.
The fixing segments are pretty fun, they feel like what would happen if a really chilled-out WarioWare minigame was given a bit more substance. The quirky machine you’re mending will have one or more (usually more) faults, and you will need to decide what tool you should use to fix it, provided you have those tools available. You can even ask the machine how they’re feeling, it’s almost a medical sim in that regard.
Although you have a lot of freedom with regards to what tools you use and what you want to fix on paper, there is a bit of railroading, especially towards the start. Tin the toolbox (him being a toolbag is a deliberate visual metaphor) is really overbearing, and while this makes for some funny and light-hearted interactions in the narrative, it also stops you from using your own imagination or common sense because he won’t let you use tools unless you have their traits identified with an oracle. I’d like to imagine Vix would have enough backbone to tell Tin that a toothbrush meets all the requirements of a “brush” tool.
The game looks beautiful and runs at a consistent 60fps. The characters have simple but charming designs that allow for a lot of their personality to shine through despite most characters being a square with a smiley face. Even pieces of internal machinery will occasionally have a smile that needs brushing. Bright colours that change with the time of day, anime-style emotive flourishes, and great sound design really bring everything to life.
I would like to especially commend Fixfox‘s use of sound. Space segments might be introduced with ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’-style horns, while authoritarian characters are accompanied by orderly percussive leitmotifs. When you set up camp for the night you are treated to the sounds of a crackling fire. When you’re eating a meal whipped up by someone you just helped, you’ll do so with a soothing lo-fi beat delivered with that reassuring vinyl pop. The game’s main themes incorporate a laidback but triumphant mixture of chiptunes and banjos that underscore the space-pioneering you’ll be doing. Everything about the game, even Tin’s protests, encourage you to just relax and soak up the ambiance. It’s quite pleasant.
While the aesthetic is delightful, I wonder if it does enough to differentiate itself from the various other indie games that swagger about with this vibe. However, I’m old enough to remember a time when the game industry devolved into a bleak grey-brown malaise with only the occasional Wind Waker, Katamari Damacy, or Okami appearing from time to time to act as whimsical, fun lights in the boring darkness. I’m going to embrace this wholesome energy before history repeats itself, less I end up splicing my DNA with a red panda in pursuit of a planet with personality.
- Charming retro graphics
- Eclectic chiptune soundtrack
- Suprisingly deep story
- “Your performance stats suck worse than a salty seaslug” is an actual quote from this game
- Can freely choose Vix’s pronouns, extremely based
- Gamepad and Mouse & Keyboard support
- 12 hour playthrough provides a short but sweet experience
- Tin the toolbag is a toolbag, artifically limits the speed of your progress
Fixfox dovetails traits of old and new to communicate a deceptively weighty story about acceptance, progress, and the value of life. It doesn’t reach the lofty heights of Undertale or Stardew Valley, but if you want a stress-free, wholesome journey or have ever wondered what a lo-fi music playlist’s thumbnail would look like if it was a video game, I can’t recommend this enough.
This game was provided to us for free by Rendlike and Joystick Ventures. This does not in anyway inform the opinions presented in this review beyond us having a copy to critique. Many thanks, homies!
A flamboyant ultra nerd, Dave participates in the Underlevelled Tournament both for the thrill of the fight, and to avenge the orphans lost in the climax of the previous tournament.
Hobbies: street dance, collecting manga volumes, reading, editing
Likes: short-to-medium walks on the beach, pointing out how things can and will be misconstrued as racism, fighting games, RPGs, anime, Hades, alternative hip hop, conscious hip hop, Mara Wilson, overly long bios, ice-cream
Dislikes: insincere media, his own uncanny resemblance to Richard Ayoade, mayonnaise