March 31, 2022
FixFox is an ambitious indie that tries to balance a lot of ideas at once. Made by a one-person development studio, it’s a top-down sci-fi puzzle adventure with more mechanical variety than you would expect. It’s in the execution of some of these mechanics that the game stumbles at points, but its many successful ideas along with a fantastically written, character-focused narrative, make it well worth your time.
FixFox is set in a futuristic world in which all humans have evolved into half-animals in order to survive climate change. You play a fox-person named Vix, whose pronouns are she/her by default but can be changed in the settings. Vix is a mechanic who, along with her AI best friend Tin, find themselves crash landing on the planet Karamel. They have no idea where to find the job they came here for, nor do they know how to get back home to Earth.
The first major mechanic you’re introduced to is repairing broken machines. You open up their innards and see what needs fixing, but you need equipment to do so. Vix loses her tools early on, so you need to rely on bits and pieces you find around the world. For example, the game tells you that unscrewing a bolt requires a tool with the “flat” property, so you could use a coin or a spatula to get the job done. A coin could also function as a metal conductor to fix another type of machine part. There are dozens of tools in the game, each serving to fix different kinds of problems.
“A worse game would’ve turned these concepts into a tedious grind, but FixFox nails it.”
Your only reward for fixing a machine is more tools to fix more machines, which is fine, because tools can also be found in clearly marked stashes around the world. What you get from stashes and rewards differ based on your location, so it’s important to balance both. Tools degrade and break over time, so you’re encouraged to hold onto everything you can find. Tools are not sorted in a menu, but visually across 3 screens, piled on top of each other. You need to click and drag to sort through them yourself. A worse game would’ve turned these concepts into a tedious grind, but FixFox nails it, with a wonderful simulation of hunting for that one thing inside a packed bag, but heightened to comedic levels. Need to find that fridge magnet you put away earlier? Try checking under those 15 spatulas you’re saving for a rainy day. Every aspect of repairing machines creates a captivating, self-fulling system that the whole game could’ve been based around, but FixFox goes even further.
Some NPCs give you comfort food, leading to a screen where you click to eat as they tell you a secret, usually of a hidden stash or pathway. This wholesome mechanic is used sparingly throughout the story, and beautifully lets you connect with NPCs while learning more about this fascinating world. I was less interested in the game setting limits for how often I could pick up stashes or repair machines per in-game day, lest I have my tools taken from me by one of Karamel’s warring factions. These limits can be easily reset by finding a radio or going to sleep for the night, and they seem to exist purely to remind you that these factions exist at all.
About a third of the way through the game, you are tasked with building your first Jumbot. These gigantic robots are manually piloted by you, and are used to solve environmental puzzles. They’re a cool concept, but the game makes it unnecessarily obtuse to figure out how they initially work. The first time I acquired one, the game repeatedly told me that I needed it to clear an obstructed door, but I couldn’t find anything on the door – or nearby – for the machine to actually interact with. I thought I’d hit a bug, or needed to find something else to clear it first. After (bit ashamed to admit this) hours of running around, I discovered that the solution was to approach an unmarked spot on the wall around the corner from the door to reveal a small mechanism for the Jumbot to attach to.
This comes across as a minor gripe, but FixFox unfortunately has several such instances where the next objective is left for you to figure out, or mentioned only once. Unlike the game’s other puzzles, these moments seemed like I was missing something. I was able to finish the game in 11 hours, so these instances are unlikely to stump anyone indefinitely, but they caused the game’s otherwise excellent pacing to skid to a brief, yet disappointing halt. Each of the game’s 4 explorable biomes are large, and there’s quite some distance between each location, and other than repairing there is no benefit to exploration other than following the story, so it’s not fun to get lost. But once FixFox’s mechanics are all understood, the game settles into a rhythm, and everything finally feels intentional. Driving between locations is atmospheric and relaxing, supplemented by the wonderful, memorable soundtrack, reminding me of the better parts of my time with Sable.
FixFox balances the large scale of its gameplay with an intimate story full of small character moments building towards something larger. While Vix is your classic silent protagonist, Tin is an anxious mess, openly disapproving of Vix’s behaviour which he deems reckless, but still respectful of her choices. This character complexity continues in the major NPCs you meet. This is a world where everyone is grappling with regrettable decisions they made in the past, and learning to accept the consequences in the present. It manages to explore these themes smartly while telling an entertaining story with truly out-there twists towards the end.
- Brilliant writing, narrative, and characters
- So many engaging mechanics
- Beautiful soundtrack
- Certain objectives are poorly explained and difficult to understand
FixFox is a delightful title that manages to be a comfortable experience despite the at-times heavy themes. The self-fulfilling loop of repairing machines is the highlight, and it’s what you’ll be doing most, outside simple puzzles. Occasional unclear objectives, however, drag the experience down during specific moments. But once you get past FixFox’s quirks, it confidently takes you through a gentle, emotional ride.