Review for FixFox
Rendlike’s top-down scroller FixFox stars Vix, a SPACR (Space Pioneering Astronics Circuits Repair) in humanity’s future. When Earth’s climate changed, humans spliced their DNA with animals to grow fur and survive the cold. Generations later, Vix is the worst mechanic around, being a space-age MacGyver rather than fixing things properly. Accompanied by her sentient, robot toolbox Tin, Vix is sent by SPACR command to fix a beacon at a remote outpost. When Vix’s ship crashes into the planet Karamel, she has to repair the beacon, dispel weird interference in the solar system, and fix countless broken machines while avoiding a dictatorial order and a band of junk pirates.
Vix’s journey spans Karamel as well as space stations in orbit. Planetary areas are extensive, with large, free-roaming maps for the Salty Desert, its dusty tracts of sand, Sour Woods adorned with lush foliage, the neatly tended farms of Sweet Fields, and the freezing wastes of Bitter Mountains. Each contains multiple settlements populated by sentient robots needing Vix’s help fixing their broken guitars, fans, and lamps. Locations and characters are shown in a pleasing top-down, cartoony, pixelated style. On the audio front are looped tracks falling between banjo music and old Nintendo chiptunes, an odd combination, that works without feeling repetitive.
Fixing is accomplished in close-ups showing broken bits of machinery. Items from Vix’s inventory must be drag-and-dropped to correct the problems. Broken wires can be taped together with Band-Aids. Donuts can replace missing gears. And spatulas can be dipped in substances to make them glow or give them a flavour that visual and taste sensors need. Such items are randomly distributed in caches in the countryside. Alternatively, side repairs can be reviewed on Job Boards in the settlements. Jobs describe the rewards that come with doing them. As Vix typically has to wear down, if not outright forfeit, two or three items for these repairs, they tend to be a losing prospect but may be necessary if a needed part can’t be found in the random caches. There’s a large variety of fixes to do and materials to perform them with, but the thirteen-hour playtime means repairs still become repetitive.
Repetition pervades the story too. Vix discovers several AIs have hitched along to Karamel. Each one has a backstory that’s told as Vix repairs larger machines that are helpful throughout the rest of the adventure. For example, Naviko, the former military bot turned head of the SPACR division, needs Vix to repair a large pullbot so his consciousness can be downloaded into it. This is done by navigating through four junkyards, fixing small items and moving obstacles along the way, to reach four pieces of the pullbot. There are four AIs and each matches a machine that needs four parts, leading to sixteen minor variations on the junkyard theme. Retrieving parts reveals more of the AI backstories, which are well-written, but this doesn’t hide the repetition of the tasks. A more condensed experience would have helped proceedings as a whole.
The game’s story fairs well, despite a tacked-on end scene that renders everything else moot. Vix’s journey is fun, especially with Tin providing commentary along the way. He’s programmed to care for Vix and imagines the worst scenarios to avoid, including exposure to space germs, cyber moles, and space vampires. The robot keeps things light and breezy in a story touching on racial prejudice, as exemplified by an unspliced human that Vix meets who despises everyone spliced, including his brother. Unlike Tin, Vix remains silent through the game; odd given that dialog is text only.
FixFox is an amusing buddy-road-trip of a story. Vix and Tin experience their adventures with good humour even in the face of darker elements. While repetitiveness works against the game, the characters are charming, the story compelling, and the repair challenges entertaining. Not completely silly and not focused solely on adult themes, FixFox is a rarity in today’s gaming landscape -- a nice game that can be enjoyed by the whole family.