After visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in 2012, developer Jaroslav Meloun (AKA Rendlike) made a personal vow to never make violent games. It seems that he’s not alone. In recent years, there’s been a growing interest in ‘wholesome games‘, so much so that it’s becoming its own genre.
As players, its great that there’s now such a wide range of games for us to experience. FYI it’s okay to enjoy blasting some demon’s head off in Doom Eternal while planting flowerbeds in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. But often, non-violent video games are looked down on as being cutesy. FixFox is that, for sure. But it also tackles the big issues, such as climate change, with a sly sense of humour worthy of any Fox.
As the world gets colder, humans decide to splice themselves with animal genes to give them a warm coat of fur and the ability to hibernate. This leads to the advent of long-distance space travel, where the new furry humans sleep in stasis over many decades. In Fixfox, you play as Vix – an unlucky space mechanic whose job it is to fix interstellar U-bends and sentient white goods.
After your spaceship crash lands on an uncharted planet, you set out to find the beacon you’re here to repair. You soon discover a whole civilisation of robots (that were created by the last engineer – now missing) who have set up a religion that worships tools. Essentially, the health and safety manuals of the previous mechanic are now gospel. For example, the religious order have taken ‘keep tools secure at all times’ to mean ‘we will confiscate any tools you find’. After you complete a certain number of repairs, the Order will swoop in and empty out your pockets. It’s a nifty mechanic that limits grinding and instead encourages you to trade or take on side jobs.
All good space mechanics must have a trusty sidekick, though, and Vix is no different. Her talking toolkit, the appropriately named ‘Tin’, is on hand to deliver useful tips along the way. Tin is very maternal; they’ll constantly be worrying about your safety which is both heart-warming and hilarious. When your ship first crashes, for example, Tin forbids you from venturing out onto the planet in case you get hurt. Instead, they calculate that a rescue ship will be along in 96 years, so you’re better off doing nothing. At that point, an icon pops up denoting a new quest: wait 96 years. Like me, you may stand there for a few minutes waiting for something to happen. Until you realise the joke is on you and you can quite easily step outside and go exploring. It’s a witty challenge to normal gaming conventions with a dash of Douglas Adams’ absurdity.
A screw loose
Your main mission is to fix the beacon and find the missing engineer. On your journey, you’ll come across various puzzles to solve that take the form of objects that need fixing. Interacting with your fridge, for example, brings a close-up view of its inner workings. From here, you can click on various parts to diagnose the problem. A cut wire may need taping or a screw loosening. But as you don’t have any conventional tools (thanks to the Order), you’ll need to discover new items that have similar properties.
Whizzing around the desert plains in search of a treasure stash is a lot of fun. It’s here where you’ll find a discarded Band-Aid that doubles as electrical tape. Or a donut that looks suspiciously like a mechanical gear. Take these to one of the Oracles who will reveal their mystery properties. Yes, it’s silly, but it’ll bring a smile to your face. Later, the constant search and fetch quests can get a little repetitive, but FixFox has enough charm to pull you through, not least thanks to its great sense of humour. When operating on the aforementioned fridge, for example, it complains that you’re exposing its innards as you unscrew a faulty grille.
Aside from the calming, methodical repair puzzles, FixFox earns its wholesome stripes by encouraging you to pause. If you’re out scouring the plains at night, you can lay out a bedroll, set up camp and simply listen to the fire crackle. Also, some side jobs will reward you with a meal ticket upon completion. These are helpful to your main quest, as each chef will reveal a rumour that helps lead you on to the next part of the story. But they’re also incredibly chill. Each steaming bowl of soup or porridge is lovingly rendered in gorgeous pixel art, as a Chillwave tune ebbs in the background. It’s a welcome change of pace to the oftentimes frantic back and forth across the planet.
FixFox is a charming adventure game that will put a smile on your face. While the story becomes a little convoluted towards the end, and the gameplay a touch repetitive, its goofy yet loveable sense of humour will carry you through.