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FixFox review: a lovely weird world to live and repair things in

Live, fox, fix

My FixFox journey, not unlike that of the titular little furry protagonist Vix, has been abnormally long and strange. I started playing it, then moved and didn't have a PC for a long time, and it was only recently I finally got my PC back and finished the game last week. It took me around 12 hours of playing the game to travel around a strange cuboid planet using postage stamps to fix hairdryers for robots, but stretched over three months in real life. And reviewing a game this many weeks after release isn't normal procedure either, but I really like FixFox and I want people who might like it to stand a better chance of finding it. I also think a break of several weeks isn't the worst way to experience it, either.

FixFox is a top-down adventure that's part crafting and item collecting, part puzzle, and part story about family and identity. Vix lives in a far future where, in order to survive weather extremes, humans have gene-spliced themselves to become bipedal, talking animals with opposable thumbs. The furry ideal. Vix is a) a fox and b) a mechanic, so puts those thumbs to good use. Unfortunately all Vix's conventional tools were lost when their spaceship crash landed, so instead you stuff a talking, perpetually anxious toolbox with useful junk that can be traded or found on the planet surface. Plasters and stamps are like tape; a small statue is a hammer; scissors are, well... still scissors, but you have to dig them out of a hole like a city fox going through someone's bins.

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The "someone's" in question are the Free Pirate Brigade, who, along with the Order Of Tools, are the antagonistic forces you have to worry about in this non-violent game. Although they're mostly concerned with each other rather than you - the Order will brook no unsanctioned fixing or tom-toolery, while the Pirates are radicals who find and hide stuff. You progress in the game by fixing things, which the Order don't like, and you need to raid Pirate stashes for the stuff you use for said fixin', so both are on a countdown before they turn up to yell at you and steal all your stuff. But the timers are easily reset at radios dotted around, so it only ever happened to me when it was a story event.

A scene from FixFox where a pink nurse AI is reading data while a repeating light show happens
Tripping light fantastic
Some of the visuals in FixFox are really great - especially when you're dealing with stuff to do with information, technology or the AI. Lots of fractals, beautiful geometry, and the collision of art and science in a very cool way.

The story is the weirdest bit of FixFox, which - in complete fairness - is saying a lot. The machines you fix are pleasingly silly in their workings, with mechanical tongues that need to taste a certain flavour, or a cold matrix where you have to make sure the lights saying 'salad' and 'popsicle' are switched on, or a circuit that needs to be closed by an avocado. As previously mentioned, the entire population of the square planet are robots who tell you secrets while you eat home-cooked meals. They have food-based festivals, and the four biomes you can explore - desert, swamp, forrested farmland and cold mountain - are named after flavours. It's a really nice lo-fi, analogue version of the future. Even Aleix Ramon's soundtrack, which is slightly different in different areas, underlines this. I get the title screen theme stuck in my head quite often (I think of it as a kind of video game cover of The Rainbow Connection).

Without the story, FixFox would be you and your tin-with-an-anxiety-disorder pal riding around, top-down stylee, and fixing stuff ad hoc, the last ever cowboy Tarantino would bother his arse making a film about. More fool him. By the end of the game, you have four different ways to speed up your journey and visiting the strange little enclaves of FixFox's world (including two types of fast travel), so that life is actually quite appealing. On the other hand, the story is a little bit bonkers, but very sweet. I won't spoil anything, because at points it really does go off its gourd, but ultimately you still form an unlikely rag tag band - including several different AI pals - and learn about family, friendship and kindness, while building extremely fuck-off big mech animals. The ending(s) are great and well worth waiting for, and the writing has a surprisingly light touch as well as some good jokes. I didn't even mind the clunky prejudice metaphor that is a central part of one character's arc.

The player character in FixFox speeding across a purple and orange desert

At the same time, though, the story does require repetitive backtracking that would have probably annoyed me a lot more had I not taken an enforced break from the game. To build a mech, for example, you need to find each of its constituent parts in a junkyard, solve a little puzzle to navigate said yard, and then use the mech to solve another location puzzle that was itself the first part of a similar process. The middle of the story is a few hours of nesting repetiton. I think you have to do 12 junkyards. There are also a few sections in space that are necessary to the plot, yet somehow feel superfluous to play through (an unwelcome cousin to ludonarrative dissonace, which I thought we had strangled to death).

An extremely cluttered toolbox in FixFox - it has bottles of oil, vinegar, spatulas, tomatoes, several paintbrushes and spatulas and a whole lot of avocados
I was not great at keeping my tools organised.

The upside is that you can break this all up by fixing as many busted fan elements as you like. Admittedly, FixFox itself isn't massively keen on you doing this - later on it introduces various ways to bypass the collecting of tools or even the fixing of things - but the option is there to trad-fix to your heart's content. More complicated fixes need items with a certain smell, or different coloured glow. You also have to ask people directions to the chocolate dip pond.

So despite the nagging feeling that FixFox needed an unforgiving editor at some points, Rendlike have made a lovely world to just be in, tootling around on your desert bike, arriving in and out of town, eating nice soup. It's all about co-operation and being friendly and helping out. And in return the locals like you too! Isn't that lovely? Yes. Yes it is.

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