Ghost Time Games’ Tux And Fanny, from co-developers Albert Birney and Gabriel Koenig, is not only the game I think you may have missed this year, but it is also my Game Of The Year for 2021. This game sends two best friends (alongside a courageous flea and a mischievous cat) through adventures great, small, and absurd to stunning effect – and you owe it to yourself to give this little marvel a play before the year is well and truly out.
Tux And Fanny follows its titular characters (the pink figure is Tux and the purple, Fanny) going about a few days in their lives as they attempt to re-inflate their soccer ball (read: football, ya global sport-fiends) so they can play outside together. It seems benign enough: just get the bicycle pump down from the tree, and inflate the darn thing. But, in the spirit of pixelated adventure games of yore, where would the fun in that be? To get the bicycle pump down you’ll have to do all manner of things, including: befriend a flock of seagulls, build a puppet theatre by combining some wood and nails in your inventory, give a four-leaf clover to a troll, sell art of fantasy animals, explore the Bigfoot-infested mountains, find all the coins for the vending machine, and play through some sick skull-based minigames on the computer… and that’s just to start.
Like something out of Monkey Island or (my personal favourite) those early 2000s inventory-puzzle browser-based escape-the-room games, Tux And Fanny is a point-and-click(ish – you’ll mostly use your arrow keys to get around, but the vibes are the same, you know?) adventure that celebrates the magical mundanities of life, death, friendship, birds and bugs in its 10-ish hour play time.
Where so many adventure games tell stories with world-saving stakes and epic adventures, Tux and Fanny is at its most successful when it focuses on the little adventures of day-to-day life: draw pictures of Flowers We Have Seen, search for four-leaf clovers (to appease that troll, of course), and lie down in the grass to see what sorts of clouds pass by. It might be an acquired taste for some, but it’s an instant-buy for those who have honed their tastes for something like Frog Fractions meets Stardew Valley.
Tux And Fanny is so clearly a product of a global pandemic – it’s a love letter to being outside with your best friend, curling up with a good book in a thunderstorm, wandering around the woods, and playing sick games on the computer. My partner and I have been playing together over the past few weeks, toddling around its very square environment in search of the right combination of items and events to progress in our soccer ball inflation aspirations, utterly delighted by every turn. Although the game itself is single-player, the jokes will always land better when playing with friends. Ultimately, Tux and Fanny is a surreal romp with a bit of bite, and criminally underpriced at only £8/$10 over on Itch.