Video Game Review: FORWARD: Escape the Fold

Anthony Cali, Contributing Writer

Two Tiny Dice, the developers of FORWARD: Escape the Fold call their creation “the perfect bitesized roguelike dungeon crawler” and I have come to agree with them for the most part.  In FORWARD, which was released March 29th 2022 by Indie Asylum, the object of the game is to navigate your chosen character from beginning to end using a three way path of collectibles, upgrades, and monsters to fight. These pathways are presented as cards that your character needs to choose. Different cards will do different things such as restore health, attack, or activate special abilities. The path will end with a test of your durability in the form of a boss, then you will move on to the next phase, being an event or another path.

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For those unacquainted with the recently blossoming genre of roguelikes, a roguelike or rogue-lite (based on the 1980s classic, “Rogue”) is a game that normally features procedurally generated levels, permanent character death, repetition, and noticeable character growth. As your character dies, you start anew over and over in what is commonly referred to as a “run.” Some very popular games in the genre worth noting are Rogue Legacy, Dead Cells, Hades, and the Risk of Rain series.

Escape the Fold definitely checks off many of the roguelike boxes, including permanent progression in the forms of new items to unlock in your runs and new characters to find during your playthroughs. The game of course implements a one life run system, which is actually the main draw for roguelikes. Accessible quick playthroughs with divided progression loss and gain are what creates the replayability for roguelikes, which is why they’ve become so popular.

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The game has a fun and high fantasy cast of characters to choose from. They range from an Anubis warrior who can turn the playing field into money all the way to a Lizardperson cutthroat whose main idea is dispatching multiple enemies at once. Some characters are more difficult than others, each with their own unique approach to the same game in the form of equipment and rare challenges. In the time that I played FORWARD, I was able to easily complete the base game with 4 out of the 7 characters.

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The sound design for the game is minimalistic in its library but what we do get is a few riveting fantasy pieces that scream “Dungeon.” Beyond the card artwork and item sprite work, there isn’t too much to look at in the game, but what we do get is a pleasant detail of our heroes, their enemies, and the items.

Aside from the base game are a selection of modified runs called challenge runs that reward new items, an Expert mode, and a custom mode that is unlocked after 3 basic wins. Though I was not able to complete Expert mode, I was able to complete all of the challenges without much struggle. This is what begs the question; “Is there enough?” Granted, this game is hot off the press, so there may be more to come, but in its current state in which I am reviewing it: I was able to complete 70% of the game in one sitting.

I’ve completed at least 20 unique runs (and failed some more) for this review and what I’ve noticed is that many of the items you are supposed to upgrade your run with are either useless or have their effect negated by better items that are easily found. If the developers were having trouble creating an interesting item pool it may have been due to a lack of mechanics (or gameplay ideas) that called for items at all.

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The game is now available on Steam and Mac for only $9.99 but sadly, I can only recommend what is currently a somewhat forgettable though addictive experience to people who simply can’t get enough roguelikes in their life. The game just does not offer anything truly unique enough to be brought up in conversation when recommending similar games to a friend. For anyone else in the market for affordable games, your money is best spent elsewhere as video game sales are like phases of the moon.

I happen to really enjoy playing FORWARD: Escape the Fold in my downtime, the classic roguelike replayability syndrome has struck again. This may be a common sentiment for most games, but this desperately needs expansion. Not just gameplay wise, but if you’re going to make a small, low graphic game for wasting an hour or two, you need to put it on the Nintendo Switch instead of Windows and Mac. Besides that, I’m afraid the lack of polished or unique content may make the average player forget this title after a few months. I fully support the developer team in their pursuit of Escape of Fold, and I hope that this adventure does not end here.

Bitesized? Sure, but just like any hit before this I want more.

Rating: 75 /100