Back somewhere in the 20-aught-10s, Minecraft mania was in full swing, and crafty/survival/sandbox games were in at the time. When I finally got the chance, I gave Minecraft a few tries, fell asleep through most of them, and realized it just wasn’t for me. The sadness of not having one of those crazy Minecraft experiences that everyone went on and on about eventually led me to a little game called Terraria. Terraria clicked with me in ways that I was hoping Minecraft would have and subsequently filled the hole punched into my slice of the current video game zeitgeist.
Flash forward to a few nights ago: Doggedly, I prowled the Nintendo E-shop looking for something to combat my frustration with the end game grind in Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak. I came armed with ten American dollars that I was willing to part with, and Forager caught my eye. In many ways, Forager is an amalgamation of the most addictive aspects of some of my favorite games, distilled into pure progression.
Forager is hard to describe. It has farming, resource gathering, tons of crafting, dungeons…just about all the non-social hooks of games like Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon. Non-social is an important distinction to make, but I’ll get to that later. Suffice it to say, if you end up liking Forager, it can be a hard one to put down.
You begin your quest for success as a tiny pixelated person with little to nothing and a small island to call home. This is when your foraging begins (Hey, that’s the game’s name!). You begin fiercely tapping rocks, trees, and bushes until you can craft enough things to craft more things. Level-ups add a skill point, which you can invest in various perks and abilities. Money can be used at a shop (which you must craft) and a few NPC merchants; however, the best use for the gold coins you make is easily the purchase of new lands.
Purchasing new lands is a neat gameplay mechanic in that the islands you can unlock with coins are randomized with each playthrough, yet they are a set list of islands. This may sound like it stifles repeat runs, but I feel it’s the opposite! When playing for the first time, unlocking new lands has a similar appeal to a scratcher lottery ticket. Some islands have a valuable NPC or dungeon, while others simply have treasured and thereafter just become usable land. This system can provide strategic decisions on subsequent playthroughs, making the experiences different, yet engaging in their own ways.
As I mentioned earlier, this game is pure progression. There is no grand tale being woven. There is no villain to triumph over. Hell, how our little Lilly white avatar got here is left to zero explanation. Then again, that’s not what Forager has to offer. There is plenty to discover, collect and craft. I’ve always loved the attention to functional detail that these lo-fi, retro pixel games can pull off. Many equipments and gear upgrades come with additional abilities and perks. Everything feels enticing enough to go for that next upgrade, and for the most part, any material is reasonably obtained.
The feel and aesthetic of Forager are why I made the Terraria comparison earlier. Terraria was amazing in that while it looked retro, it had a ton going on under the hood. Forager delivers this feeling well, with things looking far simpler than the complex systems at play behind the curtain.
There are unlockable costumes and such, but finding or creating a new tool or weapon is just as, if not more, magical. Growing a small pixel empire from scratch is fun, engaging, and never overwhelming…well, unless you let things grow over. In order to provide the players with anything, they could need, trees and rocks and such spawn with the fury of an angry God, with untended lands becoming overgrown quickly. This isn’t really an issue more than a funny anecdote all Forager players will understand.
I couldn’t sing the praises of this game without mentioning the absolutely amazing soundtrack by Hernán Marandino. If you like 16-bit era video game music, you might find an all-time favorite in Forager. I can’t stress how good most of the soundtrack is, which is good for this kind of game.
I can’t recommend Forager more, and I’m happy I got my copy on the Switch. If you’re looking for a gathering/crafting game with light survival mechanics, you can get this game for under twenty bucks, no matter what you play on…just maybe go with a PC or console over the mobile phone version.
Forager was developed by Hopfrog and published by Humble Bundle and is the property of its owners. Nintendo eShop is the property of Nintendo.