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Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (42694)
Written on  :  Feb 02, 2021
Platform  :  Commodore 64
Rating  :  4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars

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I’d dance too if I killed every threat in the forest

The Good

Forbidden Forest is one of the earliest examples of survival horror games on any eight-bit micro. The game wasn’t going to be released at all until a small software company called Cosmi stepped in. You see, the company Paul Norman was working for decided to shut up shop while he was in the middle of creating the game. While Cosmi was acquiring some of their furniture, they were impressed by his work and hired him on the spot so that he could finish the game on their watch.

As his first game, Norman put a lot of effort into this. From the get-go, the first thing you see is the forest, and it actually looks like a real forest. There are trees with different colored leaves, a few dead ones in the distance, lakes, and some burnt-out buildings. You control an archer who is placed smack bang in the middle of the forest. As soon as you go left or right, creatures of the night come out of their shells and try to attack you. You have giant spiders, killer bees, toads, dragons, phantoms, skeletons, and snakes. All of these creatures have their own attack pattern, with the most common way being to jump on your head and make you lose blood. I always love the victory dance that you perform when you complete a level. Once you have dealt with every creature, you’ll then face the Demogorgon, who only reveals himself when lightning strikes. You only have a limited amount of time to kill him.

There are four difficulty settings, and you select one of these before the game starts. How many of the same creature you face and the number of arrows in your quiver depends on the setting you have chosen. On the “Innocent” setting, completing the game is peanuts. If you managed to get through all seven levels of the game, great. Then perhaps you'll like to try out the other settings, where things will get much tougher.

Forbidden Forest was one of the first games to feature a day/night cycle. As you progress through the game, you see the moon pass through the sky, and what a sad face it has, too! When it reaches the right side, stars will appear and they twinkle every five seconds. The moon makes it move even when the creatures are killing you and during your dance. When it reaches night, things stay the same but everything is viewed from a different perspective. I love how the phantoms stand out against the blue sky. Forbidden Forest is one of the first games to feature parallax scrolling, where the two backgrounds move independently from each other. I love how most of the creatures appear from the rear background and make their way toward the screen.

There is a hint of realism to the game, in that you actually see your archer reload his quiver, which he has on his back. Shooting an arrow at one of the creatures isn’t just a matter of aiming your arrow in three directions (north, west, east) and pressing the fire button. When you move the joystick left or right, you also see him turn and aim an arrow in any diagonal direction. His walking animations are smooth, as well.

Sound-wise, the normal background music is memorable, and apart from the spiders each of the creatures have their own musical cues. There is also a cue for your death. Out of the sound effects, the most disturbing is the wailing sound that the phantom makes as it disintegrates into thin air.

The Bad

Both the death animations and victory dance take too long. There is no proper ending, and if you want to try the game at another difficulty setting, you are forced to reload the game.

The Bottom Line

Forbidden Forest is the first game by Paul Norman, and he put a lot of effort into it. You negotiate a forest, killing every creature that comes out to attack you, then face the Demogorgon himself. The victory dance that occurs between levels is fun to watch, but it just takes too long. Alongside Moon Patrol, the game was one of the first to introduce parallax scrolling, and to feature animated blood. The graphics are excellent, and the sound is quite scary in some places. This game was also ported to the Atari 8-bit, but the Commodore 64 version is superior.