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Forest (Atari 2600) artwork

Forest (Atari 2600) review

"This game is the definition of repetition."

Forest asset

I wish I had played Forest in my childhood. The thing is I only first played it a couple years ago. You might be able to imagine the embarrassment I felt as I fired this one up and nursery rhyme music blared from the speakers. A garish color palette greeted me, bolstering the nursery atmosphere. I felt like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, staring awkwardly at this parents while donning a pink bunny suit. The only saving grace was the axe-toting, coonskin-cap-wearing, beard-donning protagonist. This was a man's man, a guy who probably started his day with bacon grease slathered on an extra bloody steak, washed down with a mixture of kerosine and unpasteurized milk. This was a character I could get behind, yet he was trapped in such a nauseating game.

Forest shows us what this man does after breakfast. Resting his axe on his shoulder, he moseys down to the woods to assert his manliness by chopping down the mightiest tree he can find. You might be surprised to find that he can attack and jump! With most 2600 titles, you had to sacrifice one for the other because there's only one button to work with. This game doesn't make such a compromise, utilizing the 'Up' position of the joystick for jumping.

If you're an old school side-scroller fan, you might feel a little ray of hope shine on you. I know I did. I thought, Maybe this game won't be so bad after all. Maybe it'll be like the great-granddaddy of side-scrollers, something I can respect and appreciate.

A few seconds of playing is all it takes to dash that hope.

Forest screenshotForest screenshot

Our frontiersman must have terrible knee joints, as he walks as though mired in peanut butter. With each slow step, we watch in horror as the pace dies. Slowly our hero inches toward his goal while a bird overhead rapid-fire craps all over. It's a well known fact that bird poop is a frontiersman's Kryptonite, resulting in temporary paralysis. It leaves him vulnerable to the game's array of villainous woodland creatures: snakes, ducks, geese, and hogs. Should one touch him, it's curtains. Don't ask me how a duck can kill a burly brute with an axe. Disease, maybe? Perhaps they're zombie ducks?

It doesn't take long to get the rhythm down. You slowly trot to the right, cautious of the foul with the trots overhead, while staying aware of any animals that might rush at you. If you're like me, you'll probably swing your axe at the first sign of wildlife. Unfortunately, our hero is incapable of swinging the axe any lower than his waistline. Try it and you'll become a zombie-duck's lunch. Instead, you need to make like Pitfall Harry and leap over them, all while trying to not to jump headlong into a falling piece of poop.

This doesn't make for an interesting experience. You leap over animals and dodge feces, all at an agonizingly slow pace. There's no challenge whatsoever, which is why the developers at Sancho had to deploy the oldest trick in the side-scroller book: cheapness. Animals love to appear as you near the edge of the screen, and sometimes they'll charge so quickly that they're impossible to dodge. Unless you're horrible at side-scrollers, this should be the only time the game manages to kill you.

You'll sit through three screens of this animal-leaping nonsense, and eventually you'll find the tree in question. At last, we can put the axe to use! Repeatedly hitting the 'fire' button, you'll take chunks out of the tree while dodging more animals and falling scat. Here again the game nails you with a cheap move, sometimes spawning a snake right next to the tree while you're chopping. Still it isn't difficult, and a modicum of perseverance can bring the tree down.

And then you start the process over again. No increased difficulty, no new objectives, no boost in speed. This game is the definition of repetition.

It's no wonder I stopped playing obscure 2600 games after trying out this one. The system isn't like NES, SNES or PlayStation where you have a wealth of great sleepers. Forest, along with a few other titles, helped me to realize that most lesser known 2600 games are lesser known for a good reason. That may have something to do with the fact that video gaming as a medium was still young when games like Forest were developed. Some companies were not aware of what concepts worked yet, and in a way many games that came out then were experimental. It's not like Sancho knew Forest was going to be a dud. They developed the game with good intentions, experimenting with different concepts, and it didn't work.

There is no single concept that damns Forest. The slow pace, repetition and cheapness equally kill the title. It's a grim harmony. There had to be a reason I decided to expose it to everyone, and it's because I feel a tiny speck of pity. Here's a piece someone put effort into, only so it could fade into obscurity. Someone programmed it in the hopes their company would have a successful release, and where is it now? Mostly forgotten, remembered by a select few. Here's your little bit of exposure, Forest. Regardless of my pity, though, I have to be honest. You may be a cute little game, but you're a dreadfully dull play.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (May 12, 2012)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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If you enjoyed this Forest review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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bloomer posted May 13, 2012:

Joe, you're certainly doing a great job of finding games with terrible box art. And that are poor.
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zippdementia posted May 13, 2012:

... and a great job of reviewing those games!
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JoeTheDestroyer posted May 13, 2012:

I don't know what to think of this cover. It's like the serpentine antagonist from a SyFy Original caught Grizzly Adams unawares, and he was like, "HEY YEW SNAKE, GET AWAY FRUM MAH BUTT!" Meanwhile, Pumbaa watches in the background, possibly aroused. Maybe one day I'll have to start a topic on bad video game cover art.

Thanks, gentlemen! I aim to please.

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