Every once in a while, you come across a game that might not be perfect, but it feels right. It could be exactly what you need at the exactly the right time. Take, for example, the Switch version of Marchen Forest. The enhanced and updated version of the former PC adventure is a relatively low-stakes way to enjoy life as a young girl in forest filled with magic, mystery, and surprisingly friendly faces. It definitely has that indie feel, with its little quirks, but it’s comforting even when the roguelike elements start to work against you.
Marchen Forest follows a young girl named Mylne. She’s being raised by her grandfather, who works as an apothecary in a forest with all sorts of talking animals, plants, and anthropomorphic objects. Each step of her journey is broken up into what feel like different phases of her life. The first act involves her helping her grandpa and the people of the forest, like a wandering bard, competitive flowers, and a penguin in love.
This portion of the game is the most relaxed. You wander around the forest near Mylne’s home. While your goal is to get ingredients for potions, you’re really solving different series of puzzles over a few in-game days. There are chain reactions at play here, especially on the “final” day when you need to gather 10 ingredients to prove Mylne’s worth as an apothecary. Nothing is exceptionally difficult and it’s fairly easy to work out the proper steps to make everyone happy and get what you need.
Completing that final day proves her worth. She assists in creating a certain potion. After that, she finds an doorway to ruins in the forest. This leads to a revelation about her missing mother and the dungeon-diving portion of Marchen Forest. Mylne essentially goes exploring through a roguelike RPG with turn-based battles. Your goal is, as you might expect, to fight enemies and get through the location.
It’s significantly more challenging than the first act, as you might imagine. You have to keep an eye on Mylne’s health and hunger. There are enemies to fight, and you have to consider when to do things like attack, defend, and dodge. But even if you die, you only lose your items. You keep levels you earned. Which I feel helps Marchen Forest manage to maintain its ambiance. Was I putting more work into it? Absolutely. Did I feel rushed or forced in any way? Nope. It managed to combine the low-stakes ambiance while still increasing the difficulty in a way that let me relax while I worked my way through areas.
Though admittedly, this does make Marchen Forest’s later twists a bit shocking. The stakes increase greatly as Mylne travels into the dungeon. You start to learn truths about people around her. And, after getting an ending, there are hints about other possibilities in the fourth layer. That’s when the game genuinely seems to shift. It still has its charm, especially when it comes to its encounters and script. But things are far more punishing and you are expected to stay smart and keep up.
Still, for the most part, Marchen Forest feels like it offers a rather low-key story. It moves at your own pace. Certainly, there’s more investment necessary as time goes on. Especially when you reach the fourth layer and learn about new possibilities. And it definitely can get difficult. But it’s still largely pleasant and cultivates an atmosphere that lets you handle things in your own time.
Marchen Forest is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and PC.