The Familiar

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
A delightful crow's adventure, May 29, 2023
by manonamora
Related reviews: springthing

The Familiar follows Fran, a familiar in the form of a crow, as she embarks on a quest to save her witch mistress who has succumb to an illness. Through a series of puzzles and exploration, Fran uncovers a secret plot and fights for her mistress's life.

I am a sucker for a good simple puzzle and a cute story, and this is no wonder this game made it to my top list of the SpringThing this year (well, it was already a favourite of mine while I was testing it). From its clean and simple aesthetic, the gorgeous pixel art for each "room", to its delightful characters, The Familiar is such a well rounded game.

Obviously, playing as a crow, you are limited in your abilities to help your bedridden mistress (it is a magical wonder you can get her a blanket). Still, the puzzles are constructed in a way that would be doable for a crow to solve (and you a smart little one). Cawing your way into town to get attention, pecking people to move them out of the way, or picking up and dropping objects in the right place, you manage to acquire all needed ingredients to save the witch.

And you are not alone in the process. Meeting first Hazel, a mouse familiar whose master perished not long before the game, who will tend to your mistress while you fly to fetch the ingredients (turns out, it's not the flu but a curse, whomps...). Then a trio of NPCs in town: Miroger, who's bother has died, Cecile, who needs help writing and sending a letter to her lover, and Frederik, who knows a good deal when he sees one. Each helps you getting one ingredient in exchange for a small favour. Finally, the evil wizzard's owl coming at the 11th hour to stop Fran.

But how does it end then? With a happy ending, for course! This is still a feel good story at the end of the day, one that makes you feel satisfied when the ending screen comes around. The day is saved, the mistress is healed, and you made some friends along the way.

What I really appreciated from it was how inclusive the game was for beginners (or terrible parser player like me), as you are limited to 5 verbs (TAKE, DROP, LOOK, PECK, CAW), there is an available tutorial to teach you the controls, and a thorough walkthrough is included in case one is stuck.

I wanted to give a special shoutout to the artwork, considering how long it took to make 30+ pixel art headers, many of those heavily detailed. Those truly gorgeous small pieces of art enhance the atmosphere of the setting, from the cozy home, to the luscious forest, and the different and vibrant parts of the industrialised city. If it all felt like a pixelized version of a Ghibli movie, that was on purpose (the author confirmed the reference).

Anyway, I'm going back to fly after that darn letter...

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