Climb up a cash-covered mountain to enrich your company and save Christmas!
PC Release: December 18, 2014
By Ian Coppock
Well folks, this is it. The last, and 100th, video game review of 2016. Much like this year, the video game industry experienced a volatile mix of ups and downs. There were some great games, like Abzu and Firewatch, and some not-so-great games, like No Man’s Sky, Mafia III, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Dishonored 2, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, etc etc. However, just because a year contained lots of ups and downs doesn’t mean there can’t still be some Christmas cheer! A year should end on a celebratory note, even if some of the notes preceding it could’ve sounded better. A year should end with each of us standing atop a mountain, screaming in victory and defiance at a bright winter sky. In that spirit, it’s time for Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike.
Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike is a little holiday game created by Devolver Digital, the indie label best known these days for publishing Hotline Miami. The game’s titular star, Fork Parker, is Devolver Digital’s fictitious CFO, and is used by Devolver to promote everything from new games to unorthodox marriage advice. As the face of Devolver Digital, it only makes sense for Fork to star in his own video game, and it’s all about the money.
Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike opens with Fork attending a board meeting with a few nervous-looking oligarchs. It looks like the company’s sub-par games have sent profits down the toilet, and the company is in danger of tanking! Before Christmas, of all days! Luckily, Fork is the CFO, and if there’s anything he has a peculiar knack for, it’s finding more money. He doesn’t take the board’s crap about finding no money in Q4 for long.
Luckily for this company, Fork knows exactly where to find the funds. A magical Christmas mountain, far far away, reputed to be covered in giant piles of cash. With a swig of his martini and a wipe of his sleeve, Fork jumps onto a helicopter and sets out to save Christmas!
So begins the newest journey of video gaming’s dirtiest CFO, of an old man who is determined to save his company, save Christmas, and kick some hiney all in one offing. After leaping dramatically from a helicopter, Fork lands at the base of the Profit Hike and begins working his way up the peak. The higher he can get, the more money he’ll find, and the more severe the Christmas party hangover will be.
Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike is a side-scrolling platformer decked out in old-school, pixelated graphics. The entire game is meant to be a satirical take on the games industry and its greed, much like the rival video game company segment in Postal 2: Paradise Lost. Rather than being the fictitious mascot of an indie darling, Fork is portrayed as the grumpy CFO of a giant, faceless conglomerate in the same vein as Electronic Arts or Activision. And, in their spirit, he sets out to find more money for his company, no matter the cost.
As Fork, it’s up to players to scale a giant Christmas mountain, collecting money and building base camps. The game works a lot like an obstacle course; Fork starts out at the bottom of the mountain and collects money as he goes. However, he loses some of his cash every time he dies, be that at the hands of giant icicles or from a variety of Christmas-themed creatures. Players can end up going deep into the red if they die a lot, as the game’s money counter doesn’t stop at zero. The game’s final outcome is determined by how much cash players manage to preserve on their ascent. The more money Fork keeps, the more lavish the company’s profits (and Christmas party).
As Fork, players can move from side to side and jump up on vertical obstacles. As an homage to old-school platforming games, Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike also comes loaded with lots of tricky traps and floating platforms. Fork has no means of attack should he encounter an enemy (he can’t even jump on their heads), and must move to avoid their paths. Every so often, Fork will build pass a checkpoint and build a new base camp as he ascends the mountain. Players will respawn at base camp if they die (and they’ll probably die a lot, as Fork keels over with just one hit).
As awesome as Fork is just by virtue of being Fork, he does bring some mountaineering tools with him to help climb to the top. Players can throw pitons between two or more mountain walls, and a rope will spawn between them. Fork can slide along the rope to reach higher areas or speed out of the way of foes. Players can also cancel their piton throws if they need to re-aim, and can throw about 3-4 pitons before they automatically respawn. Not even Fork Parker can spawn infinite pitons.
Although the piton mechanic in Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit hike is certainly novel, it’s a bit clunky. There’s no sort of crosshairs or reticule for throwing a piton, so players have to manually judge their throwing distance as best as possible. Of course, this means that a lot of pitons will end up being mis-thrown, so some areas require a lot of experimentation to traverse. Additionally, this game works much better with a controller than a keyboard and mouse. That’s a pretty common rule of thumb for platformers, but it’s disappointing to see for a small indie game released on PC.
Being able to aim a piton throw accurately is vital in Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike, because in addition to the aforementioned icicles, Fork also has to dodge some unfriendly Christmas critters. From flying Christmas sweaters to bouncy penguins and levitating ice cubes, there are a lot of dastardly creatures standing between Fork Parker and his profit hike. Some surfaces also won’t hold an anchor, forcing players to rely on good old fashioned aiming and jumping to get around.
The level that Fork is doing all this mountaineering and enemy-dodging and cash-grabbing in won’t be terribly unfamiliar to platformer fans. Floating platforms and lots of terrain elevation tend to be standard fare for this genre. Less common, however, is the game being a vertical platformer rather than a horizontal start-to-end run. The vertical setup of the game’s platforms and enemies adds a huge challenge to the game, as Fork has to worry even more about obstacles above and below him as well as to the sides. With icicles and enemies closing in from all sides, Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike becomes a pretty difficult little game. Much like the old-school platformers of old.
The world of Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike, small as it is, is also replete with Christmas cheer in the sound department. The game is accompanied by a funky electronica soundtrack combining various Christmas sound effects with a steady beat. It’s a bit short and loops a bit too obviously, but it ain’t bad. The other sound effects the game offers are crisp and loud, especially the sound Fork makes when he runs into an icicle and poofs into nothing. If nothing else dissuades players from trying to get Fork killed, the sound of an old man exploding like a balloon will.
By now, anyone reading this has probably figured out that Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike doesn’t have a deep narrative with intricate character development. But that’s okay. This game never claimed to attain such things, and its simple premise lends it a lot of charm. This can be offset by the game’s punishing difficulty, but it’s nice to kick back during the winter break with something small and simple.
The game’s fealty to old-school platformers is also quite reminiscent of simpler times. The entire game features platforming visuals that are considered classic by contemporary standards. Fork and the Christmas creatures are all pixelated, but the background environments are much more richly detailed. Unlike a lot of old platformers, the colors in Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike are bright, and arranged to create contrast. It’s a pretty little game, combining the visuals of games past with the sophistication of current art techniques.
The best part about Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike and the piece de resistance of its profiteering publisher joke is that the game is free. Yep. The game that glorifies gathering huge sums of money in time for a Q4 booze-fest doesn’t cost a dime. Sure, it clocks in at 40 minutes to an hour for first-time players, but its challenge factor adds some genuine value to the game. This isn’t a simple Flash game or tech demo like so many free games on Steam, but a fully fleshed out little bit of holiday cheer. Between its short but sweet satire, its challenging platformer gameplay, and constant barrage of Christmas spirit, gamers have little reason not to pick this up and give it a go during the holidays. LONG LIVE FORK!
And with that, Art as Games is shutting down for the holidays. As always, I want to give a huge shout-out to readers new and old for checking out my content. Your support is what motivates me to write these and what makes Art as Games possible, so really, thanks a ton. Please also be sure to check out GeekFactor Radio, the site to which Art as Games is now syndicated, for even more great content on games, comics, movies, and all things nerdy.
Happy Holidays from Art as Games! See you in 2017.
You can buy Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike here.
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