Fugl is a voxel-art game about transformation and discovery. Its use of voxels defines more than just the art of the game, but the experience as well.
In Fugl, you could be peacefully soaring like a bird in the sky one moment, then dive down into the water below in the next — transforming you into a fish to swim freely through crystal clear pools. The colorful, procedurally-generated worlds offer a meditative journey through endless environments that uplift the spirits as you speed through them or coast over them, without any imposing limits. There are distinct biomes that utilize specific colors and creatures, as well as hand-crafted features such as caves, holes, and other openings in the land that jut out from rock formations that welcome a dive through. Each playthrough is unique and the focus on the simplicity of not letting the game get in the way of the artwork works very well for Fugl.
Johan Gjestland is no stranger to using voxels in his games; he’s been making voxel-based wonders since 2013, beginning with his sixty frames-per-second, musical cave-diving game, Melodive. Melodive is a hauntingly beautiful creation that has you soaring deep into endless caverns, filled with psychedelic low-poly neon mushrooms and shapes that pulse and sway to the undulating, procedural rhythms of the 3D music that enwraps each hall and crevice with melodies. The longer you play, the more you understand how it all comes together to create an endless acid-trip experience, full of color, wonder and most importantly, the music that you help create. It’s a crazy thing to see in motion, but even more impressive when you realize it’s a mobile app.
Using Melodive as a jumping-off point, Fugl trades its funky rhythms for wind sounds and the cries of creatures — land, sea, and sky — waiting to be discovered. If you fly close to a bird or dive next to a school of fish, you can become one of them, changing your physical appearance and flight physics. This simple mechanic not only makes you one with the game world you inhabit, but establishes your discovery in itself as a means of progress: how many creatures can I find and what’s out there left to discover.
There are already dozens of types of animals for you to mimic, but if you’re feeling creative, you can simply make your own custom bird with the included avatar editor. If the many included biomes don’t strike your fancy either, you can make your own world with the Fugl level editor, changing things like color, structure, and patterns. These customizing options put the very tools in your hands that are used to create the game, which is a great means to expand the content and discover even more things to love about the beauty of the art style.
Water in Fugl is in a whole different category. The visual fidelity of water has always been a hard thing to capture artistically in games, but Fugl turns it into a flowing, shimmering liquid that permeates the land through waterfalls and streams. Reflections and depth-based coloring — deeper areas show up darker — are some of the most impressive things about Fugl’s water features, and something that only a few games over the years have managed to get right. There’s a level of expertise here in the use of shaders that showcases the life and beauty both above and below the waves so accurately, that it’s almost worth the asking price just to see the water itself.
Most games these days are all about quantity over quality. Hundred-hour adventure games full of lengthy quests and large, seamless environments are riddled with bugs and plagued with monotony. Fugl manages to deliver the best of both worlds approach with beautiful vistas and endless content. There’s a complexity to the environments you fly through, from the crisp, puffy clouds down to the watery depths, but there’s always something around the corner to awe and inspire, making it hard to focus on anything but the calming mood the game puts you in. It may not hold the attention of some gamers looking for a replacement for their favorite action-packed shooter, but Fugl’s offering of a digital stress-free paradise is a vacation that’s tough to refuse.