Into The Woods
High Pleasing, poignant, and pure.
Low The narrative pacing isn’t the best, so the ending feels lopsided.
WTF Why is the drummer in a hellscape?
A 3D narrative puzzler seen from an isometric perspective and developed by Mads & Friends, The Forest Quartet is a somber celebration of jazz, life, and friendship, all set to the heady tune of the forest.
The player meanders through the woods as the specter of Nina, a jazz singer whose presence serves as a balm for the bandmates who grieve her loss. Nina floats, sings, interacts with various puzzles, and illuminates her way through the forest to bring joy back into her former bandmates lives, and also to ensure that their farewell concert goes off without a hitch.
The Forest Quartet’s soundtrack is, unsurpisingly, just as lovely as its mechanics. I spent a good fifteen minutes listening to the opening title music before venturing into its moody depths. Mads Vadsholt, the developer behind The Forest Quartet, mentioned that her favorite part of working on the game was recording the soundtrack and music effects, and it absolutely shows.
The dialogue between Nina and her former bandmates Kirk, JB, and Sebastian (who play the piano, bass, and drums, respectively) is also quite impressive. Every time Nina solves a puzzle, the player uncovers a bit more of her bandmates’ memories, as well as her own. This stream-of-consciousness form of worldbuilding is a nice touch, and forestalls what could have easily become a cacophony of awkward exchanges.
Although The Forest Quartet is sonically and visually impressive, it does have some pacing problems. The story takes place over the course of three acts, with each act focusing on a different member of the band. Unfortunately, not all acts are created equal.
I spent an exorbitant amount of time on Kirk’s act, and what felt like no time at all on Sebastian and JB’s. Sebastian, the resident drummer, has “anger issues” (his act takes place in the midst of a forest fire that Nina has to navigate by transforming into a kaleidoscope of butterflies) and JB struggles with panic attacks, but the player never gets to fully explore the nuances of their states of mind.
Further, although the story is about Nina’s friends and their grief, I would have loved to have learned more about who Nina was, her relationship with the forest, and the nature of her relationship with her friends. We are aware that her band members are grieving, but we don’t know which aspects of their relationship with Nina they are grieving. I spent much of my time, two and a half hours to be exact, attempting to exhaust each and every narrative possibility and locate the answers to these questions before I accidentally stumbled into an ending that I honestly was not ready to reach.
At least the journey was a beautiful one?
The Forest Quartet is an experience that wears its heart on its sleeve. Pacing issues and character development aside, it was a joy to witness the unfolding of this jazz quartet’s haunting origin story, and it’s abundantly clear that The Forest Quartet was forged with love and intention. I’d happily stroll through the forest alongside Nina and listen to her crooning voice a second time if she were to request my company again.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
— Taylor Pryor
Disclosures: This game is developed by Mads & Friends and published by Bedtime Digital Games. It is currently available on PS4/PS5/PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS5. Approximately 2 and a half hours of play went into this game, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains References to Alcohol and Mild Language. Although the use of foul language and references to alcohol are minimal, parents should be aware that The Forest Quartet is first and foremost about grief and loss. Although the subject matter isn’t too heavy, the portions of the game (specifically acts 2 and 3) that deal directly with neurodiversity and mental health could be potentially triggering for children (and adults!) grappling with these issues.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The Forest Quartet offers subtitles, but they cannot be resized. Audio cues are not necessary for game progression and controller vibrations can be modified to make navigating the landscape more seamless. Therefore, the game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: This game’s controls are not remappable.