Not to be confused with a certain furry-tailed Nintendo character, Big John Games' Strike Force Foxx is a helicopter rescue game starring humans. Heavily inspired by the 1982 computer game Choplifter, its retro roots show in its simple, action-oriented gameplay and tongue-in-cheek '80s action movie story. There is charm to be found in Strike Force Foxx, but it doesn't deviate at all from its premise and only barely expands the gameplay as the player progresses. Strike Force Foxx is a fun little action game, but it's held down by generic production values and repetitive action.
The game's hero is the titular Captain Foxx, a cocky action hero who pilots a chopper and rescues hostages while taking down enemies and saving the world. A variety of colourful supporting characters are sprinkled throughout, like his best friend Gunner, a character called Wrench who upgrades the chopper, a one-eyed villain, a sultry doctor and more. The script is intentionally cheesy and fun, with the story hitting tropes like avenging a friend's death and flirting with the aforementioned sultry doctor. Unfortunately, the plot is told only through stills at the beginning of each level, and the art is disappointingly bland. A game with a silly, cliché-driven story like this could benefit from some colour and fun. As a result, the game frequently feels low-budget and one-note.
Gameplay in Strike Force Foxx is simple and solid. Players control the chopper with the circle pad, using the shoulder buttons to switch the direction it's facing. Shooting is as simple as pressing a button. The main objective of most stages is to rescue a set number of hostages, which is done by landing the chopper and waiting for the hostages — which are represented by tiny characters in white shirts — to climb aboard. The challenge arises when there are incoming enemies — such as tanks, submarines, and on-foot shooters — who are determined to take you down while you're attempting to rescue the hostages. Curiously, while it's possible to accidentally kill hostages with friendly fire, the enemies will never take anybody out. This would have added some suspense to the proceedings, whereas killing a hostage accidentally just results in having to redo the level. When the chopper takes it damage, it gradually becomes harder to control, and the slowly depleting fuel gauge is only refuelled when you land at the base to let hostages out.
Each stage is scored upon completion, granting the player 1, 2 or 3 stars based on time, enemies killed and buildings destroyed. Stars unlock upgrades — such as faster gunfire, more health, mercenaries and other weapons — that you can buy with money gained from completing levels. The upgrade system is helpful in theory, but most of the enhancements aren't made available until very late in the game, and some — like the mercenaries — feel quite pointless.
Strike Force Foxx's in-game visuals are simple and recall the Steel Diver series. They are serviceable, but we noticed some significant slowdown when the screen became crowded. The 3D effect isn't too deep, but with all the scrolling and chaos, it's hard to find the "sweet spot." The boring music, meanwhile, is nothing compared to the two or three responses from the hostages when they're rescued. "Thank you!" says a cutesy female voice. "Thanks for the ride!" says the jovial male voice. At no point do any hostages sound scared, panicked or aware that they're in any danger. Maybe this was a stylistic choice, but it doesn't work.
Strike Force Foxx is a fun, simple arcade experience that is unfortunately bogged down by its lacking production values and curious game design choices. While there are plenty of exciting action games on the eShop to choose from, Choplifter fans will no doubt have fun with this neat if unspectacular little throwback. Just turn off the sound beforehand.