Tux and Fanny’s Life-Affirming Regular Day

virtuelle-belle
4 min readJul 14, 2023

Tux and Fanny is a game about inflating a soccer ball so two friends can play with it.

It’s also a game about fantastical creatures and the beautiful opportunity we have to appreciate life and the natural world.

Image from https://www.nintendo.com/store/products/tux-and-fanny-switch/

The two best friends live together, and the yard is their playground and field for research. They find insects, birds, flowers, and clouds, all of which they lovingly render in watercolor back at home. Often their view of the natural world is tinged with an awareness of mortality, though never in a depressing way. Some of the insects they paint are dead, which is stated plainly in their description with a little modifier of (dead) next to the name of the insect.

Much of what they find and comment on ties back to this theme of life and death. Snakeskin. Dead trees. Tux curiously asks a maggot whether it has eaten all of a fox’s brain yet, and it responds, “When I’m not eating, I’m screaming.”

Even animals which don’t respond have their own unique sound effect, for they all make up their own unique place in Tux and Fanny’s world. One animal eats another, and Tux and Fanny look upon this cycle without judgment.

Their interaction with the natural world around them is a gentle nudging rather than disturbance. Tux might feed a snail a strawberry so that it moves off of a key he needs.

The game loves playing with its own medium, with Tux and Fanny playing several computer games on floppy disks found scattered throughout their world.

Fantastical and mundane are juxtaposed not for shock value, but rather to draw the two extremes closer together. There is magic in hearing a bird call and spotting it in time. A conversation with an alien or fairy is surprisingly similar to a conversation with your roommate.

Image from https://www.nintendo.com/store/products/tux-and-fanny-switch/

Rather than just living as two people interacting with the natural world, the game features two other playable characters for a total of four. One is a flea and the other an outdoor cat, each with their own motivations and specific fonts and sound effects. This lets you inhabit the natural world on two different levels of the food chain, with either character playing out the dramas of predator and parasite. The opportunity to play as a cat and flea gives the player different perspectives without seeming preachy. I cannot overstate this enough: Tux and Fanny is never preachy. More than anything, this game wants you to explore its environment and its ideas.

The player’s score is recorded as out of 452, and while the player can complete the main story without reaching that score, there is so much to explore beyond the soccer ball arc, and I recommend every player wander beyond to see what other shenanigans Tux and Fanny can get up to.

The game is an inspiration to explore and meander the natural world. So much of it is framed as playful investigation. They may use a magnifying glass to inspect a bug, binoculars to catch a glimpse of a bird, and even gather clues until they learn enough about the outdoor cat to invite her to be in their home.

The mini games keep the game feeling very exciting. There’s a huge number of them both on their computer and in the world as you explore. They include skipping stones, being a helpful cloud (I will elaborate no further), and finding food as ants. There are so many playful ways the game allows you to interact with the natural world in an authentically joyful way, and it makes the experience all the more of an adventure.

Additionally, this game has an incisive wit. The feel of it may remind you of 90s point-and-click adventure games, but the humor feels very of our own time, and occasionally the game breaks form in visuals and gameplay to shock you out of the comfort it’s created. It’s a brilliant design choice, and I was surprised at how much I missed the comfort of the game’s usual style when something changed.

Image from https://www.nintendo.com/store/products/tux-and-fanny-switch/

When the characters meditate or dream, the style can change and reveal more of the game’s surrealist nature that is further beneath the surface during their waking exploration.

I find myself not wanting to give too much away of the game’s magic. It was such a treat to explore Tux and Fanny’s yard. I’ve never played a game that was so clearly loved by everyone who contributed to it.

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