Fork Parker's Holiday Profit Hike

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Dodge Roll for PC and Mac, originally released in 2014.
Fork Parker's Holiday Profit Hike was released for free during the 2014 holiday season by publisher Devolver Digital. The game stars Fork Parker, the possibly-not-a-real-person CFO of Devolver Digital, who is known for his white hair and mustache, a general love for making money and selling indie games, and his oddball persona.

As the story goes, revenue is down at Devolver Digital, and the company needs to turn a profit in the all-important fourth quarter. Standing at the front of the board room, Fork Parker sips a martini and declares “I’m on it!” As the scene transitions, we see Fork Parker standing in the open doors of a helicopter, martini still in hand, and he jumps into the snowy tundra below.

While the title and starring character might make this seem like a cash-in – a fact that is negated by its asking price – the game is more than a throwaway distraction, offering some interesting and occasionally complex mechanics. It is a short, concentrated experience that may be completed in a single sitting, although the player is free to quit and return at a later time from the most recently reached checkpoint.

Fork’s goal is to collect as much money as possible by ascending a snowy mountain (and no, none of this is explained). Floating in the air are various denominations of currency, with stacks of cash worth $5,000, money bags worth $25,000, and tough-to-reach golden eggs worth $100,000. Fork’s foes come in the form of hovering spiked ice blocks, snowball tossing snowmen with sunglasses, ice-climbing yetis who also toss snowballs, chubby penguins, and flying Christmas sweaters with reindeer patterns.

Fork has a variable 2x jump, and he is able to walk, run, wall slide, wall jump, and grab ledges to pull himself up. But his most important skill is the ability to toss pitons across the screen, connecting them together with ropes from which he can hang using his cane. Using precisely projected pitons, Parker can hop across gaps, grab out-of-the-way cash, and slide down the ropes like a zip line.

The game’s environments are entirely vertical, and there is a great deal of strategy to using pitons and rope connections properly. Pitons can be tossed to the left or right, but they are affected by gravity and fall slowly downward. By pressing the RUN button, the player can toss pitons much faster, allowing them to be tossed in almost a straight line.

When the first piton makes contact with a solid vertical surface, it imbeds itself. When a second piton connects with a wall, a rope appears between the two. Pitons that are placed directly across from one another will form a connection in a straight line, whereas uneven placement will result in a slope.

When Fork jumps onto a rope, he automatically grabs onto it with his cane, and players may manually disconnect by pressing DOWN. It is not possible to speed up or slow down Fork’s movement on the rope, so players must be sure to hit the rope with the proper horizontal momentum in order to properly propel themselves. If Fork starts to slow down, the player may jump away from the rope and reconnect, preserving any forward momentum, but later areas have spiked overhangs that prevent this sort of maneuver.

Snow blocks prevent pitons from sticking, so there are certain areas where the player is limited in his piton placement, potentially resulting in ropes that may only be created at angles. Players must be particularly cautious in these situations, as Fork will slide down angled ropes, moving more quickly across sharper angles. Players may still jump away from the rope, potentially jumping slowly up a shallow slope, but steeper slopes make this more difficult to achieve. In addition, many areas have icicle spikes that will kill Fork if he slides into them.

A large part of the strategy comes in understanding how rope connections will be made. By firing a piton to the right and to the left, a straight rope will be created. The player may then jump up onto the rope and jump again to fire a piton to the right or left. Since ropes will automatically connect to the last piton fired, choosing the correct direction will determine whether a short vertical rope connection is made, or a long connection at an angle.

When moving up narrow shafts or dodging enemies, the player will often need to act quickly, and getting used to a LEFT-RIGHT-RIGHT-LEFT scheme is important, lest the player send Fork sliding into danger. In addition, only three ropes may be in play at a time, so rapid-firing pitons will cause previous rope connections to disappear, potentially causing Fork to fall to his death… or at least causing him to lose progress as he falls down to a lower platform (snow blocks prevent him from falling all the way back down). Players may also manually erase ropes with a button press if their presence is preventing progress.

Checkpoints appear with some regularity, taking the form of base camp tents. The player is free to make infinite attempts at ascent, but each death results in a loss of $5,000, which is explained as covering Fork Parker’s ensuing medical expenses. The HUD shows how much money the player has accumulated, along with his number of deaths, highest point reached, and total time taken.

Fork is unable to destroy patrolling enemies, and he is killed instantly when he touches any creature from the side or below. However, a number of critters may actually be put to use for environmental navigation, as patrolling penguins act as trampolines when hit from above, as do the flying Christmas sweaters, stunning them temporarily in the process. This occasionally leads to some tougher platforming challenges as the player needs to make multiple successive bounces to get through an area without falling onto the ice spikes below.

Snowmen and yetis toss bouncing snowballs that must generally be avoided, but occasionally the player must make a well-timed bounce on one of these snowballs in order to propel himself upward. Snowmen are stationary, only tossing snowballs to the left or right (depending on your position relative to them), but yetis can climb up and down vertical surfaces, thus changing the trajectory of their projectiles.

Fork Parker's Holiday Profit Hike was created by Dodge Roll, developed concurrently with their larger project, Enter the Gungeon.
The game was published by Devolver Digital, which has published a number of 2D indie titles, including Serious Sam: Double D XXL, Serious Sam: The Random Encounter, Foul Play, Hotline Miami, Luftrausers, Broforce, Titan Souls, Not a Hero, Ronin, Downwell, Enter the Gungeon, and Mother Russia Bleeds.