The Jailer is the key
I was an hour into my first playthrough of Furi. With only a sliver of health remaining, I circled my foe patiently. Any attack could be countered for a killing blow. I had to be careful with each move. As I kept my distance, the enemy attempted to hit me with their gun, and each time I had to dash around precisely so as to not find myself within range of their melee attack. Finally, the boss lost patience.
He closed in and attempted to tear me apart. I deftly parried each attack, gaining back a bit of health each time. With a bit of reassurance in my vitality, I pushed back and made him eat my sword. He tried to counter, but my perfect parry allowed me to deal a massive final blow. From the ground, he taunted me some more. The health bars were reset. We both prepared for round two.
Game Name: Furi
Platform(s): PC, PS4 (Reviewed)
Publisher(s): The Game Bakers
Developer(s): The Game Bakers
Release Date: 07/05/2016
Price: $24.99 (USD)
It’s moments like these that make Furi truly shine. The game’s intense one-on-one melee combat is some of the best action I’ve experienced in a video game. It’s tight, responsive, and highly satisfying. What’s more, the design of the enemies you will be fighting and the build-up to them is well done and makes victory all the sweeter. The game does suffer from some story issues, and the shooter-centric fights aren’t as satisfying. However, in the end I found Furi to be a unique and thrilling experience.
Furi begins with the protagonist, referred to by his jailers as “Stranger”, shackled and tortured in a strange prison in the upper atmosphere of an unnamed world. We aren’t told why he’s here, but a strange man wearing a giant rabbit head mask shows up and tells him that killing the jailers, called “Guardians”, is the key to breaking out. Having been unchained, the Stranger is keen to take on his torturer, and from there continues on a bloody path to freedom.
Rather than just having cutscenes between each of these fights, players will guide the Stranger across the beautifully weird terrain of this prison on his way to the next fight (or just hit X to auto-guide him). He slowly and silently walks while the rabbit-man talks in vague terms about their situation and the Guardians that lie ahead. He gives some really cool introductions to your enemies but is pretty inefficient at explaining what is actually going on. However, dialogue from the bosses themselves give hints at who the Stranger actually is, and the payoff at the very end (it’s a good idea to sit through the credits) not only makes sense but sheds a whole new light on the entire game. That being said, giving all that exposition right at the end is a strange pacing decision.
Regardless, the fights are what keep you engaged, and The Game Bakers have designed some really memorable encounters. Furi gives you a gun, a sword, a dash and a block function and throws you into the fights with no hand-holding. While there are certainly visual cues, the player is left to find the patterns in enemy patterns on their own. Even better, there is almost never a single solution to the “puzzle”. I was able to evade ranged attacks while sending back a salvo of my own just as easily as closing in and denying my foe the opportunity to shoot me. Each boss has a number of stages/rounds in which they will change their attacks, or just throw everything they have out at once. This structure does a good job of letting players learn the patterns before laying them down on top of each other.
The controls are generally very responsive, and like I’ve said, are extremely satisfying. Unfortunately, the shooting can feel a bit uncomfortable given the speed of what is happening. Furi uses a twin-stick shooter model, so it can be difficult to switch between shooting and precisely dodging in tight spaces when the screen is packed with fast-moving neon lights so densely that I lose track of my character.
That leads to a more general problem I had with shooting sections, which rely on overwhelming the player with unmanageable amounts of projectiles and force waves. I sometimes felt more lucky than skilled when finally beating these sections. This is compounded by the fact that losing all three of your lives sends you back to the first round, forcing the player to retread each round just to get back to that section of the fight. Therefore, I found the “bullet-hell” fights border-line frustrating. When compared to the perfectly done melee duels, dodging overwhelming waves of neon was not as enjoyable.
The world the Stranger fights through, however, uses the neon in a much more constructive manner. Furi brings cell shading, great design, and an awesome electronic soundtrack together to pull the player in with style. Close up views of assets will reveal some textures clashing in awkward ways, and there is a bit of aliasing and screen tearing here and there, but the big picture is striking nevertheless. Takashi Okazaki, of Afro Samurai fame, did the character design and it shows. I can remember each battle in order by the face of my enemy, which is a feat that shouldn’t be underestimated. Furi’s cast also delivers a lot of diversity in terms of personality, which is well represented in each character’s visual design.
As for the soundtrack, Furi is a contender already for this year’s awards. The lineup behind this effort includes artists such as Carpenter Brut and Danger, and the electro beats perfectly match the tones of each respective fight. There are also great tracks to accompany your journey between battles, and I found them just as memorable at times as some of Jesper Kyd’s greatest tracks.
*Copy of Furi was provided by the developer for review
Furi is a game for fans of wicked-fast action and cruel difficulty. Jarringly chaotic shooting sections can feel punishingly arbitrary compared to the precise and focused melee combat, and having to replay entire twenty-minute segments can get frustrating, but at the end, I cannot deny that I felt a satisfying sense of accomplishment. Add to that a visual and audio flair all its own and you have a title more than worth revisiting, if only for the satisfaction of throwing your opponent to the ground after a perfectly-timed parry.
- Melee action is fast and visceral
- Memorable characters and environments
- Soundtrack is stellar
- Shooting can feel a little unbalanced
- The need to replay entire fights can start to feel a little gratuitous