Review: Furi

The pessimist in me believes that The Game Bakers named its newest title Furi as a reference to the rage you’re likely to feel throughout the course of its campaign. It’s a maddening, anger-inducing action title that plays on some of the most frustrating elements of boss design one could come up with. With that said, it’s also surprisingly addictive and deeply satisfying, despite its potential for causing players to hurl their controllers around the room. Furi isn’t necessarily the best boss-rush title to come out in the last couple of years (Titan Souls still holds that crown), but players looking for a game largely unlike anything else in 2016 could do a lot worse. It’s absolutely not for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that Furi doesn’t have a lot going for it once you are able to look past some of its noticable warts.

Furi feels like the love child of Punch-Out!!, classic PlatinumGames work and the flavor of weirdness that can only come from the indie development scene. Players take the role of the Stranger, a silent, sword-wielding man of mystery whose sole goal is to escape a bizarre prison realm he’s been trapped inside. What’s worse is that he’s caught in a constant cycle of being killed and reborn at the hands of a downright creepy three-masked prison guard. After a mysterious man in a bunny mask gives him the opportunity to escape, the Stranger has to defeat his captor and then defeat a number of bosses one after another to earn salvation. It’s an interesting story that lends itself to its boss-rush gameplay, that much is certain, but it falls a bit flat in terms of execution. Granted, players are going to flock to Furi for its gameplay (as well as the fact that it’s free on PlayStation Plus this month), so the fact that its story is nonsensical isn’t an absolute death nail. Still, the idea that its narrative doesn’t quite match up to its incredibly stylish aesthetic is a bit of a bummer.

After you defeat each of Furi‘s bosses, you’re treated to a playable cutscene where your masked companion gives you a bit of exposition on where you’ve been, what you’re doing and who your next opponent will be. Aside from the fact that these scenes lend a bit of development to a protagonist that doesn’t utter a word throughout the campaign, they also present insight into the bizarre prison realm you’re tasked with breaking out of. Now this all sounds good in theory, but a combination of some awkward control issues and largely nonsensical dialogue lessen any impact that these cutscenes end up having. In any other game with static backgrounds and scene transitions, players have to shift the left joystick to re-position themselves towards their destination. In a bizarre design choice, Furi maintains character direction whenever the scene transitions, causing awkward moments where the Stranger is, say, moving forward despite the analog stick facing to the right. The result is a battle between Furi‘s design and the instincts that decades of video games have drilled into your mind. Combine these messy controls with clumsy dialogue and a narrative loaded with plot holes, and Furi‘s story elements miss the mark. It’s worth noting that by pushing the A or Cross button, you’ll be able to fully automate the Stranger’s movement, turning these into watchable cutscenes as opposed to interactive ones. Still, this mechanic begs the question: why give players the option to control these scenes at all if the cleaner option is to remove control entirely?

The good news for anyone diving into Furi is that the core of its actual gameplay is far tighter and more engaging than its interactive cutscenes. The Stranger has a fairly basic arsenal of tools, but the combination of them and the decisive choices that players have to make in the heat of battle are the real draws here. Players have four basic techniques at their disposal: shooting, sword attacks, dashing and parrying. While each of Furi‘s bosses has a different set of tricks up his or her sleeve, the basic structure of each battle is basically the same. The goal is to take away each of the bosses lives by whittling away his or her health bar, with blue health bar sequences playing out like traditional bullet-hell battles and red health bar sequences taking place in an up close and personal one-on-one melee duel. By using the right analog stick, the Stranger can freely shoot laser projectiles, which knock off boss health little by little during vulnerable moments. This defensive technique is fantastic for doing damage while avoiding attacks and destroying enemy projectiles, but will basically prevent you from regaining any health back over the course of battles (the one exception to this is the occasional green health pick-up). Furi‘s coolest mechanic, and by far its most finicky, is the parry, which allows players to regain a small amount of health back when performed successfully. Combining this with well timed sword combos and strategic dashing, and you’ll make your way through each fight, though that’s easier said than done.

If you’re hoping to play Furi without memorizing patterns, then you’re going to be in for a rough time. It’s basically impossible to play through the course of any given boss fight without exhausing all of your lives, but every attempt is going to give you a better grasp of what you’re going to need to do to win. The one exception to this is the parry system, which occasionally doesn’t seem to function as well as it should. Whenever a move can be parried, the enemy’s melee weapon will emit a white flash. While this seems like a fairly standard telegraphing system, frustration can set in rather quickly, as certain attacks require a button press right when the flash appears, while others will require careful studying of the attack animation itself. On the surface, this provides a fair amount of moment-to-moment gameplay variation, but in reality, it feels as though The Game Bakers are deliberately trying to throw off your rhythm and understanding of Furi‘s basic mechanics. Furi‘s immense difficulty is perhaps its greatest asset, as beating a boss after countless failed attempts provides immense satisfaction, but the confusing nature of its combat rhythm makes for some genuinely rage-inducing moments. Nothing feels more satisfying than feeling one with your controller during the course of a boss battle, so to break that rhythm for the sake of trickery feels decidedly anti-fun. Granted, once you understand an opponent’s attack patters and tricks, beating them is a mere matter of execution, but the path to get there is often maddening.

It’s a shame that Furi‘s actual combat is flush with inconsistencies, as its style and boss design cannot be denied. Despite the fact that there are quite a few muddy textures and bizarre visual hiccups during its cutscenes, the actual boss battles themselves are downright awesome. Despite the fact that the sheer amount of reptition over the course of each multi-stage dual causes an initial playthrough to slightly overstay its welcome, there is a fair amount of variation to the actual enemies themselves. Nowhere does this variation shine brighter than in stages that take place outside of a traditional circular arena, as platforming mid-combat and parrying an invisible enemy are just two examples of moments that breathe new life into the six-to-eight hour campaign.

Closing Comments:

If Furi had another month or two in the oven to tighten up its parry system and clean up some of the issues with its interactive cutscenes, then it could be a shining entry in a year loaded with lovable indie darlings. Furi isn’t a bad game by any means, but it has a few too many noticeable flaws to warrant a wholehearted recommendation. With that said, the fact that it’s launching on PlayStation Plus is going to give gamers seeking difficult games a chance to test their mettle in a title that has bona fide moments of satisfaction and a high skill ceiling. Furi is going to find its audience, that much is certain, but the real shame here is that with a couple of tweaks, that audience could have wound up being far larger than what it likely will be. Still, boss-rush games seem to be few and far between nowadays, so if you’re looking to get your Punch-Out!! on in a whole new way, you could do far worse.

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