What a strange and attractive game, with an odd little title, from a weirdly named studio, with a great soundtrack. It all started off so well….
“I hear thunder pitter-patter, time to wake up”
From French developers The Game Bakers—not a fan of that name—Furi is a rare breed of a fighter, where the player takes on a series of bosses in a unique mixture of bullet hell shooter, hack and slash, and a few QTE moments for good measure. The player takes control of a mysterious prisoner who has broken free, with the help of an odd little man in a bunny helmet who speaks in nonsense and will lead the protagonist through this alien labyrinth. He’ll say the important part multiple times though.
“The jailer is the key, kill him and you’ll be free.”
There are things this game nailed. I was pulled in by the trailer and the thought that someone might have looked at games like Shadow of the Colossus or No More Heroes—though, let’s not muddy those names—and made their own version, but it was the art style and setting that grabbed me. These are some bold colors, designed to make the world stand out and feel unlike anything we’ve seen, with floating platforms, bright energy lines, and a sky that seems unnatural. It makes me want to re-watch Reboot, or dive back into some anime, but certain elements made me think of Afro Samurai, a show I hadn’t given much thought to in a long time. It turns out there was a reason for that, seeing as Takashi Okazaki, who did the art and much more for that show, had a hand in the design of this game as well, giving it the right look. There are some shaky moments with the camera, weird lines that seem out of place, but those things are easy to miss when everything else is so stunning.
The sound is excellent here, bringing the atmosphere together nicely. It sets the mood with its eerie and otherworldly tones, creating a mood for the story parts and doing its job perfectly when the fighting starts. It has a flow to the mood and comes across as quite fresh and original, something that was made to thread perfectly with the game and not forced or simply easy to ignore. I’m digging it, and wouldn’t mind listening again outside of the game. The dialogue can be a bit bad, or too much at times, but the voice acting is damn good and embraces the crazy world.
After the initial story bit, the first boss fight is a tutorial, an easy encounter that takes the player through all the steps while furthering the narrative and doing a little bit for the main character’s motivations, since he isn’t saying much. The shift between combat modes as well as figuring out how to properly use attacks can be confusing, so I suggest when the first fight is done that the next thing to do is hit ‘pause’ and check the nice little “How to Play” section, which does a much better job than the tutorial on breaking down the different maneuvers and showing how and when they are useful. The most important part though is mastering the dodge and parry mechanics, because without them the rest of the game will be quite difficult.
It starts off easy in the beginning, but learning it truly and achieving victory without multiple attempts is what is tough. All the pieces are easy, but putting them together in a form requires skill, and Furi will test reflexes and decision making, because choosing to perform the correct move at the right time is key. These are very Japanese inspired mechanics, fast paced and forcing the player to act and not rely on defense alone. Each of the bosses feel different and all have multiple phases that need to be handled in different ways, which is one of the problems. The fights are honestly too long in my opinion, causing repetitive dialogue, actions, and a lot of headache when one slip up costs the fight or one of the few attack opportunities is missed.
Sometimes attacks feel cheap or damage seems inconsistent, but I can’t blame anything on the controls, which are overall tight and responsive. I did enjoy getting better, feeling the progress as I got further each time with a new boss, learning their strats like a puzzle game, and eventually beating a boss did make me feel like a demigod, but dread my next opponent. The mechanics are important to a game like this, and when they are cyclical and wearisome, it can kill the replay value.
The walking sections between each encounter were quite boring and a bit awkward with lumbering controls. Jarring camera angles and the inputs not changing with them caused some annoyance, but the player can simply press X and the character will walk there automatically. Why though, then it’s just a cutscene. I was close to getting into the story, wanting to know more, but multiple points of frustrations killed this for me, and I think some will be disappointed when they realize this is all there is.
I ended up finding the game intriguing, but a bit more irritating the further I got in. I love the ideas, it’s imaginative and doing something different, but I will probably give the soundtrack more attention than I do the actual game. The good news is for PS4 owners they can try it out for free July 5th on the PSN, but it is also available on Steam for $24.99, which is a little too much in my opinion. I think there are people that will like this more though, either embracing the challenge or wanting to see the story through to the end, and hopefully not throwing the controller.