- Street Date:
- July 5th, 2016
- Reviewed by:
- Sophia Edwards
- Review Date:1
- July 2nd, 2016
- Game Release Year:
- The Game Bakers
- The Game Bakers
- ESRB Rating:
- M (Mature)
Digital PC version review.
The Game Bakers deliver their first major console and PC release with 'Furi' an action game consisting entirely of bossfights with an electro soundtrack corurtesy of a variety of talented artists such as Carpenter Brut, Lorn, and Danger. Featuring character designs from Takashi Okazaki, the creator of 'Afro Samurai'
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
'Furi' is an amazing showcase for how bad first impressions can be. It's been a year full of games I've loved that I never expected much of anything from (As 'Doom' and 'Hitman' will attest), that said, I don’t think my expectations have been so thoroughly demolished in years. Everything about 'Furi' sounded off-putting to me when it was first announced. It proudly boasted its influence from Japanese games, which, as much as I love Japanese games, almost always just leads to games that desperately wish they were anime. It had character designs from the creator of 'Afro Samurai,' a franchise I've never even vaguely enjoyed. Those and other little details led me to suspect that this would come out and be swiftly forgotten, much like 'Afro Samurai 2' before it. But what we have instead is possibly the greatest action game since 'Metal Gear Rising,' and almost certainly one of the best releases this year.
'Furi' tells its story fairly obtusely. The offers players the role of a nameless prisoner who breaks out of his constraints and works to escape, fighting everyone that would stand in the way of his freedom. Between fights, a mysterious man wearing a giant rabbit head talks to the player, filling them in on details about yourself, the world, and the people you’ll fight. While it isn't the most complex story around, it does a great job of setting the stage before every single fight, and it is presented in a way that reminds me of games from Grasshopper Manufacture at their absolute best. It’s a surprisingly creative game that does a lot with very little, and is both well-written and acted.
But the story, as nicely presented as it is, isn’t the draw here. 'Furi' is a hybrid of character action games and twin stick shooters, reminiscent of this year's indie hit 'Hyper Light Drifter,' but with far more finesse in its design. All you can do is attack, dodge, shoot, and parry. Attacks and shots can be charged to deal greater damage, but that's about as complex as the basic principles get, it's the way they’re executed that sets 'Furi' apart so masterfully. The game consists entirely of bossfights, duels with various jailers and others that stand in the character's way. Each boss will have several health bars, which each one dictating a new phase of the fight. At the start of each phase, the opponent will have a shield that needs to be whittled down using a mix of ranged and melee combat. Once the shield has been removed, you’ll move in for a close range melee-only fight. The basic setup of this is simple, but each boss feels so entirely unique, and each phase of each fight builds upon what came before it so nicely, it leads to some of the most intense combat I've ever experienced. For example, there's the first boss. He'll occasionally fire bullets that I quickly learned to either dodge or shoot to deal with them, through that, I learned that some of his bullets become health pickups when they have been shot down, and the fight will then demand either swift dodges, or working to shoot enemy projectiles to get as much health back as possible. Eventually, he'll go on the offensive with melee strikes that need to be parried. Successful parries restore a tiny bit of health, while parries that are perfectly timed stun the boss, so while attacks can often just be dodged, it becomes worthwhile to take a risk with parrying to keep the main character healthy.
As the fight progresses, the boss might mix up these styles, making his attacks faster, or more frequent. A phase might entirely become a bullet hell shooter, where all I could really do was cut a path through his projectiles. It's gameplay that sounds so simple, but the combat is handled with such elegance that the only way to really get a handle on it is to play it for yourself. Later fights change things so heavily, and in ways I don't want to spoil, that I had to relearn the basic principles of how I approached combat, and it's always exhilarating. It's impossible to get through the fights using only brute force, instead, the game asks players to approach things methodically, turning fights into fast-paced reflex heavy puzzles at times. There's no form of upgrade system either, so the game relies entirely on skill, and while the moveset definitely isn't as open as in most character action games, the combat thrives on how the available toolset is used situationally, and it works wonderfully. Had 'Furi' contained ordinary levels where grunt enemies pop up, it could've dragged, but by focusing solely on extremely intricate boss battles, it thrives. Crucially, it never feels unfair, giving players three health bars before a fight is lost, and if a phase is successfully cleared, the game gives one lost health bar back. If the player loses a health bar, the boss will restart the phase they’re currently on, and refill their current life bar. It's tough, and I was stuck on a single fight for close to an hour, but since every single death felt like it was my fault, I was never angry at the game. Instead, I saw every failure as a learning opportunity, leading to each victory feeling immensely satisfying, and making each long walk between fights, with plenty of time to just soak in the scenery and the music, that much more worthwhile.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
While the visuals aren’t anything mindblowing on a technical level, the art direction is terrific, bringing to mind games such as 'El Shaddai' and creating some truly fantastic settings. Takashi Okazaki’s character designs are surprisingly strong, too, and while there are some lowlights (the rabbit man is the weakest design in the bunch), there are also some fantastically creative designs here, helping each boss feel totally unique.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Absolutely phenomenal. Sound is a crucial part of the game, largely in the audio cues used to dictate when to parry an attack. It’s carried in part by some great voicework, with options for English, French, and Japanese audio, but the real highlight lies in the music. The score is handled by a variety of electro artists who deliver my favorite soundtrack in quite some time. For fans of artists like Justice or Daft Punk, this is a mindblowing soundtrack, with every single track altering based on the phase of the fight, slowly escalating and ratcheting up the tension of every given scenario. In a lovely touch, pausing the game tells you exactly who worked on each stage, giving a spotlight to composers who far too often go ignored in gaming.
While a single playthrough is immensely satisfying, in the tradition of Platinum’s best work, the game gets even better on replays. Concept art is unlocked based on rankings earned in each fight, and contains some surprisingly interesting design notes. Outside of that, there's an additional difficulty that is both extremely difficult and incredible to surmount, and a speedrunning mode where players compete based on time and number of hits. It's entirely for action game diehards, but it can be incredibly fun to check out.
From a studio I’d never heard of and who, in turn, I expected nothing special from, 'Furi' makes me feel like a fool for ever judging it so harshly. Very possibly the best action game of this generation thus far, this is a rare example of every facet of a game's design working perfectly to create an amazing whole. This is an outstanding effort from a studio I’m going to follow wholeheartedly from here on out.
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