An arena based boss rush flowing with style, with the substance to match.
Developed by: The Game Bakers
Published by: The Game Bakers
Available Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4
Boss battles typically act as a final exam, designed to test a players understanding of mechanics taught to players along a gradual difficulty curve. The Game Bakers’ Furi does away with that convention, throwing players into a deep end filled with challenging multi-staged boss fights. Set in a prison of otherworldly arenas, players are commanded to overcome a roster of “jailers”, who seek to throw your “Stranger” back in chains. Combat involves a healthy mixture of hack ‘n slash melee and twin stick shooting, with a dash of bullet hell.
The game highly recommends a game-pad or similar controller. As Furi requires precise 360 movement and twin stick shooting, entering into bullet hell territory at times, a game-pad was definitely my preferred method of control (although game-pad controls do not offer re-binding). Melee attacking involves button mashing for a 4-hit combo, whilst ranged attacking operates with a twin stick fashion, aimed and fired with the right analogue stick. Defence is vital to your survival, requiring precise parrying to regain health or even open the boss for special counters and in some cases a dash is required to avoid damage.
The game often offers more advanced versions of your dash and attacks, each capable of charging by holding the corresponding button or a separate button in the case of ranged attacks. A charged dash allows for longer movement, a charged shot can cause more damage or even have a knock-down effect whilst a charged melee attack can provide an opening for an attack.
The game’s style flows in droves, both visually and in the audio department. The visual design never gets old, each environment wildly differs from the next. You can find yourself walking across tranquil floating islands one moment only to trudge through a grungy underground waste the next. Each stage has its own hidden narrative and depth, providing a unique theme for both bosses and worlds to intrigue players with.
The visuals aren’t the only dazzling aspect of Furi, the retrowave soundtrack playing throughout is fantastic. With easy listening during low tension moments, to hard hitting beats driving the boss fights. The soundtrack is top notch work from powerhouse artists of the genre such as Carpenter Brut, Scattle and numerous others.
Character design comes courtesy of Takashi Okazaki, previously known for illustrating the Afro Samurai Manga. Artistic style is clearly high priority in Furi‘s presentation, with a plethora of colourful neon. Character designs clearly showing influence from Okazki’s previous work, becoming a memorable highlight of Furi. Boss designs, like environments, differ so much from each other, they’re almost in contrast whilst still maintaining a overall coherent aesthetic.
Speaking of bosses, they’re good, damn good thankfully, considering encounters with them make the bulk of the game. Each boss presents the player with a series of unique challenges, focusing on certain mechanics to throw the players off. Some bosses limit the players ability to engage at close ranges, forcing a reliance on ranged combat. Others, at times, may punish an over-reliance on long range tactics.
Battles are long endurance tests, divided into multiple stages, each a struggle to whittle your opponents health down before whilst avoiding being downed yourself, which not only losses you a life but also resets the boss’ current stage. This creates constant tension that at some time may become frustrating or even disheartening as you come within millimetres of beating a stage, only to miss a precise parry, or be clipped by a stray bullet, forcing you to begin the stage all over, Furi demand rigorous focus from players.
Furi seems to be obsessed with multiple stages, never missing a chance to indulge in them. This is particularly notable as some stages of a fight are themselves multi-staged. While most stages of a fight allow for movement of an entire arena, at times, after defeating one of these ½ stages, you are forced to engage in a close quarters struggle with mobility limited to a tiny circle until either you or your opponent succumb.
My main issues from Furi come in the form of sudden, unprecedented difficulty spikes, often appearing in the last stages of a fight, as an enemy unleashes their ultimate attacks, often in the form of a bullet hell endurance test while the enemy remains invincible. It can be downright soul-crushing to struggle through a 20+ minute multi-stage duel only to be obliterated by sudden bullet hell with a monumental difficulty spike, getting a game over and having to start the entire fight from the beginning. Moments like these feel like a cheap way to prolong the already grueling fights.
The stages in Furi are punctuated by treks through the various environments. It is here that the plot comes forth, revealed to the player through your travelling companion while you traverse to the next jailer. While these sections should require minimal skill to progress, camera angles designed to impress visually can make traversal awkward, making simple movement frustrating. It seems The Game Bakers themselves place little value on the interactivity during these sections, offering the player to op out and let the Stranger walk himself to the next area. For a game that involves such tight player input, this becomes quite jarring as the camera sabotages what would otherwise be simple walking.
The game is relatively short with some replay value. Once beaten on the Recommended “Furi” difficulty, an extra difficulty is unlocked to provide an extreme challenge. I went from breezing through on my second playthrough on “Furi” difficulty to being daunted by early fights on “Furi-er” difficulty. A speedrunning mode also unlocks, where players can race through a pure boss rush for the best time ranking on a worldwide leader board, for those interested. Not a huge amount of replay value since each boss only retains that initial impact on the initial playthrough.
Furi‘s journey through a multitude of unique worlds is short, fast and hard-hitting. Its hack ‘n slash melee and twin stick shooter combat demands rigorous skill from the players as they battle an exotic roster of bosses. Both sides of its combat are tight and responsive, rewarding precision and patience, until a almost impassable labyrinth of bullets erases your hard earned progress. While it doesn’t overstay its welcome, its limited replay value offers players little after an initial completion. The artistic style on show coupled with its fantastic soundtrack make Furi an dazzling experience with the gameplay to match.