Furi (PS4, PC)
Developer: The Game Bakers
Release: July 5, 2016
Price: $25 (Free for July on PS Plus)
Score: 8 out of 10
Fast and frenetic, Furi is just as its name implies: a supercharged thrill-ride that doles out hardcore action with spectacular views aplenty. It’s an indie title that produces the type of visual spectacle that makes every other game released this year look… bland. It has style and substance, and though it’s not perfect, it’s one of the most assured games I’ve played all year.
The entire experience is admirably lean. You’ve got a series of boss battles of increasing difficulty – and that’s it. There’s no filler here. It takes the fast-paced action of PlatinumGames’ Vanquish and layers on the difficulty of Dark Souls. Speed and dexterity are essential. There’s no messing around.
The game begins as you awaken in a prison and are sprung from captivity by a strange figure in a bunny costume. Who is your new ally? And where are you? The bunny sets you a task: defeat the guardians of the planet to reach the Jailer. These nine battles make up the entirety of the game and ask that you learn the controls and then master them. There are only a few to remember. A melee attack, a parry, a dodge and a gun that you can fire. The tricky part is getting them right in battle.
Boss fights are gruelling – and I mean gruelling. Each baddie has a health bar you need to exhaust. To remove one life, you attack in two stages: first from afar — using your gun in concert with your sword — then up close. Here, the camera snaps in close as you take part in brutal, blink-and-you-miss-it dance where one mistake can cost you. Succeed, and you get to repeat the process.
It’s exhausting stuff and even Dark Souls veterans will be surprised by the steep learning curve. The game is at times guilty of forcing you to land the perfect combination of strikes rather than letting you make mistakes and improve. It’s easy to lose two or three hours to a single encounter as you try to nail the perfect sequence, but even after you die, load times are mercifully brief. There’s always the inexorable urge to go back. For. One. More. Try.
An easy mode called Promenade lets you take an express train to the finish line. Here, fights are truncated affairs, with fewer phases and greatly reduced difficulty. Encounters are over in minutes, not hours and it goes too far the other way, robbing Furi of its X-factor. Cleverly though, you can quit to the main menu right after a victory and take on the boss again, this time on the proper difficulty in a practice arena. Defeat him here and you earn the trophies and unlockables you otherwise miss out on, as well as the sense of achievement that’s so crucial to the Furi experience. In the end, Promenade lets you see the story and atone for being a weakling.
Each setpiece fight is punctuated by dreamy exposition that ends up being one of the highlights of the entire experience. The bunny is front and centre here, doling out cryptic phrases and hinting at what’s to come as he pulls you further down the rabbit hole. These moments of walking and talking are a chance to draw breath but also a chance for the developers to show off. The scenery is stunning and there’s a real sense of discovery. In every new area, I found myself taking a photo just to capture its majesty.
I love the music too, which is a blend of high-tempo techno that feels right at home in this madcap world. There’s a theme song for every boss and the artist name and track are displayed in the pause menu, allowing you to track down the music once you’re done with the game. It’s little touches like this that elevate Furi above its peers.
Faults? If I’m being pedantic, the normal game is too punishing while Promenade mode is too easy. Furi would benefit from a third difficulty that straddles the two.
But perhaps that’s missing the point – because the Furi experience is all about its stiffening challenging.
At $25, it’s an attractive proposition to be sure, and if you’re a PS Plus member it’s one of the free games offered to members this month. That’s a no-brainer then. Download it now.
But is it worth the asking price for PC players and non-subscribers? To my mind, absolutely. (In fact, it might be worth subscribing to PS Plus for 3 months and downloading Furi free).
While the balance isn’t always right, it’s worth the ride for the views alone. Furi is dazzling, maddening and just the right amount of fun.