Furi is a melting pot of game genres. It switches between hack n’ slash, twin-stick shoot’em up, bullet hell, and methodical 3D one-on-one fighting with grace and ease, and expects the same confidence of the player if they hope to reach the game’s end. Created by indie studio The Game Bakers, Furi shows the level of polish possible from indie studios when focusing on a few different elements and a single cohesive vision, and the result is a tightly designed jack of all trades that should be judged on the sum of its parts over the individual genres it blends.
Furi starts with the player character (who is referred to as, “The Stranger”) initially locked in a prison, where he is to be tortured for eternity for initially unknown reasons. He is soon freed by a mysterious man in a bunny mask (known as, “The Voice”), who gives you a gun and a sword to fight your way out of the prison. You soon learn there are 10 “prison worlds,” each with it’s own prisoner, that you have to go through before you are able to reach the outside world, and that these prisoners are held here to keep you locked inside. After killing the jailor, the adventure proceeds linearly throughout the world’s, fighting the prisoners within in a series of boss battles as you edge closer and closer to freedom.
The story has a few twists and turns, vaguely narrated by The Voice as he tags along on your adventure, but for the most part is fairly forgettable. Each prison world has a section prior to the fight where the player is slowly walking to the battle and The Voice fills the player in on some information on either the world they are in, or the boss ahead. The delivery of the former’s dialogue helps make up for the writing, which is serviceable at best and chinese fortune cookie nonsense at some of it’s lows. It attempts to meditate on different themes, like the nature of violence or of being a prisoner, but doesn’t really do anything with the themes presented. None of the individual conversations build to anything cohesive other than the surface level story, making the emotionally charged delivery of The Voice comes off less like a sagely figure to revere and more like a college freshman writing a paper on a philosophy class he hasn’t attended in weeks.
When they aren’t trying to be deep, however, the writing can be good – the quick origins The Voice gives the player on each prisoner prior to the fight is as genuinely intriguing as the prisoners themselves, and does a good job of making the player feel simultaneously nervous and empowered as you slowly walk your way to the bosses, guided by these sections scenic camera angles. The game thankfully focuses more on this type of dialogue as the game goes on, but the introductory dialogue sequences imply a much deeper story than you actually get, and it’s the promise of something more that left me miffed rather than the lack of it period. I can’t help but compare back to No More Heroes, where the bosses not only had character of their own, but also had something more to say about the world they lived in or helped build throughlines and themes that built a strong undercurrent of context throughout the game. As it stands, beyond the presentation and gameplay, the context for it all in Furi is skin deep despite a few twists.
The thing is, the story didn’t need to pretend to be anything more than it was for those elements to shine, as everything else in this game is firing on all cylinders – nearly every aspect of this game, from presentation to design, is a marvel of simplistic genius.
The audio is top notch all around. Every sound effect is spot on with the visual feedback provided to the player. Every voice actor fits the tone of the characters and can even carry some of the previously mentioned poor dialogue in a way I haven’t seen since the old narrator from Bastion. And all of it melds expertly to an incredible synth soundtrack. Each track feels distinct enough to be recognizable and add unique character to the world while also flowing with the other tracks in a way that connects the worlds together.
The game uses cel-shading and bright, contrasting colors to stylize action without making it too cluttered. Simple but effective animation work, minimal use of extra effects, distinguishable telegraphs and the aforementioned color contrast helps the action never become visually overwhelming, an impressive feat considering how fast the game moves. Despite this relative minimalism, it never negatively affected the games ability to establish its world and atmosphere.
Each world feel distinct from the other in a way one would expect from a Mario or Sonic platformer, making fights memorable instead of blurring together. One thing that I loved was how despite the designs of the prisoners and their worlds having wildly different themes, all of the areas coalesced as well as the respective music tracks. Aside from nitpicks, like the fact that the main character’s feet occasionally clip through the ground in the walking phases, the presentation was phenomenal.
The gameplay, as previously mentioned, is a mix of a few different genres, but it is incredible how not only each of these is decently well done in of themselves, but how well these elements flow together. The majority of the gameplay takes place from a top-down perspective. These sections have you playing both a bullet-hell twin-stick shooter and a hack n’ slash game with parry’s, counters, and charge attacks, and it is up to you to dash between them at the right times as quickly as you are dash-dodging through the myriad of attack patterns the game throws at you, eventually switching to a one on one, lock-on melee duel when an enemy’s health gets low enough. One thing I loved about the game was that each boss battle felt like a genuine battle with another living opponent as opposed to the glorified puzzles or QTEs even some of the best games fall prey to. This is done in a variety of ways. For one thing, each boss can be interrupted, parried, and dodged at almost all times. The game does not usually force you into any contrived waiting periods for the most part, aside from some of the bullet hell sequences.
Another way this game increases tension is with the health system. Each battle has several phases, each with it’s own health bar. The player, meanwhile, has three K.O.’s (lives) before you have to start over again. Every time you defeat one phase, you gain all your health on this life. Every time they defeat you, however, you lose a life, and they gain their health back. It makes for close calls, comebacks, and barely misses that keeps fights tense. Within the basic system of slashes and shooting, you have more advanced techniques. Well-timed parry’s can give you health, bullets can be parried back at opponents, and perfectly timed parry’s and power slashes can do insane damage. All of this creates an ebb and flow to combat that you have almost as much control over as your opponent, and makes the battles feel tense without being overbearing, giving you just as many ways to barely win as barely lose.
The bosses themselves, however, are the real show stealers.I don’t want to say much about them, as it is better to experience them fresh for yourself, but in addition to making the most out of the mechanics offered, each one offers unique elements that switch up the formula to ensure each fight doesn’t feel like the last while still offering the ebb and flow mentioned in the previous paragraph.
The controls for this game can take some getting used to given it’s unique blend of genres. For one thing, despite being technically in the bullet-hell genre, it is more about dashing, dodging and melee in the majority of battles, and the additional accuracy of a mouse is not worth the sacrifice in mobility accuracy of the player that a analog stick offers. The controller with the B controller layout in the settings allows you to use more of the shoulder buttons to dodge and slash/shoot simultaneously far easier than any other control method, which is a lifesaver in some fights.
Regardless of your choice of controls, the game can be fairly unforgiving even on normal difficulty. There is an easy mode, but that not only increases your damage and decreases the opponents, but actually removes phases from a boss fight entirely, and I would strongly encourage players not to cheat themselves out of the core experience offered. The core gameplay feel is fun enough that easy mode does not inherently make for a bad game, but it does make for something far from what the developers intended. The hardest difficulty goes the opposite direction, though not as drastically, and is unlocked only after beating the normal difficulty. The normal mode offers the most balanced, fair playthrough out of the lot, and despite a few dips and peaks has a solid difficulty curve that never felt unfair. Add to the fact that there is a myriad of advanced techniques to implement, like parrying in between shots and timing charged attacks for massive damage spikes, can add some depth to what could have been purely a test of reflexes rather than strategy.
The normal mode in of itself also offers a solid bit of achievements and milestones that does a so-so job of satisfying the type of player that would want to obsess over and replay a game like this. The post credit ranking of your entire adventure helps judge player skill, but it only keeps track of overall playthrough time and damage taken as opposed to any kind of “style” points ala action titles like Bayonetta. You can do self-imposed challenges that come just from the game keeping track of stats and showing them to the player, like a no K.O. run, but for the most part that will be the best way to judge player skill, which I can see being disappointing for fans wanting to really prove themselves. The $19.99 price is just barely affordable for the potential play hours held within. This game could have used a few more bosses and a more in-depth ranking system to be worth the full price.
Most of my cons are nitpicks that come at the beginning. One aspect of the difficulty that can feel unfair, especially early on, is the lack of a good tutorial. The basics are covered, but they do not teach you many of the advanced mechanics at all. Mechanics like the way parry’s can set up a finisher, for instance, or game rules like the fact that each completion of a boss phase nets you an extra K.O. is not explained in any meaningful way. Not holding player’s hand in this day and age is admirable, and I appreciated having to learn boss weaknesses or advanced techniques on my own, but having to learn core mechanics and rules on my own is either purposely excluding instructions for artificial difficulty or a failure in communication.
Another issue relates to strategies, and how they can clash with the core game design. For instance, perfect parry’s that lead to flashy finishers don’t do as much damage as shooting your gun in the same amount of time, which can make pulling these off a bit underwhelming. This makes the dominant strategy for many bosses to be firing your gun and not perfect parrying rather than being more aggressive. The combat itself, while advanced enough to hold interest, does not have a lot of variety in terms of movesets and approaches. There are no real combos or different weapons for the player to use, which means the dominant strategy mentioned earlier is the dominant strategy for everyone regardless of the type of player they are, so the game lacks some potential depth and actively discourages some high level play moves despite utilizing the base elements well.
The twin stick and shooting also suffers a bit when compared to pure twin-stick bullet hell shooters, as the player does not have as powerful or as “punching” of a gun as many of those games. Many of these shooters have upgrades that let the player fire tons of bullets at once and create a bit of a power trip for the player along with the a much harder set of bullet obstacles to avoid, something that Furi lacks. It is not bad, but fans of the genre may feel Furi is slower and easier than the best genre offers.
I also felt the limited QTE moments were entirely unneeded.
Despite nitpicks, Furi is a game that shows the power out medium has to take seemingly disparate genres and styles and create a cohesive experience. Aside from niggling story and tutorial concerns and an early difficulty hump due to lacking tutorials, every gameplay element and fight is carefully balanced and executed well despite lacking the depth to stand on their own. Powered by simple but effective visuals, a memorable cast, excellently paces and varied fights, simple but effective mechanics, and a brilliant soundtrack, Furi comes together to offer a truly unique experience that is more than the sum of it’s parts.
- tightly designed
- expertly presented
- difficult but fair
- decent amount of content for the money
- story promises more than it gives
- tutorials not as fleshed out as they could be