Platforms: PS4, PC (reviewed on PS4)
Publisher: The Game Bakers
Developer: The Game Bakers
Furi is The Game Bakers' attempt to capture the essence of character action and bullet hell games in one package. With a move set that consists of just cut, shoot, parry, and dodge (all chargeable), it's a game of pattern recognition, quick reflexes, and pure skill. What's more, the entire game is one big boss rush, interspersed with walk and talk cutscenes through surreal realms. Did the Game Bakers catch lightning in a bottle, or did the lightning fry this labor of love?
The lightning fast action.
It's all about reading your enemy quickly, and looking awesome doing it.
In Furi, players take control of the Stranger. He's just been freed from his shackles by a strange man in an equally strange giant bunny mask, and must fight his way through several Jailers in pursuit of freedom. The only story players receive comes from Jailers lines before and during battle, and the one sided conversations “Bunny Bro” spouts on about while walking to the next encounter.
There's a neat story if you try to piece it together, but it's not necessary to enjoy the game. Furi goes all in on its combat. If you were a fan of rival battles in character action games, fights where the player goes one-on-one with an opponent just as awesome and powerful as themselves, then Furi is going to be a treat. Each Jailer has several phases, denoted by stocked life bars. When pushed into another phase, the Jailer will change their current attack pattern and throw in some new moves as well.
Things can get a little crazy when the Jailers stop playing around.
Most battles, not all of them, play out with a free range run-and-shoot bullet hell section when the Jailer's life bar is blue, but changes to a sword duel once they've been softened up enough to expose the red portion of the current life bar. Once depleted, the dance begins again, with higher stakes, working up to a crescendo of madness when a Jailer is at wits end and finally lets loose their full power.
Despite the simple controls, every single battle has its own unique style that amounts to more than different projectile patterns. You'll dash from cover to cover between rounds of sniper fire, have your own attacks become your worst enemy, deal with the impaired visibility brought on by intoxicating poison, and more. It was stunning how much variety was packed into simple boss fights.
The calm before the storm
Are you thinking "Holy crap, what's next?" or "Hurry the hell up!" between battles?
After a Jailer is defeated, players are treated to a somewhat serene walk between battles that takes a minute or two. The story is fleshed out as Bunny Bro speaks of the next Jailer and their significance to the Strangers past, or the world in general. Here, players have a chance to fully absorb Furi's amazing art direction without all hell breaking loose and a kickass, pulsating techno beat urging you to evade and conquer.
Personally, the breaks were like the moments after a lightning strike, waiting for the thunder to come roaring in, building anticipation for the reveal of the next boss. I'm patient though, and I know there's going to be some people that want the action to continue flowing. They're in the zone, the music and their rhythm have synced, and they just got a shot of adrenaline from defeating a hellacious boss. Then they're forced to walk through a serene landscape with relatively calming music, and their tension fades away.
Bunny Bro is pretty relaxed with his pacing when it comes to storytelling.
Regardless of whether you think it kills the mood or heightens anticipation, the noticeable stutter during the camera transitions in these scenes doesn't help. Just about every time the camera changes for a cinematic shot, frames get dropped and screen tearing occurs. There's also the unmissable clipping that always seems to get worse right when there's a close up. The character designs of Takashi Okazaki are amazing, but it's a little silly when the Stranger's cape seemingly clips through all physical matter every time the camera zooms in.
Fortunately, these bugs and stutters are problems mostly relegated to cinematics, not standard combat. There are some instances of slowdown when things get hectic in battle, but nothing too bad. The only time I encountered any serious issues with bugs in battle was against the Sniper boss, mostly revolving around the raising and lowering of the temporary barricades when the screen was busy.
Give the Jailers a Furi-ous ass beating.
If you enjoy the feel of classic Japanese action games, quick reflexes needed to survive screen filling firepower, or demands to “git gud” in order to feel satisfied, then Furi is an absolute must have. The visuals rely on style more than specs, the music is different but fits the game perfectly, and the gameplay is fine tuned to keep players on the edge Some may not like the pacing between battles, and the PS4 version does have some technical issues that can hamper gameplay on occasion, but there's nothing that can't be drowned out by the neon shine radiating from everything Furi does right.
The game has a steep price of $24.99, but it's debuting as one of PSN's free games today. Considering the replay value on offer, and the time and effort it would take a normal person to beat the game, it's not an altogether unreasonable price to pay. I'm too ashamed to admit the number of hours it took to beat my first play through, but I will say I got KO'd 345 times on my way to a D rank. My reward? A higher difficulty and a speed run mode. If that doesn't sound like a good reward, then this type of game isn't for you. As for me, I've crossed the 20 hour mark and will continue to invest time in it honing my skills.