The Instant Game Collection has been filled with pleasant surprises during the PlayStation 4’s run so far. We’ve had flawed yet interesting titles like Contrast, and great multiplayer titles such as Dead Star and Rocket League. The latest game to launch on the service is The Game Bakers’ Furi, a twin stick shooter that throws in sword combat for an added oomph.
Similar to Titan Souls and Shadow of the Colossus, Furi is comprised entirely of boss fights. The game’s silent protagonist, who has been branded a dangerous weapon, is imprisoned in a tower, and must defeat their nine jailors in order to earn their freedom. The setup is a bit trite, but it does a serviceable job of setting up the battles that follow. The player is also aided by a mysterious man in a rabbit mask, called The Voice, who serves to tell the player about his future adversaries.
Each battle is a lengthy affair (which is understandable considering it makes up the bulk of the game), and each boss typically has six different phases they go through. It’s basically formatted like a fighting game, as players must bring down their opponent’s health bar in one go while also making sure their own health (which is limited to three bars) doesn’t hit zero. After each successful phase, the boss changes up their strategies in a way that naturally builds. There’s a lovely build to Furi‘s combat, similar to a great boxing match, and it climaxes with a brutal crescendo as the boss continually becomes more dangerous over time.
Seek & Destroy
What makes Furi‘s combat special is how it blends together twin stick shooting with melee combat. The shooting doesn’t really stick out as it’s pretty typical for the genre with a charge shot being the only unique mechanic. Thankfully, the game builds upon that with a great dash mechanic (which is used to dodge damaging attacks), and the aforementioned sword combat. Each individual boss phase is broken up into two sections: a long range segment where the player has to slowly whittle down their attacker’s health bar, and then a close range section (where movement is restricted by a circular field).
There is a surprising amount of depth to the sword combat as it largely revolves around parrying attacks (which is done with a simple press of the square button) and timing your dodges in order to get out of the way of strikes. These up close duels are particularly intense, and were always a highlight of each fight. Every battle came down to my ability to recognize patterns and reaction time. It’s exhilarating. It ends up making victory sweeter and defeat even more bitter.
Furi also does a fantastic job of making each fight feel unique and memorable. One of my favorite battles tasked me with playing a violent game of hide and seek with a boss that could become invisible. I had to track my foe down as if I was a hunter, and stalk my prey in order to succeed. It was unlike any other section in the game, and it was a blast. Another one of my favorite battles ended up having a combat sequence that restricted movement to where it was just like a 2D fighting game. This amount of variety is awesome, and I had a blast checking out every fight.
What needs to be mentioned is that Furi is an insanely difficult game, and this is largely due to the player only having three bars to health. That’s a far cry from the six that bosses have and I felt like the odds were stacked against my favor. The game is very punishing, with each enemy attack taking up to several hit points away. On the game’s default difficulty, I was only able to defeat the first three bosses, and ultimately ended up very frustrated that the game basically requires flawless runs to win.
Thankfully, Furi recognizes that its difficulty isn’t for everyone so it offers up an easier difficulty. In fact, it’s so easy that it’s almost impossible to lose on it. I breezed through every boss of the game in the Pomegranate difficulty without dying once, and it wasn’t rewarding at all. It’s frustrating since it also didn’t feel like I was able to experiment more or learn anything while playing. A good difficulty tier should prepare players for the next one once they finish it, and this fails spectacularly in that regard. If anything, it feels like the game is missing a difficulty option in between its easiest and default.
One of the redeeming factors is that since I had seen a boss battle in easy mode, I could still play it on the normal difficulty in the practice mode. This allowed me to battle against every boss in the game with their full range of attacks and phases. I still got the full experience I wanted. It’s just really annoying that I had to find a way to circumvent the game’s own progression system to do so.
In fact, since there isn’t a stage select when playing through the story mode, I ended up spending most of my time in practice mode. Every boss fight is separated by minutes of walking around gorgeous, yet ultimately barren, environments and it’s not very compelling to play. The Game Bakers even went as far to allow players to press the cross button in order to have the character automatically walk to their destination (although I had the character walk into a rock for minutes on end so it doesn’t always work great), so I guess this time sink wasn’t very interesting to them either. I wouldn’t mind it if there was a grand story being told, but it’s just a boring time sink. Being forced to listen to The Voice talk negatively about who I was going to face next when I had already heard it before sucked.
Furi Review – Kill 'Em All (PS4) - PlayStation LifeStyle
It’s a real shame that there isn’t an interesting narrative to tie together Furi as Afro Samurai creator Takashi Okazaki did a fantastic job designing the different boss characters. They all look distinctly different, so it’s a shame that I can’t remember a single one of their names. They aren’t given interesting backstories, and besides a few lines of dialogue they are barely setup. I don’t mind if a game is just boss fights, but at least make me care about why I’m fighting them.
The story also falls flat on its face. It has a highly predictable ending that seems as if it’s trying to make a statement, yet it ultimately has nothing to say. There’s several different endings here (I ended up seeing three of them), but all of them failed to capture my interest. As someone who loved Donnie Darko as a teenager, I’m not above reading into a deeper context when it’s not really there, but this didn’t even get me to do that. Furi does a fantastic job of setting up a world and characters that I wanted to learn more about, and then did nothing with them. That’s a bummer.
Finally, I have to mention that I ran into quite a few bugs and technical issues while playing Furi. The framerate was mostly steady throughout, but there were a few occasional frame drops. Typically that can be overlooked when there’s so much going on (and it happens so infrequently), but in such a difficult game that’s unforgivable. Also, after one boss fight the game glitched to where I couldn’t continue to the next area. The portal that I was supposed to walk into just wouldn’t work. This kept happening even after I hit the restart option in the menu and the game refused to go into the main menu. I was forced to close the application. It worked fine afterwards, but it still was an annoyance. It’s strange that the gameplay felt so polished, and yet other parts seemed rushed.
Furi is an action packed, violent game that does a great job of marrying two genres together. The core gameplay is so good and satisfying, which is why it’s a real bummer that a lot of what surrounds that is lacking. Still, despite its flaws, it offers up an enjoyable challenge that is worth playing. Hopefully The Game Bakers will be able to build upon this in a sequel or spiritual successor, as they certainly are close to having something special.
Review code for Furi provided by publisher. Reviewed on PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.