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Fenix Furia

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Green Lava Studios
Developer: Green Lava Studios
Release Date: June 8, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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PS4 Review - 'Fenix Furia'

by Brian Dumlao on July 11, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Fenix Furia is a new 2D hardcore platformer with stylish retro roots and obsessive level-based challenges.

The precision platformer is certainly one of the more polarizing game genres. On the one hand, the feeling of joy at completing a stage in Cloudberry Kingdom or Super Meat Boy is rarely matched due to the sheer multitude of challenges thrown your way. On the other hand, these victories often come at the cost of countless deaths, enough to frustrate players and drive many to swear off the genre in the early stages. Fenix Furia is another game that has made the transition from PC to PS4 to challenge the mettle of platforming fans. It's a fine title for the most part, but a few design decisions cost it a place in the upper echelon of the sub-genre.

You play the role of Fenix, a simple character who lives in a typical village. One day, a huge explosion occurs and obliterates the village, leaving you and Oktarus as the only survivors. Oktarus is a nefarious character who has the power to freeze things and create creatures seemingly out of thin air. Seeking answers, you chase him down. The tale seems fine, but you'll actually have to get that information outside of the game. The cut scenes attempt to give you an idea of what's going on, but everything is so simplified that you're better off making things up as you go along instead of trying to get the story.

The mechanics are going to be pretty familiar if you've ever played another precision platformer. Your main objective is to touch the blue box in the stage to progress to the next level. While most things won't kill you outright, green plasma beams and cubes of green goo prove to be the exception. The edges of the screen also kill you, and compared to most titles in the genre, the stages are rather small. You're vulnerable enough that one hit will kill you in an instant, but you respawn into the world rather quickly and with an infinite supply of lives to sacrifice. However, all of your progress in a stage is immediately reset the moment you die.

Though Fenix lacks some of the moves that you might expect, like wall-jumping, he has a few tricks up his sleeve. Sliding down lava walls engulfs your body in flames, which is useful for breaking apart an ice wall. His jumping is infinite in that he can jump in the air as many times as he wishes, with the type of flight seen in something like Flappy Bird. He also has a dash move that lets him move quickly and break bricks. Just like his jump, the dash is infinite, giving him near-limitless vertical and horizontal movement if you mash the buttons quickly enough.

That infinite dashing and jumping is put to the test with the level design. The first few levels are pretty easy and small, making them perfect for tutorial stages. It doesn't take very long before the game starts to ramp things up. Narrow corridors packed with green blobs become more common, as do whole areas where smaller blobs jump around in patterns that leave you very little room to maneuver. Stages become larger and occupy more screens, but more things are added, such as Oktarus showing up to douse your fire before you can use it to thaw the ice. Stages start to require pinpoint precision, and while that means more frustration as you die for the umpteenth time, it also means elation when you finally conquer a stage that has been taunting you for so long.

While Fenix Furia is very tough, there are extra difficulty levels that you unlock later that make things even tougher. Challenge mode takes away your unlimited move set, forcing you to solve the same stages with a set amount of dashing and jumping at your disposal. God mode throws in the ability to kill enemies, a tough task when you learn that you're also time limited in this task. To balance things out, the game does have an Easy mode, where you'll be able to sustain one hit before dying, trading out the ability to post scores on the leaderboard for that luxury.

At the same time, there are a few things that make the game unfairly difficult. The jump, for example, feels a little floaty and the dashing a little imprecise as far as how far it goes before it stops. You can compensate for this with experience, but it doesn't have that initial feeling of being tight. Levels may come with loads of different challenges early on, but then there's a large lull in the middle where it fails to feel any different; it's finally alleviated in the latter half of the game. Then there are the boss encounters, which are perhaps the most frustrating sections of the title. Whether it's a chase or the discovery that you can attack creatures with your dash, it introduces some mechanics to the game that you can't use until the next boss fight or when God mode is unlocked. With Fenix not exactly built for high speed or fighting, these sections feel rather unnecessary instead of being fun breaks from the platforming.

If you have both the patience and the skill to go beyond completing the stages, you'll be rewarded with some pretty interesting extras. Gathering stars by finishing levels within record time gives you access to various arcade games. One may have you fly around a stage and avoiding blobs while another has you breaking walls, but no matter what, the acquisition of cookies is your ultimate goal for high scores. Should you be fast enough to acquire the red box before it disappears, you'll be treated to extra levels that are done in an Atari-esque style. Finally, getting all of the cookies in a world will get you actual cookie recipes.

While it did take quite some time for the game to make the transition from PC to console, it comes with a few changes. One-fourth of the levels have been fine-tuned to be more accessible, but they're still difficult enough that only those with intimate knowledge of the PC stages would be able to tell the difference. The much more noticeable addition is a split-screen multiplayer mode that has you and a friend racing through all of the campaign levels to see who can reach the exit first. The idea is great and fun enough for genre fans, but it comes with the caveat of having less screen space to work with per player, making it worthwhile for those who are already familiar with the stages while playing them solo.

As far as presentation goes, the game is fine. The sound effects aren't anything special, and the music blends in well with the fast-paced action. Graphically, Fenix Furia has a solid color scheme with a nice style. While the art looks great as it tries to ape the darker colors found in graphic novels, some of the elements, like tufts of crystals and grass, tend to be as high as Fenix, giving him enough cover that it's easy to lose him in the beginning of a stage. Some of the portals also have colors so similar that you can be confused about where you should be appearing, especially when those similarly colored portals are located next to each other. Finally, the camera sometimes has issues in following portal warps in larger stages and can cause your death.

In the end, Fenix Furia does enough of the right things to put it on the radar of precision platforming game fans. The infinite dashing and jumping give the game an interesting wrinkle, and the addition of different minigames as rewards for accomplishing tough goals is a nice touch. There's a good sense of progression as far as some levels go, though it takes quite a bit of time before real changes come into play. The slightly floaty feel and the bosses can put a damper on the game, especially with the latter throwing in mechanics that you only use during these fights. It is solid enough for genre fans but requires much more patience and understanding from newcomers who are just getting introduced to endless deaths via platforming.

Score: 7.0/10

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