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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Developer: The Game Bakers
Release Date: Jan. 11, 2018

About Andreas Salmen

I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding.


Switch Review - 'Furi'

by Andreas Salmen on Jan. 17, 2018 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Furi is an intense, ultra-responsive hack-and-slash with a unique mix of fast-paced sword fighting and dual-stick shooting.

Sometimes, it's all about timing. The Nintendo Switch has been a safe haven for indie developers, since it's not as crowded as other marketplaces. If they come out at the right time, indie titles on the eShop consistently outsell other platforms. Furi is such a title, coming a month before Nintendo plans to release the Bayonetta port, which would've likely overshadowed Furi with seemingly similar gameplay mechanics.

Furi is a boss rush game that combines several boss fights, with minor story elements in between. What sounds like a bare-bones experience works well due to solid mechanics, well-thought-out skill progression and distinct visuals. The game combines hack-and-slash elements with twin-stick shooter mechanics to create intense gameplay that has players on the edge of their seats — although that's not necessarily a positive thing.

Let's take it from the top. In Furi, we control a prisoner in a high-tech prison that consists of several disconnected islands. Jailers and inmates are spread across the prison, and all are connected to our incarceration in some way. We're confronted by a guy with several masks circling his head, and he tortures us while we're restrained. Thankfully, another inmate frees us, but unfortunately, he's wearing a furry rabbit mask and urges us to break free and kill everyone. From there, we move from boss to boss while we listen to Mr. Rabbit's monologues and history. We meet a variety of characters, some who want to bring us back to our cell and others who seem to have gone mad. Furi manages to sustain the intrigue throughout its runtime, which is more than many AAA games can claim. It's a violent fever dream that gives us alternative endings. What more could we expect from a boss rush title?

The first boss showdown with our mask-shifting torturer functions as a gameplay tutorial. Unlike other games, Furi doesn't provide your protagonist with any weapon or ability upgrades, so what you see is what you get. You'd better get good because what we lack in additional tricks, our enemies gain double that amount.

As mentioned, the gameplay is divided into basic hack-and-slash and twin-stick shooter elements, giving us ranged and close-quarter attacks to best our opponents. Basically, we use the attack button to hit the opponent with a simple — and our only — combo. If we want to deal more damage, we can hold the attack button to charge the attack so it's more powerful. If we combine it with our dash ability, we can charge our attack from a distance and then dash toward our opponent to launch it. However, these charged attacks cost time, which we rarely have. This perfectly sums up Furi's gameplay: timing. Everything needs to be done at the exact right moment, or else we're likely to fail, especially in later stages. We can block incoming melee attacks, which are indicated with flashing signals, but those differ between bosses. Should we nail those parries, we're awarded with some health or a powerful counter-attack. Although attacks are indicated, it's still a challenge to get the timing right. How quickly they're executed can vary significantly between bosses. Additionally, we can use our gun with the right analog stick to shoot projectiles, which can also be charged for increased damage at the price of brief immobility and time.

The progression isn't with our digital representation but with our skills as gamers. The increasingly difficult bosses test our skills in a variety of ways, and we have to adapt to their changing patterns and master our moves and timing to have a fighting chance. The combat system needs some adjustment. We have three health bars at our disposal, while bosses have a varying amount. Each boss health bar can be considered a new stage where the boss changes its attack patterns and behaviors. If we defeat the boss in one stage, we proceed to the next health bar and stage. If we lose, we have to restart the stage. If we lose all of our health, we have to restart the boss battle from the beginning.

The stages are usually split up in two phases — although later bosses also change this. We can move freely across the first phase and fight the boss up close and from a distance, and during the second phase, we're restricted to melee attacks in a small area around the boss. To be clear, you will die in Furi a lot, and to an extent, that is part of the experience. The ever-changing attack patterns and the emphasis on gameplay mastery and timing can be difficult for players, especially those who get frustrated easily. Furi teeters on the edge between gratifying accomplishments and frustrating setbacks, and every player will experience it differently.

If you're easily frustrated, there is an easy mode that removes the challenge — and the fun. On normal difficulty, it may take seven hours or more to complete the game, compared to 90 minutes in easy mode. Many players won't have fun while they're stuck with a boss for ages and being forced to repeat it over and over again. Add to that the frustration when a boss doesn't correctly reset when you're in the close-combat mode, basically pushing you over the edge and into the abyss.

Visually, Furi has a distant resemblance to No More Heroes and runs close to 60 fps, similar to the PS4 version that was released earlier. There are noticeable dips here and there, but they don't really impact gameplay. While the resolution in docked mode hovers around 1080p, it's a bit blurry in handheld mode. The challenging gameplay isn't suited for handheld play anyway, as the weird stick location only adds to the challenge. The Pro Controller is recommended to play this game at all times. The visual style is probably the striking chord here, with varying stages and inventive boss designs that keep things interesting, especially when coupled with the intriguing story. We also have to mention the atmospheric soundtrack, which pulled us in time and time again and is also available on Spotify.

However, the gameplay obstacle that the player has to conquer may not resonate with everyone. If you master it, it's one of the more gratifying skill challenges I've had in a while. Since we don't get additional abilities, that means our opponents don't really get different attacks, either. They vary quite a bit but are usually a spin on established attacks, which can make things monotonous toward the end, especially if you get stuck and have to repeat the fights. The game is never unfair though, which may only be a small comfort. What's more annoying though, is that dialogue and cut scenes within the battle get repetitive almost instantly, which is amplified every time you have to redo a segment. It's not a deal-breaker, but for a game that relies on repetition, I had hoped to see some more diversity.

Furi looks gorgeous and runs well on the Switch, but its unforgiving gameplay may be too much for some. The gameplay can become frustrating and monotonous, but anyone who's willing to be challenged will be thoroughly entertained with Furi.

Score: 7.0/10

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