Wot I Think: Furi

Furi [official site] is a game entirely made up of boss battles. I haven’t completed it yet because the later fights are extremely difficult but I am absolutely determined to become so adept at the slashing and the hacking and the dodging and the shooting that I’ll be able to finish it on the harder difficulty level that unlocks upon completion. I want to be able to beat Furi so effectively that it stops fighting back but , like the freaky foes it contains, outwitting it will only cause it to transform into something even more devious.

I love it.

Quite how or why I love Furi is a bit of a mystery. I’m not a huge fan of bossfights, which too often rip up the known rules and introduce new ones just to confound the player, and I’m allergic to anime. This is a game with anime stylings – the protagonist is a grimly silent possibly-amnesiac prisoner with bone white hair and a sword that goes THWIP – that is wall to wall bosses. It’s like stumbling into the private bar at a hotel hosting a convention of regional managers. You can’t swing a dead cat, or a sword that goes THWIP, without hitting a boss.

The rules are simple. You can dash to dodge projectiles, passing straight through them, and you can use your sword or gun to attack. The sword can parry as well, which handily provides a health boost should you get the timing just right, but there are no pickups or powerups or any other distractions. It’s you, a single enemy and an arena that is purpose-built to allow that enemy to make best use of their abilities. You can see one example of a fight in full here, though skip the video if you’d rather figure it all out for yourself.

As mentioned above, all of the enemies have at least two different forms or attack patterns. That becomes dramatically evident during the second fight, which is the point when the game really grabbed me. Your opponent is a prisoner, as was your character at the beginning of the game, and she’s attached to a one-wheeled device that’s like a cross between a Segway and a gurney. Every time you smash her health bar to pieces, she breaks some part of the device, first freeing her arms, then her legs, eventually scuttling around on all fours like a terrifying spiderperson.

During the initial phase, strapped in place, she looks a lot like GLaDOS, something that’s much more evident if you’ve seen this interpretation of Portal’s potato/villain. There’s also more than a hint of The Evil Within’s most terrifying creature.

This is important, not only because the character designs are superb but because the allusions to other games run through Furi like blood through veins. Right after the prisoner, you’ll face an old man who looks suspiciously like a semi-naked version of Metal Gear Solid’s The End. He even tells you that you should wait for him to die of old age – referencing one of Kojima and co’s sneakier tricks – taunting as you avoid his attacks and he turtles up behind rotating shields. He’s one of the only enemies in the game that has made me resort to sniping.

It’s not really sniping as such, the shooting from afar. The arenas are too tight for that and motion is constant, but it’s possible to charge up the firearm by holding down one of the triggers. Standard fire is as in a twinstick shooter and the steady stream of bullets is usually enough to chip away at an enemy’s health bar, but Old Man Time’s shields reflect your normal shots so you’ll end up drowning in your own bouncing bullets.

The charged shot is the solution, in this case. All of your abilities can be charged by holding down the appropriate button: a charged dash allows you to travel further, a charged shot stuns enemies and a charged slash can break through some defenses. It’s all so simple, with no combos or other complicated inputs to learn. The skills are all observation and reaction – you watch the enemies, you learn their behaviours, and you counter them.

What’s astonishing is that there’s very little trial and error involved. Almost everything that happens in the game is telegraphed. Sometimes the telegraph has been launched directly at your face at great speed, and sometimes a messenger is slipping it into your back pocket while you’re distracted by a flashing light in the middle distance, but you can always see or sense it coming if you pay close attention.

Again, just as with player inputs, that’s because Furi uses a few simple rules. Melee attacks that can be parried are marked by a blinking weapon just before the strike and there are tells in every colour-coded projectile and dangerzone. Sometimes the battlefield looks like one of the deeper circles of bullet hell, sometimes it looks like Devil May Cry and Afro Samurai have had a baby.

And the Afro Samurai comparison makes perfect sense because the character designs are the work of Takashi Okazaki, creator of that manga series. They’re beautiful, even the protagonist who I mocked right at the beginning of this review. It’s all about the hair, which drifts as if he’s underwater, lovely ivory tendrils like weeds in the deep. The rest are more inventive and I won’t spoil any details other than for the two I’ve already covered.

Those two are a good sample though. The first boss teaches you the ropes, as these things tend to do, though he still presents a challenge. The second is one of my favourites in the game (I haven’t seen the final one yet; the penultimate has been killing me all day) and the third, that old fellow, is my least favourite. There’s a lot of waiting around during his stints of invulnerability, dodging repetitive patterns of bullets and waiting for windows of opportunity.

That’s Furi at its worst, to my mind. At its best, it uses all of those tightly scripted visual and kinetic rules to create superbly flexible fights. At its worst, it makes me repeat dodges and strikes while I wait for a sequence to end.

The good news is that even at its worst, Furi is something rather special. Even the trudging between fights has some fairly nonsensical but engaging chatter and the scenery is gorgeous. Better still, pressing ‘x’ (or whatever equivalent your gamepad has – it’s playable without but not very effectively), automates all of the walking so that you can sit back and watch, or go and make a brew.

It’s infuriating that you can’t just run through those in-between bits but even that is a compliment of sorts. The downtime is frustrating because showtime is so very good. Special mention should go to the music as well, with tracks from electro arists including Carpenter Brut and Danger. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the action.

Furi is out now, for Windows.

From this site

23 Comments

  1. Laurentius says:

    Is keyboard viable control option?

  2. Cimeries says:

    “it’s playable without [a controller] but not very effectively”

    So sort of no?

    Anyway, just wanted to mention that this is one of the PS+ games for PS4 (maybe ps3 as well?) this month, so if you have an evil consolebox from Japan you can get in on the action for free.

    • Vandelay says:

      Yes, this was quite a pleasant discovery after reading this review.

      Just played through the first two fights and found it to be a very enjoyable game. The fighting has a very satisfying feel and pace to it, and it all looks very nice. Only annoyance is that the fights do take quite awhile and dying in the last stage just to be dumped back all the way at the start again is quite frustrating.

      I also suck at parrying in it almost as much as in Dark Souls.

      • Ragnar says:

        Ugh, so no mid-battle checkpoints? I hate having to repeat the whole fight just to get to the part I’m struggling with.

    • terves says:

      You could probably finish the game on normal that way, but I seriously wouldn’t recommend it.

      When you’re playing on a controller, you dodge in the direction you’re moving. Simple, easy and very straightforward.

      On M+KB, however, you have a cursor on the screen that’s visible at all times that acts like your mouse cursor on your desktop would. When you press the dodge button, you will dodge in the direction that cursor is currently pointing towards. The problem is that that cursor is also what you use to aim your gun with.

      What this means is that you will often have to frantically whip your mouse about to switch from shooting to dodging, leading to a borderline unplayable game for some of the more ranged-focused boss fights.

      I personally got frustrated with the m+kb controls in the tutorial and dug up my old xbox 360 controller and finished the game with that (took me about 4 hours and 30 minutes start to finish) and I’m now about halfway through the hellishly difficult new game+ mode. Heartily recommend the game to anyone who likes twin-stick shooters, character-action games and a stiff challenge.

      • shde2e says:

        There is actually an option to change the dodge mechanic in the options menu.
        Then you dodge in the direction you’re moving to, instead of wherever your cursor is (which is indeed an awful way to implement it).

        It’s got a rather weird name though, so its not obvious from looking at it that that’s what it does. (It was on the bottom of an option screen I believe)

  3. Cimeries says:

    And by free I mean the cost of your playstation plus membership

  4. OmNomNom says:

    my eyes

  5. bouchacha says:

    I like that it’s hex-based

  6. Michael Fogg says:

    Furi of the Furries

  7. April March says:

    Looks excellent, and also unplayable for a klutz like me.

  8. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Hmmm… might have to keep my eye on this one.

  9. Faxanadu says:

    “What’s astonishing is that there’s very little trial and error involved. Almost everything that happens in the game is telegraphed.”

    If it’s telegraphed, but you don’t know what it does, does it mean that it’s not trial and error?

    That’s a discussion I got into about Dark Souls. Sure, all the enemy movements are telegraphed, but since you don’t know when the actual attack comes and you need to parry/dodge, does it matter? Isn’t it still trial and error?

    • C0llic says:

      Trial and error usually factors to some degree but there’s a world of difference between something giving you a good chance to respond properly through telegraphing moves (the number of moves in this game is small), and being doomed to failure because you had no chance of knowing how to react.

  10. Premium User Badge

    JiminyJickers says:

    If you have a Playboxstation IV and a yearly subscription, it is free this month.

    • Premium User Badge

      JiminyJickers says:

      The controls are too laggy, not even worth it, even it is free for me.

      • Tim James says:

        I saw someone make the same complaint about the controls. Very strange. I wonder if they’ll improve the responsiveness in a patch.

  11. tslog says:

    I’m sorry, I ignored all the texts and decided to focus on Adams code word he insalled by really admitting the game is bad because Adam used the word In(furi)ating;)

  12. FLoJ says:

    I feel old and out of breath just having watched that video, looks like an amazing mix of bullet hell/beat-em-up.

  13. haldolium says:

    meh.

    tried it a few minutes this morning, it’s too unpolished. Nice art style and so far good atmosphere, but not much beyond that.

    Animations and controls are rather “indie” which is inappropriate for a fast 3D combat game tbh.

    • k47 says:

      I’d agree on that it’s visually unpolished, at least on the close ups and cinematics. Lots of clipping within the character models themselves, but nothing that affects gameplay.

      But I don’t see what’s “indie” or even bad/inappropiate about the controls (or to be more honest, I don’t know what an “indie” control scheme is).

      Dodges and attacks all have a tiny bit of animation before they are performed, so they don’t happen on the same frame it detects your input, and once you have started one you can’t cancel it with another action, so if for example you mash attack but suddenly you need to parry, you are stuck in your attack animation and will get hit. And we are talking fractions of a second here.

      All in all I’m really happy with how it controls.

  14. k47 says:

    A couple of things that I’d like to add.

    It’s actually a pretty forgiving game. There are bullets and attacks flying everywhere, and that’s hard, sure, but your is HP actually big enough to be hit quite a lot and still come out on top.

    You have 3 “lives”, and if your HP goes to 0, you get KO, consume a life to go back to full HP. And then the boss goes back to the HP they had when they began their phase.

    You also get healed to full and gain an extra life each time you beat a boss phase.

    You also get healed a bit if you parry an attack (it’s mentioned in the review)

    You also get healed if you destroy certain greenish projectiles that, so far after a few hours, all bosses shoot at some point in many phases. Destroying them turns them into health that you can pick up (though in bullet hell sections it’s still rather risky to go for them).

    The game also has a Practice mode to go back to bosses you’ve beaten and get a better “rank” and read stats on how you did. For example, I beat GLaDOS lady on my first try (with this I mean, without running out of lives), even though she KO’d me 5 times and hit me a total of 86 times during the 15 mins it took me to beat her. I got a “D” rank but still got through. As I said, pretty forgiving.