Reviewed on Nintendo SwitchAlso available on PC, Sony PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Xbox One
Furi is a hack 'n' slash/bullet hell hybrid boss rush game from French developers The Game Bakers and though stylish and atmospheric, it's also utterly infuriating and should probably be re-titled RaygeQuit.
You play as a mysterious warrior locked up in a form of multi-dimensional prison atop a cluster of asteroids above the surface of a planet I can only assume is meant to be Earth. The premise of the game is simple. After being freed by a bunny hood wearing stranger - seriously - you must battle your way through a series of ever harder to defeat jailers armed only with a sword and a blaster, as you descend through the levels towards the planet's surface and ultimate freedom. That's it. A series of phased boss fights, one after the other, until you finish the game with little else to do in between.
The combat, which makes up the majority of Furi's gameplay is brutally hard. Anyone who wants to deny that fact can get out of here. If you find this game easy then congratulations, you have faster reaction time than me and you should be proud of yourself. Anyone who wants to fly the flag of “git gud” over this game can just stop right now. Yes, I know it's just simple pattern recognition. After a few attempts on each boss I assure everyone I knew exactly what I needed to do, I just struggled to enter the command on time. In finding that you could combine moves, such as dodging whilst charging your slash attack, I thought I had found a way to get behind and damage my enemy, only to find that nope, this game only lets you win if you carry out the exact commands the game requires of you in that particular phase of that particular boss fight. After many many attempts - because you will die in this game, again and again and again - stripped of all the flash, aesthetic and setting, it became obvious that the only way to beat the enemy, any enemy, was to simply enter the scripted commands in time. After a while it felt as though I may as well have been playing a game of Bop It. Attack, parry, parry, parry, attack, repeat. Dynamic and intuitive combat this is not.
I say the majority of gameplay is combat but really that's all it has. The walking sections between fights are so unengaging, with no puzzles or platforming to take part in along the way, that you'll inevitably end up using the auto-walk function go just get you there. Just sit back and watch your character casually stroll to the next battle whilst you, I don't know, check out the view? Listen to the soundtrack? I think it was meant to act as a cool down period between battles. I rarely found myself fighting two battles back to back anyway so they weren't really needed. To cool down after I simply put the game away.
It's here I want to bring up the game's positives though. It looks beautiful. The arenas in which you fight the various enemies are incredible and otherworldly and the characters themselves are something to behold. Created by Takashi Okazaki of Afro Samurai, fame, each enemy is gorgeous, some being surreal, others being straight up horrific. The electro soundtrack, possibly the game's strongest attribute, is absolutely mesmerising and I have probably dedicated as much time to listening to it as I have actually playing the game.
The mystery as to who your character is, why he was locked up and why these bosses are fighting so hard to keep you from reaching the planet's surface is one that is revealed over the course of the game, albeit cryptically and quite often in threadbare fashion. As someone who prefers narrative driven games, Furi left me cold as even though truths are revealed and motivations of certain parties are concisely shown by the game's end, there is barely any meat to the story to satisfy and there are so many questions left unanswered. It's a problem of many modern indie games, to have an underdeveloped story in hopes a mysterious air can cover for it with fans being willing fill in the gaps, but I'm just not going there. In a baffling decision, a huge piece of the puzzle to Furi's back story is revealed in a section of gameplay that falls after the end credits. A whole set piece, key decision affecting the ending and optional final battle, all situated at a point in the game that I surmise many people might not even see for turning their Switch off. Thankfully the game is rather short, taking somewhere between a few hours to a day to complete depending on skill level, so it's not that much time was lost for so little reward.
Furi does has an easy mode, but the thinly veiled air on condescension the game takes when you switch to it, notifying you that it is not the way the game is meant to be played, is massively off-putting. Also, it's a mode that doesn't really make the game easier so much as shorter, cutting out certain phases of certain battles, meaning you'll just finish the game quicker. Of course if you're stuck on a particular section that isn't removed in easy mode, then it's not really any help at all beside the slight health buff. The developers of this game wanted it to to be hard, wanted you coming back for more until you perfected it but all I can say is that when I finally completed it, I felt relief, in the same way you would if a splinter had been removed from under your nail. I wasn't glad I had finished it, I was just glad that it was over.