From French indie developer The Game Bakers (previously responsible for some mobile games about squids) comes Furi, the ‘all-boss fighter’ that focuses on the intense experience of one-on-one combat.
Before so much as stepping into the game’s dystopian universe, it immediately stands out as a title worthy of attention.
An eye-popping, neon aesthetic, coupled with character design by Takashi Okazaki (of Afro Samurai fame) makes for a pretty stunning visual mix. Then throw in a spectacular electro soundtrack from the likes of Carpenter Brut, and the result is a truly unique set-up for a gauntlet of gruelling boss battles.
Framing Furi’s exhausting series of encounters is an overarching narrative, which for the most part is pretty straightforward. Our silent, sword-wielding protagonist has been locked away in cyberpunk prison, and with the help of his chatty, rabbit-headed compatriot, is looking to break out. To do so, he must fight his way through the prison’s multiple jailers, who act as Furi’s bosses.
To take down your captors you’ll have to master the game’s combat mechanics, and the quicker you can do so, the better. Furi doesn’t hesitate to throw you in at the deep end, and even the ‘tutorial’ encounter will decimate players that aren’t paying attention.
Tapping square swings your katana, and you can charge an attack by keeping the button held down. Land four hits in a combo and the final strike will usually knock your enemy over; or if you can hit them with the charged slash, it’ll leave them stunned and open to a follow-up. At long range you’ve got a sidearm at your disposal, and much like the sword, its shots can be charged too.
As for defensive options, there’s no block, but you can dodge with X (which can be charged for extra distance) and you can parry with circle, providing you react to the ‘white flash’ of an attack in time.
A successful parry restores a small amount of health, and importantly, leaves your opponent open to a counter attack. Achieve a ‘perfect parry’ by reacting at the last possible second, and you’ll launch into a cinematic riposte that pushes the enemy back for a moment of respite.
When you’re not duelling with your foes at close quarters, you’ll be fighting at range with your sidearm. At distance though, you’ll need to dodge far more projectiles than you can throw out yourself. As bosses shift between phases, they change up their attack types and regularly swap between brutal melee assaults, and bullet-hell style patterns.
When they do start spitting out projectiles, you should keep a keen eye on what colours are being thrown at you. Some shots can be destroyed with your sidearm, others can be parried, but most are indestructible and must be dodged to avoid taking damage. Learning what to get out of the way of is a core part of your intensive Furi syllabus, and you’ll thank yourself later for memorizing how to deal with different shots.
With each boss boasting up to seven distinct phases, Furi’s fights are long, hard, and oftentimes frustrating. The usual justification of ‘effort in vs. reward out’ seems to be a key aspect of the game’s appeal, and there’s undoubtedly a rush of endorphins that accompany each hard-earned victory. But on multiple occasions, Furi’s tumour-inducingly high difficulty pushed me close to launching a controller through my TV screen.
I was sorely tempted to drop the difficulty from the default ‘Furi’, to the cutely named ‘Promenade’ mode. But I was immediately dissuaded the menu’s description, warning that the experience would be “very easy” and that I’d be locked out of any sort of post-game rewards. A difficulty somewhere between the default and trivial would be welcome, but at least players seeking to challenge themselves will find plenty to enjoy here. If ‘Furi’ isn’t tough enough for you, there’s always ‘Furier’ to unlock, which doesn’t simply increase enemy damage, but reworks bosses’ attack patterns into new beasts altogether.
Mercifully, the whole experience isn’t just one long series of fights. In between encounters you’re offered a moment to relax as you make your way through stunning surrealist vistas, all the while listening to story exposition from your furry-headed friend. As you’re strolling to the next bout at snail’s pace however, you’ll encounter another one of Furi’s frustrating aspects – its fixed camera angles.
While highly cinematic, these sections of downtime introduce the PS1-era camera problem of switching the direction your analogue stick points you in. Fortunately, a tap of the X button sets your silent swordsman on autopilot to his next fight, so you’re free to focus on the narration and awesome views. Even so, these sequences tend to outstay their welcome, and you’ll soon find yourself itching to get to the next jailer.
Before you know it, you’ll be back in the fray with another brilliantly conceived boss. Mid-fight phases are varied, sure, but not nearly as much as the jailers themselves. Each one boasts their own unique aesthetic, stylish gear and bespoke arena to compliment their combat style. They’re all ably voice-acted too, spouting rhetoric about a fight for the greater good, and each has their own motivation for wanting to foil your escape.
From one moment to the next you’ll be battling Beats-wearing old men in claustrophobic arenas, then dodging invisible-sniper fire through vast, bot-filled battlefields. Frustrating or not, it’s the brilliant character designs and feeling of just having to see ‘who’s next’, that’ll keep players invested through to the game’s end.
In short, Furi is one of the most intense, exciting and effortlessly stylish experiences of the current-gen. But the vertical line that is its difficulty curve is sure to put some players off. Frustrating bosses with seemingly impossible attack patterns can be truly overwhelming, but there’s a rewarding experience here for those with the mettle to persist.
Our ‘normal difficulty’ playthrough clocked in at around six hours, which for $25, represents some strictly middling value-for-money. But the ‘Furier’ difficulty and post-story speed-run mode offer decent replayability and extra longevity for anyone seeking a challenge.
It’s worth mentioning that Furi is completely free to PlayStation Plus members this month, and as a result, we’d definitely recommend it. It’s well worth a go if only for a taste of the game’s gorgeously stylised visuals, stellar soundtrack, and truly unique line-up of bosses.
There’s the potential for a cult classic in here, even if at times the experience can be somewhat infuriating…
Our Furi review code was kindly supplied by the developer.