The lone stranger appears out of nowhere; no past, and no future, just a mysterious figure on a journey of escape, revenge, and redemption. Against all odds, these lone gunmen typically prevail in their quest or at the very least, sacrifice their lives so that others may go free. This is a story trope told time and time again for as long as humans have inhabited this blue ball we call Earth. Furi, by The Game Bakers, taps into that deepest of human psyche to produce a stunning, if not exceptionally difficult boss-battle experience, where you only have your wits and speed to overcome an intense and soul-searching journey.
The second players start Furi, they’re thrust into this strange world where nothing makes sense, and you must figure everything out on your own. As the protagonist, you start as a captive in a prison of sorts, continuously taunted by your jailer. Why you’re even there in the first place shall remain a mystery for the time being. With the help of a man rabbit (ala Donnie Darko), who may or may not be real, you manage to escape your restraints, only to find you must face off against your captor before you can leave this otherworldly prison. As you go from one boss fight to another, pieces of who you are—or who you might be—reveal themselves in cryptic ramblings from your rabbit friend. He urges you on, forces you to take back the life stolen from you.
I would say more about the game and its story and arc, but that would be giving away too much. I promised long ago I would never spoil a good thing for gamers. From here on out I’ll simply focus on the look, feel, and play mechanics of the game, letting you discover the rest. I can honestly say I have personally never played a game quite like this (yes, I know they exist, give me a break).
As I mentioned above, this is a boss battle game inspired by such classics as Metal Gear Solid, Godhand, and No More Heroes. The gameplay is exceptionally intense, requiring extreme focus to achieve success. I found the difficulty to be rather high, even on the easier setting. Perhaps it was just me and my lack of familiarity with such games, but there is no easy way to the finish line with this one.
Furi offers a fantastic array of combat options including sword fighting and dual-stick shooting, as well as charging options for both. The Man, as I am calling him, also has the ability to teleport away from danger and block incoming attacks. It’s vital that players learn how to use all these skills in conjunction with one another if they want to survive to the end.
There is nothing new here in terms of learning how to defeat your enemy. Just like Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! over 30 years ago, players have to memorize their opponents’ moves and actions and a weakness will show itself. Granted, defeating King Hippo was a lot easier than any of the enemies you’ll face off against in Furi. Each boss, beautifully designed by Takashi Okazaki (creator of Afro Samurai), is completely different with his or her own unique fighting style, arena design, and connection to The Man himself. I for one found tracking their attack patterns to be quite difficult at times, and enjoyed the challenge these fights offered. I’m not going to lie, I wanted to throw my controller on many occasions, but that’s the sign of a great game.
The fights are typically best-of scenarios, with the amount of times you must defeat your opponent increasing with each higher difficulty setting. Once you get your opponent’s health down to the bottom, the game switches to a close-combat situation where you must learn a new pattern to avoid and finish off their health gauge. When a round is lost, both fighters will have their health restored to maximum. Players are warned of an attack, then they must react and finish with a counterattack of their own. It sounds simple, but I assure you, it’s not!
The game’s default difficulty is Furi mode, but I found I needed to go one notch lower to Promenade mode in order to make any progress in the game. If you happen to beat it on Furi mode, you’ll unlock Furier, and beating that will unlock Speedrun mode.
With very little on screen in the way of characters, the creators of Furi have painted a beautiful world that seems at times more like a mind trip than anything else. There is no real exploration in this world, as you simply travel from boss to boss, with exposition told via your rabbit friend as you walk. One thing I found odd was if you didn’t feel like moving The Man yourself, simply pushing the left trigger button makes him move automatically. The Man will walk to his next destination on his own, leaving the player to simply look at all the prettiness and listen to more of the rabbit’s cryptic story. Should you trust your rabbit friend? Well, that remains to be seen.
For those who love a great soundtrack, you’re in for a treat. Award-winning electro composers Carpenter Brut, Danger, the Toxic Avenger, Lorn, Scattle, Waveshape, and Kn1ght have all contributed tracks to the game. There’s nothing more pulse pounding than a kick-ass soundtrack playing in the background of an intense fight to the death. The auditory gift that this game gives players is truly inspiring.
Furi is about fighting and not fighting all at the same time. We, as the player, have no idea what is truly happening, and must discover it for ourselves. The unique boss fights will keep you engaged for quite some time, especially if you unlock Furier and Speedrun modes. I found the difficulty to be slightly infuriating, but again, that could just be that I need more practice. I found it odd that you can just tap a button to make your character move on his own, but I also enjoyed it as it allowed me to take in the beautiful world the developers created. Like Blondie from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, or The Bride in Kill Bill, we must always ask ourselves why we fight; why should we continue against all odds? Furi doesn’t give you all the answers, leaving players to contemplate it for themselves.
Disclaimer: The Game Bakers provided a download code for this review.