Furi opens up with a man being released from a prison cell by an unreliable narrator. He is told to make his escape, with words of encouragement such as, “The jailer is the key. Kill him, and you will be free.” This past July Furi was released as a digital title only on the PSN Store and Steam by a French developer known as The Game Bakers. The Game Bakers was a mobile developer prior to Furi’s release, with the release marking its foray into the PS4 and PC market. The game came out without much fanfare behind it, but once I was able to get my hands on it, I was absorbed the entire way through the experience.
Furi is a boss rush title. You don’t fight any normal enemies or solve puzzles or have any gameplay outside of ten boss battles in the game and walking between them. You fight one of the people supposedly responsible for holding you hostage, you walk to the next area, and you do the same thing again. As the player you’re able to completely focus on the task at hand. There is even a button (X on the Playstation 4 controller) to have the game do the walking segments for you. Each fight presents a different challenge to you and to describe the game in one phrase is a tough task. It combines elements of action games with bullet hell as well as intimate one-on-one duels between the escapee and the jailer. The combat and the movement feel very fast and fluid. You can slash the bosses with your sword. You can shoot them with a gun. You can do charged attacks for both weapons. With only a single gun and sword, your options appear to be limited at first. However, that is not the case. Bosses will test your ability to be able to use every tool at your disposal. For example, there is a parrying mechanic in Furi. I was having a very difficult time learning the correct timing and realized I could defeat the first few bosses by dodging around instead of correctly parrying. This came to be the bane of my existence later in the game when parrying was a necessity for progress. After a lot of trial and error, I finally learned how to parry and when I went back and fought earlier bosses with this ability, I found myself feeling a lot stronger and more in control.
What needs to be understood about Furi above anything else is that this game is not easy. It will be a serious challenge to newcomers and veterans. I have always felt I became a much better gamer after I learned how to play Dark Souls. I feel a lot of the lessons I learned in the Souls franchise carry over very well to Furi. The most important advice to remember about tackling this game is to be patient. There were so many times when I tried to take a poorly thought out risk for it to only cost me my life in the blink of an eye. What allows you to become proficient at the game is the way the health bars are set up. If you have ever played Kingdom Hearts or another title with multiple health bar bosses, then you will understand the basic gist of Furi. As the player, you start with three health bars, which are essentially three chances to defeat any particular boss. If you have lost a health bar previously in the fight and are able to eliminate a boss’s health bar, your lost bar will then be restored. It is in this manner that the game allows you to practice challenging mechanics repeatedly. Furthermore, there are two difficulty options available at the start of the game: easy mode and normal mode. The game essentially shames you for picking easy mode. It tells you that playing the game on easy mode will make it shorter and easier. You will also be unable to unlock any trophies, which is a big deal to many people. In fact, because of its difficulty, Furi is one of those games that pride itself on trophies. Earning the platinum trophy in this game is an incredible achievement because the difficulty option that can be unlocked after beating the game once in normal mode is quite the challenge and forces you to use all the skills you have obtained up until that point. In general, when you defeat a boss in Furi after practicing it for several hours and banging your head against the wall in frustration, it is quite the euphoric feeling. It is akin to a boss in Dark Souls. The game tests your perseverance and coming out on top is one of those few joys that are difficult to replicate in other games.
Furi is a game defined by its gameplay, but what makes it stand above a lot of other titles released this year is the fact that it also has a strong story. As mentioned earlier, you wake inside a cell and are rescued by a mysterious man wearing a bunny mask. He encourages you to escape, whilst condemning those who put you into the cell in the first place. All pieces of the story are obtained either by dialogue between the boss and the main character or through one-sided conversations between the mysterious man and the player character. It is difficult talking about the story in any depth without using spoilers. Suffice to say the game makes incredible use of the unreliable narrator. You get a sinking feeling as you continue to kill bosses that perhaps everything he says might have some hidden agenda behind it. He never quite tells you his motivations directly. What is particularly interesting about the game is that the story comes together so well at the end without having extensive dialogue. After beating the game, a lot of the dialogue that didn’t make sense before, finally does and as you realize the mysterious man’s motivations, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the overarching story. As a result, the game is rich in replay value and you will finally be able to understand the dialogue that came before on your first playthrough.
Furi’s strongest point is its soundtrack. It is composed by several different electronic music artists such as Carpenter Brut, The Toxic Avenger, and Waveshaper. The music does a phenomenal job of making you care about the boss battles and the walks in-between. There is a lot of high energy music and Carpenter Brut in particular does an outstanding job of creating an intense atmosphere with his music. You’re Mine, the track that plays during the fight with the seventh boss, made me actually excited to wipe on the boss over and over because I enjoyed the music so much. For me that is the telltale sign of good music. Wanting to listen to music repeatedly has shown me in the past that it is doing a great job of keeping me invested in the gameplay. Some of the more subdued tracks are less than stellar, but they don’t detract from the other tracks enough to take away from the excellence the rest of the soundtrack achieves.
Furi does have its weak points. Implementing walking only segments seems like a questionable design choice. They are in the game in order to provide a means for the mysterious man to give subtle hints about the story. If the developers wanted to do that, cutscenes or segments with other gameplay elements would have sufficed. There are also specific weak points in some of the boss fights such as tedious chasing during the fight against the seventh boss or the ninth boss overall. Some of the bosses could do away with what feels like filler content. There are story elements that explain away some of this, but it still feels lackluster given that the bosses overall feel so different from one another. While I do appreciate that the focus is only on the bosses and the bosses only, some other gameplay elements could have been implemented for a nice change of pace when feeling the boss burnout.
I have always been a sucker for boss rush games like Shadow of the Colossus. Furi hits that itch I didn’t know I was having. After I killed the first boss and felt the rush of victory for the first time, I was hooked. I couldn’t put the controller down after that, and I spent a lot of time on most bosses so I could chase after that fleeting feeling again. The story and music complement the gameplay so well. You earn more tidbits of information before and after every boss and the music that plays during bosses and in the segments in-between means so much to the journey on your path to freedom. The game does have its flaws with the tedious walking sections, but it is a small blight on an otherwise stellar game. Furi really flew under the radar, and I cannot recommend this game enough for anyone that might be interested. Before the fall blitzkrieg of games comes out, let Furi take over your life for a bit. You won’t be disappointed.