"Furi” wears its inspirations on its sleeve. Treasure, Grasshopper Manufacture, PlatinumGames, Clover Studios, Kojima Productions, Nintendo and Cavia, all companies that put out some of my favorite cult classics, had a salient influence on it.
Almost every gameplay feature is lifted from one of these companies’ projects: the parries from “Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance,” the flow of guards and counters from “Punch-Out!!,” the combination of hack-and-slash and bullet-hell from “NieR” and “Sin and Punishment,” the structure of “No More Heroes.” Furi is the sort of game tailor-made to please me specifically, which makes me ashamed to say that I don’t have any strong feelings about it.
The problem with “Furi,” the thing that keeps it from measuring up to all the great games it wants to be compared to, is that there’s simply nothing there. It’s understandable for a company like The Game Bakers, with a small budget and fewer than 20 paid in-house employees, to make a short game — in fact, the refreshing brevity is one of the game’s best elements, since it encourages replays and quickens the pace — but the lack of any distinct soul of its own turns it into a haze in my memory.
To illustrate my point, let’s juxtapose “Furi” and “No More Heroes.”
Furi has the skeleton of “No More Heroes,” but lacks its irreverent tone and macabre style. Bosses in “Furi” are not memorable; they’re one-dimensional, flatly acted, generically animated and plain. In “No More Heroes,” bosses would have their own distinct designs, musical themes, mechanics, and character arcs; Dr. Peace alone had a musical number, two speeches, a fight theme, a memorable arena, and a resemblance to Charles Bronson on top of a stellar vocal performance. While the actual fight against him is deliberately simplistic and easy, it’s far more memorable than “Furi”’s second boss, The Strap, which is one of the toughest and most complex bosses in the game. Dr. Peace reveals who he is naturally with every second he’s given on-screen, whereas The Strap’s identity is told to the player by a third party and sums up to “prison madness.” I can name every boss in No More Heroes from memory over a year after my last playthrough, yet not a single line from “Furi” sticks in my brain.
What troubles me is that “Furi” isn’t bad, it’s just shallow in everything but gameplay. The flat cel-shading and rote cyberpunk environments, the bleeding-together soundtrack of monotonous electronica, the narrative that’s written just long enough to take up time without saying anything — these are what bar “Furi” from living up to its potential. There are loads of good ideas here, but the game isn’t hard enough or polished enough to fully capitalize on them, not even on a mouse and keyboard, until you unlock the highest difficulty after a complete playthrough.
I suppose the primary value of “Furi,” then, is its status as a good introduction to the action-game subculture it draws from; it’s much more approachable for inexperienced players than the works of Treasure or PlatinumGames, it’s a lot less dark and unusual than Grasshopper Manufacture’s output, and it doesn’t test one’s patience the same way NieR or some of the Metal Gear games do.
If you’re interested in playing games like “Travis Strikes Again,” “Demon’s Souls,” “Ikaruga” or “NieR: Automata,” but are afraid of their respective barriers to entry, “Furi” can be a good way to circumvent frustration, though it’s definitely not on par with them.
Do I recommend it at $15? That depends on the case — I do as long as it won’t make you furious.
Gaget is a student in Fairbanks public schools, and has developed a number of free games. He is a neutral game reviewer.
If You Play
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Internet Usage (accounts for download size): 5 GB plus a DLC boss fight
ESRB Rating: M
Release Date: various, beginning in 2016
Genre (if applicable): Hack-and-slash, bullet-hell
Developer: The Game Bakers