Furi Review

By Sam Quirke,
You know the feeling – after happily slashing or stomping your way through scores of enemies, you come across your final antagonist and he’s like nothing that you've seen before. Maybe he's got a huge sword, or a huge laser cannon. Heck, maybe he's just huge. All you know is that this battle is going to test your reflexes and your cool to the absolute limit, through waves of insane attacks. You'll probably die a billion times and find tufts of your own hair between your shaking fists before the end. Nothing can beat the relieved euphoria you feel when your foe finally goes down.

Almost all gamers will be familiar with the classic moment that The Game Bakers is attempting to capture with Furi: the frenetic, near-impossible arena boss battle. The game takes this breathless rollercoaster and makes you face it again and again in a relentless boss rush. Is it worth the pain?

Logo

Just like the games behind some classic boss battles, Furi doesn't devote much time to introductions. You start off being tortured for reasons unknown. Seconds later, you are freed by a mysterious man in a rabbit mask and are sent off to kill the torturer. Once he’s down, you’re told that you need to defeat nearly a dozen further bosses to finally be free… although as we frequently see in the indie scene, there’s an underlying mystery regarding the silent hero's true purpose. There are no other enemies or puzzles to tackle on the way – you just need to take down your jailers.

The fight setup is simple but elegant. Each of the opponent's lives represents a phase of the fight. Knock the jailer’s health to zero and he loses a life, then both duellists’ health bars replenish for the start of the next phase. If you lose one, you both start the current phase over with full health. Each phase normally contains a twin-stick shooter section during which you’ll be dodging all sorts of deadly neon projectiles, followed by a desperate close-combat sword fight. Each boss delights in some additional special attacks as well as occasionally bucking the expected patterns altogether. It all makes for a truly tense experience that only cool heads and sharp reflexes can overcome. Button mashing is useless – if you aren’t precise then you’ll be hit, and you can’t take many blows before you are knocked out. It makes the fight very tough, but it feels extremely fair. There have been performance and difficulty tweaks since the PlayStation 4 and Steam releases, so Xbox players are getting the most polished version of the game to date.

The silent protagonist and each of his opponents have a wonderful character design from the unique mind of Afro Samurai's Takashi Okazaki. Some of the highlights included the bizarre laser-headed lady known as The Strap, and The Flame, who looks like a cyberpunk version of a Norse god and is an Xbox-exclusive additional boss. The designs will bring up strong memories of the best boss battles in the Metal Gear series, especially the sniping wisecracker known as The Burst. No doubt every player will have specific favourites and those of whom they are glad to never see again.

Furi - First Boss

Each battle manages to be unique while retaining a simple core set of attacks and defences. Once you've learned the basics, the rest of the game is simply about reading the opponents and their increasingly complex attack patterns. There were no missteps in the AI or design – no sign of unfair exploits or glitches of which either duellist could take advantage. Instead, there is just a gradual escalation in complexity and speed between each boss, and even between each wave of a fight. With no levelling and no upgradeable load-outs, the only way that you're getting through this is with patience and training.

If I've spoken a lot about the boss battles, it's because that’s really all there is to Furi. The game offers almost nothing to gamers who are looking for more than the simple purity of a proper arcade boss battle. Where the game makes an attempt to flesh things out with narrative or world design, the effort tends to fall a little flat. Each jailer inhabits a prison world of unique colours and layout, but it all falls into that pastel-and-neon aesthetic currently in vogue across games like No Man's Sky and Hyper Light Drifter, without offering anything near as much interactivity as those titles. The environments simply exist to be walked through.

And boy, will you walk. You have to traverse a long, linear path between each boss with nothing to entertain you except some background music and the gradual unfolding of a pretty predictable mystery, delivered in monologue by your rescuer. It feels odd because the developer is happy for you to skip pre- and post-fight cutscenes while forcing you to do the literal legwork between the action. Your only alternative is to 'Auto-walk' by pressing cn_A. The trek takes the same amount of time, but our hero puts one foot in front of the other all by himself. You'll be grateful for this small compromise. The paths that you have to take are almost completely linear, while continual camera shifts mean that you're often striking an about-turn by accident between screens. At least by turning on Auto-walk I could step away from my screen for a few minutes and shake off some residual adrenaline.

Furi - Long Road

While most of the voice acting is tolerable, none of the dialogue is particularly engaging or interesting. Any dialogue that accompanies the start of a wave will be repeated if you lose a life and have to restart, meaning that you'll often hear the same lines over and over again. It's a little grating and the game would have been better off without most of it.

The rest of Furi's sound design more than makes up for this small irritation. It boasts one of the most impressive electro/synthwave scores that I have come across, featuring original tracks by Carpenter Brut, Danger, The Toxic Avenger, Lorn, Scattle, Waveshaper and Kn1ght. Every theme will get your blood pumping and reflexes working, but you'll never feel overstimulated. Just when you need it, you'll get an intense beat to keep your rhythm. When you need to ease off and work out what the heck is going on, the music will reduce to a background simmer. Individual sound effects are also well-crafted, managing to be both alarming and helpful in equal measure. The keening metallic scrape that indicates an attack that you need to parry will surely linger in your brain after an intense fight, but it's also invaluable as a way to know when to raise your defences, particularly when the screen is swimming with laser beams and orbs.

What really makes Furi exceptional is that you're never left feeling as though it's impossible, unlike some notorious bosses in gaming history. On my first playthrough up to the seventh boss, each opponent took 30-40 minutes of play time, dying constantly and feeling like each fight was the last that I could possibly manage to overcome. Starting a parallel new game at this point, I found that it only took an hour and change to get all of the way up to the seventh boss again without a single death. It’s an exceptionally well-crafted difficulty curve that rewards persistence; even gamers who are not normally predisposed to significant difficulty might get a kick out of beating some of these guys.

Furi - The Burst

The achievements follow the same tough-but-fair philosophy of the rest of the game, rewarding each boss defeat with some Gamerscore while reserving the bigger rewards for additional challenges. Getting to the end of the main story is difficult enough, but you'll probably have to do so three times to get each of the three different endings. There is also the 'Furier' difficulty to complete and attain an S-rank while doing so, then you'll need to beat the game's combat designer at his own speed-run. There are also some well-implemented secret achievements for the few times that you can leave the path when walking, not to mention rewards for unique actions against particular bosses. It's a tough list, but you'll be proud of each achievement that you manage to get. Just remember that achievements are disabled in the easy 'Promenade' difficulty.

Summary

Furi is a frantic boss-rush of punishing difficulty and it certainly lives up to its name. I was left trembling with anger and adrenaline on more than one occasion. None of your defeats feel unfair, however, ensuring that you are tempted to come back and try again. A brilliant soundtrack and unique character design make repeated thrashings a little easier to take, while those who are born to dominate this kind of game can still find challenges in a harder mode, achieving S-ranks and beating the developers' own completion times. With a bare-bones narrative and little else to accomplish except taking down bosses, this is a game that knows its audience: arcade gamers looking for a pure challenge. If that sounds like you, Furi comes highly recommended.
4 / 5
Furi
Positives
  • A tough but fair difficulty curve
  • Brilliant synth soundtrack
  • Simple but effective combat
  • Excellent character designs
Negatives
  • Pointless walking sections between fights
  • Environment and voice design a little lacking in places
Ethics
The reviewer spent 12 hours desperately parrying but mostly dying painfully, before switching to Easy mode to see out the story. He earned 16 of the game's 34 achievements. An Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Sam Quirke
Written by Sam Quirke
Sam has been a Newshound since 2016 and is now the Editor for both TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies. He loves gaming on all devices and in all genres. He remains a stubborn Assassin's Creed and Pokémon fan.