L1, L1, L1. Three consecutive dashes slam me around three different waves of projectiles. The knight clad in neon armor braces for another assault but fails to reach his mark by half a second. Four consecutive hits and a grapple knock him to his knees as he discards his shield and two hands his great sword, muttering something about sacrifice. I don’t pay attention; I’m on my last life. I’m trying to guess what his next move will be, or else the last 15 minutes will be for nothing. He lunges forward with a motion indicating that he’ll track with his next. Dashing backward and opening fire with my laser pistol seems like a good way to get some extra damage in, instead of a parry. It isn’t. He grabs me with two hands and pummels my face into the dirt. I take the time during the loading screen to knock another death tally on the notebook next to me, next to a few quick doodles of bullet patterns and potential strategies. The fight ends two hours later, resulting in a D rank for taking too many hits during his final phase and a noise complaint from my neighbors.
Furi, the first action game by French studio The Game Bakers manages to channel the best aspects of Ninja Gaiden, Ikaruga, and Hotline Miami; Fast paced action, balanced offensive and defensive options, and a sharp sense of style (mostly due to the character designs by acclaimed artist Takashi Okazaki and dark, grinding boss themes by Carpenter Brut and The Toxic Avenger). The gameplay of Furi is quite simple; you have a chargeable dash, a chargeable sword strike with a four hit combo, a chargeable laser pistol with a fully automatic mode, and a parry. These core mechanics are so refined that moving to other games after playing Furi feels clunky, to say the least. You become entranced with the specifics of each mechanic; the time it takes to charge up a half dash, the distance on the charge slash and the timing on the parry because you need to be to survive. Furi does not pull any punches with its difficulty and berates you for picking anything below its equivalent of normal.
Your character, The Stranger, is an inmate in an inter-dimensional prison complex that orbits the Earth, with each of its cells being a different pocket in reality. After being tortured nonstop for an unknown amount of time, a man clad in a purple rabbit costume wielding a microphone frees you from your shock chamber, arming you with a katana and handgun. There are nine Jailers who stand in your way, and they will not move. You will make them.
Each of the Jailers in Furi boasts an incredibly unique design, both in terms of art and gameplay. The third boss in the game, The Line, is a meditating old man with a tonfa that stops time, forcing you to play defensively as your bullets will no longer move. Immediately following that is The Scale, clad in a divers suit armed with harpoon guns, who bombards you with danmaku-esque patterns with almost no defensive moves at all. Each boss differs so much from the last that every fight in Furi feels like a truly unique experience, even the inevitable seventh time around. There are aspects that lack polish, however; there’s frequent screen tearing on the PS4 version, and the sections in between bosses have issues with getting stuck on geometry and dips in frame rate. Ultimately, I found these inconsequential, as these never had an impact during the core gameplay.
Furi will last you around five hours if you play through it once. There’s a third difficulty level unlocked after you clear the game, changing bullet patterns and boss aggression. At present, Furi is 24.99 (Free on PS+ for July 2016). If the idea of a frantic brawler in a trans-dimensional prison network intrigues you, then you should, by all means, pick it up. The quality and level of care put into it is astounding, and the soundtrack, unique visual design, and dynamic high-speed gameplay make Furi one of the best games that 2016 has to offer.
Final Score: 9/10