“S#*+!” and there it was. I said my first swear word. No one was around to hear it because I’d woken up early. I was eight and Power Rangers was about to come on FOX Kids. To pass the time, I would play video games and then check in every half hour to see if my favorite show was coming on. I was a dumb kid who didn’t know how program scheduling worked. But I was a good little boy who never swore. Blast you, Mario’s squid-filled water levels. You stole a part of my innocence.
Yet I kept playing in spite of my transgression. I had to beat it. I even missed the exciting conclusion of the Green Ranger saga to do so. This is what an obstacle can bring out of us and that is exactly why games like Fenix Furia exist. They give us the tools and we use them to overcome obstacles. The unforgiving game is yours to decide how fun it is. The controls of Fenix are simple, run with the d-pad and if you want to dash, hit R1. Jumping is as easy as hitting X and again in the air as much as you want or can. Fenix Furia’s controls are tight to the click so whatever you push is exactly what happens. If I were to pick nits, Fenix’s dash was great but his jump felt a little neutered. Although you can do as many in the air as you like, I didn’t feel as cool as with the forward dash.
Fenix Furia is a platformer that wants to be tough. The idea of frustration is pasted all over the game’s website. And having played it, Fenix certainly lives up to its intent. Fenix’s little town on a planet of adorable little rock-hedgehog-mice cuties is destroyed, leaving our hero to pursue the only other survivor in hopes of revenge. There are nine worlds to progress through and each world has twenty levels within. Each level will have you dying over and over again before finally reaching your goal. One level, I died one hundred times. It even netted me a trophy. Luckily, the game spends literally no time respawning you back at the beginning of the stage to try again. Despite my frustration, I never felt cheated. On a couple of rare occasions, however, I did notice some pixels of overlap with the character and one of the many things that would kill me. This can prove to be a problem for a precision platformer. I wasn’t always exactly sure where the line was between my character surviving a jump or not.
There is plenty to unpack in this game. The main story campaign comes with two hundred levels and each level comes with 4 difficulties and a 2-player race option. I was amused to see that the first two difficulty options were easy and RAGE. That’s a big jump. Each level also beckons the player to finish regularly, with a time-trial ta rget and after grabbing a cookie in a difficult-to-reach part of the level. This ended up perhaps being one of my favorite unlockables of all time. Get every cookie in every level of a world and you’re rewarded with a cookie recipe. A real one. And they’re damn good. Even better because after dying over 2000 times, I definitely wanted a cookie. Or after beating a boss, I definitely deserved one. Lesson is, I solve most things with cookies.
The design of the game is charming. A slightly macabre sweetness envelops the game as the simple story bookends each world. And I mean simple, one world begins thusly: Main character throws small rock at other character. Other character throws bigger rock back. Done. Now get back to the dying. Albeit adorable, it did give me a feeling of emotional whiplash going from cuteness back to facepalm-inducing death fest.
I did appreciate the musical score. Now it may not be as catchy as Castlevania SotN’s theme or FFVII boss battle music, but the songs would fit in nicely with the music of those PS1 era RPG rock soundtracks. It gave an epic feeling to the game without being repetitive. Especially appreciated because you can be stuck on one jump for a while and the last thing you need is getting frustrated AND irritated.
Fenix Furia is exactly what you are looking for if you enjoyed Super Meat Boy and haven’t quite reached Kaizo Mario levels of video game masochism. It handles tightly and pushes you just enough without making you want to quit. Plus, the added unlockables and extra mini-games pack quite a bit into a box already pretty full compared to many other Indie games. Cool, article is finished, I’m going to go get a cookie.
David Neale is one of our awesome TOVG freelancers and a major cookie lover. He also did our E3 write-up, so check it out!