Fenix Furia – Review
Platform – Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Xbox One (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
Developer – Green Lava Studios
Publisher – Reverb Triple XP
MSRP – $14.99 USD
(Editor’s Note: This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 with the review copy being provided by Green Lava Studios.)
In the current world of gaming where we have sees interesting things happening in the AAA and indie development stratospheres. Most have become acquainted with games falling under both schools of thought, seeing the good and the bad. With indies, in particular, there have been some releases that have cashed in on nostalgia alone and others have met that quotient while providing an engrossing experience. Fenix Furia is one such title that snugly fits into the latter category, as it offers an intense and fun action platforming experience that utilizes age-old mechanics. It is not a perfect game with its inclusion of a couple questionable design choices, but its overall nostalgia-inspired presentation and cerebral level design make Fenix Furia more than the sum of its parts.
Story and Narrative Presentation
The story involves the alien hedgehog Fenix and his quest to confront Oktarus in the wake of Fenix’s village being destroyed by an evil force. Though the story is very weak, it is presented in a neat way with loosely animated stylized cutscenes that are sans voiced dialogue and only offer the suggestion of movement. It is almost like a mix between a silent movie and a motion comic and it is pretty cool that one can get the gist of what is happening in a scene without hearing any spoken dialogue. The narrative being as thin as it will not rock your world, but the quirky interludes will serve mostly as a breather between stages and keep your head from exploding from the insanely frenetic action of the game.
The Gameplay of Fenix Furia is fairly straight forward in concept. Through using Fenix’s ability to jump perpetually (even while in the air) and dash at high speeds instantaneously (much like Sonic the Hedgehog) you will have to make your way through 200 levels across several varied worlds. Each world houses quite a few regular platforming levels in which you will have to guide Fenix to the next portal where the mysterious Oktarus is waiting, all the while solving platforming puzzles and avoiding collision with enemies. Each world is punctuated by a boss encounter which requires some good problem-solving in order to defeat. This game progression structure is great because it inherently paced in a way that has a flow to it. As mentioned before the cutscene interludes contribute to this pacing.
The enemies Fenix must avoid are green gelatinous creatures of varying size that closely resemble Amoeba and will kill him instantly on contact. There is not much variation with these enemies other than size, but they serve more of a purpose as obstacles paying service to the level’s overall design as opposed to being full-fledged adversaries with AI. This is not to Fenix Furia’s detriment. To the contrary, these enemies still pose many challenges with their simple routines along with their placements within levels. Along with these creatures there quite a few environmental hazards like energy barriers that will undoubtedly put your comprehension and mastery of the game’s mechanics to the ultimate test.
Regardless of the type of level you are playing, each stage contains a collectible cookie that is meant to be that extra mile the player can go to challenge himself or herself. Finding these cookies can unlock some cool mini-game diversions as well as some pretty awesome out-of-game cookie recipes… Yes, this game has unlockable real-world cookie recipes! As funny as that sounds, that is only where the unlockable content begins. There are special levels that can only be accessed to warp zones and finding enough cookies. On top of Fenix Furia’s single-player mode, both the PS4 and Xbox One ports have a brand new two-player mode allowing for a competition to see who can levels quicker and with fewer deaths. There is a great deal of fun to be had with this title and replay value is fairly high as a result.
One hit is all it takes to end Fenix’s life and it is pretty easy to die a lot in this challenge-laden experience, but it is not all that punishing. Upon death, the stage completely resets almost everything, including Fenix’s starting position and the timer. Dying does add to your death counter and actually leads to some hilarious rewards as a joke. You are not restricted by having limited live and the level resets almost instantly, so the only thing keeping you from tackling every stage to its fullest is your own drive and determination.
Control Player Agency
From a mechanical standpoint, Fenix Furia feels like it comfortably adopts some elements from Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Bros. and Kirby Adventure with some improvements. Fenix runs at a brisk pace, but he covers a lot of ground with his instant dash ability. However, this move can leave Fenix open for collision the many hazards of his world. Luckily, this dash can actually be canceled by tapping the analog stick or d-pad in the opposite direction of said dash. This is crucial when having to get into tight parts of levels where Fenix’s will surely fail him. When Fenix jumps he has a very distinct jump arc that cannot be changed by changing the amount of time the jump button is held down. Though you can freely steer Fenix while in the air, his jump arc is something you will have to commit to as the player while contending with the many hazards that are bent on Fenix’s demise. Fenix can even slide down a wall which slows his descent marginally but also allows to him to take advantage of property changing ability offered by the level environments. Nonetheless, all of the controls are very responsive and make it very to string jumps, walls slide and dashes together with ease. Even with the tight controls and the abilities, Fenix has at his disposal, this game is not for the weak or faint of heart because of its solid level arrangements.
Level Design and Difficulty
The road to catching Oktarus is a tough one. Fenix Furia, much like Super Meat Boy, is a title that takes the difficulty and challenge of 8-bit era of gaming and brings it into the modern age. Furthermore, it also takes a classic approach to educating the player through the game’s level design itself and not through a restrictive tutorial like most modern AAA games do. The game starts out pretty simple with the first stages serving as an opportunity to use each mechanic individually. Eventually, you will start to see levels that will require you to string various mechanics together in order to simply survive a small section of a bigger level.
Sooner rather than later, Fenix Furia starts presenting new environmental hazards and features that allow Fenix to traverse the environment in ways that will really your understanding of spatial relation and general problem-solving. It is actually surprising just how cerebral this action-oriented game can get at times through its level design. The game will eventually start presenting levels with red-hot walls that Fenix can slide against to engulf himself in flames (Thankfully, without dying) that allows him to dash and break through solid ice blocks.
The notion of different breakable barrier types and powerups used to break through them really changes how you approach levels including them. If this was not enough of a challenge Fenix Furia throws two-way teleporters into the mix, which affects enemy movements as well as the player character. Any stage with these devices is guaranteed to make you stop and observe what exactly is happening before you formulate a possible solution. It is clear that the team behind this title knew what it was doing. As a result, the progression in difficulty is steady and fair as far as the level arrangement is concerned. If that is a bit too much for you to handle this console version of Fenix Rage does offer an easy mode to help you better acclimate to the game’s various pitfalls and challenges.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of things that take away from Fenix Furia’s crafty design and pacing. The first issue has to do with how the stages reset objects and enemy placements. As mentioned before, the stages completely reset almost everything, including Fenix’s starting position upon death. For some reason that only thing that does not reset upon death is the placement of the enemies. It is a tad too easy to die twice or even trice in the span of a second or two simply because you were expecting a preliminary enemy to be in its original position when, in reality, they are already in your path or just about to make contact. Another thing that can literally get in the way of the overall experience is the over-sized timer in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. This issue may be seldom seen, but it can artificially make a stage exponentially harder for all the wrong reasons. If this was a first attempt for Fenix Furia these flaws could be somewhat forgivable, but this title is actually a console version of a pre-existing game that has been on Steam called Fenix Rage.
There was an opportunity to fix these issues, so it is shocking that they are still present here. Those two blemishes aside, Fenix Furia still manages to be a technically sound game lacking any slowdown or framerate stutter. The game loads pretty quickly and the stylized graphics look very crisp on a 1080p display. It just would have been nice to not have the timer potentially obstruct part of it that housed some of a level.
Graphics and Visual Presentation
While 2d sprite graphics may not initially set your world on fire, there is something to said for a sprite-based game that has style and artistic flare and Fenix Furia has plenty of both. The team at Green Lava Studios has stated that the inspiration for Furia’s art style is the 90’s cartoon SWAT Kats and the original Hellboy comics and it definitely shows. The way in which cutscenes are presented pay homage to Hellboy in the way of framing and Fenix’s overall look, with his pupil-less eyes and angular features, is very reminiscent of the titular SWAT Kats.
Each world in the game has a certain environmental theme and this reflects the look of its levels. There is a great use of vibrant colors for particular objects of interest. Both the foreground and background are rife with some pretty nice effects like shifting sunsets and snow effects that sort of giving stages a psychedelic quality. Fenix along with the enemies and objects are animated and detailed well enough, conveying both danger and functionality.
Music and Sound Design
The sounds and melodies of Fenix Furia, like the visuals, are very much inspired by the past. Green Lava takes the nostalgia of 90’s era cartoons, comics, and video games to wrought a soundtrack amalgamated goodness. If you are a 90’s kid you will surely pick up on some of the chiptune sounds that are straight out of the Nintendo NES and the Sega Master System. There also seems to be some Commodore 64 SID chip representation in the mix. These tones are laid underneath some shredding electric guitar riffs with some techno beats for good measure.
The various sounds that Fenix generates during levels are appropriate and have a Nintendo NES and Game Boy feel to them. The sound of Fenix jumping is very close to that of Kirby. If you are into music that mixed traditional instruments with the blips and beeps of the older 8-bit consoles like the works of Anamanaguchi, then you will certainly be in a state of aural bliss while guiding Fenix.
Fenix Furia is pure unadulterated fun from top to bottom. The sheer challenge that is presented to the player through its skillful level design offers a rock-solid platforming experience that will certainly test your wits as well as your reflexes in a big way. If the game’s difficulty starts to push you away, it will pull back in with its nice visuals and solid music while you figure how the solution to a level. This game is not perfect and will not necessarily revolutionize the 2d platformer, but it still hits the mark where it counts the most and then some. Fenix Furia can comfortably sit alongside the likes of Super Meat Boy and Braid as a great platformer and love note to the bygone 90’s that is sure to keep you pleasantly occupied.