Platformers have been around for a long time. In fact, platforming is a concept almost inseparable from video games, with the simple acts of running and jumping laying at the core of countless games. Endless variations on the basic formula exist, ranging from the excellent to the painfully awful. Fenix Furia, a new and colourful platformer from the shores of South America, is the latest game to take a giant leap toward greatness. Will it touch the stars, or plummet into obscurity?
Title: Fenix Furia
Developer: Green Lava Studios
Publisher: Reverb Triple XP
Platforms: PS4, XBOX, PC
Release Date: June 8th, 2016
Disclosure: PS4 review copy provided by publisher
Fenix Furia, developed by Costa Rica-based Green Lava Studios, is a fast-paced platforming game with a focus on precision movement and route memorization. The player takes on the role of Fenix, an "alien hedgehog" who just barely survives the flash-freezing of his village. In the wake of the disaster stands Oktarus, a cloaked figure who would appear to be the one responsible. From there, it's up to the player to guide Fenix through two-hundred levels spanning nine worlds, catch up to Oktarus, and hopefully find out just why Fenix's village had to be put on ice.
The game does the player the courtesy of starting off slow.
At first glance, Fenix Furia would appear to be a pretty straight-forward game, and at a basic level, it is. The game is built aroud Fenix's somewhat meager jump and his far more impressive horizontal dash, both of which are unlimited, and can be chained together as fast as you can press the buttons. Every level has the same goal: get to the glowing blue exit cube as fast as possible, and grab a golden cookie on the way if you're feeling adventurous. The developers themselves name Team Meat's Super Meat Boy as a major inspiration, and gameplay-wise the resemblance is undeniable.
Fenix's progress through the levels is impeded mainly by small, pulsating block-shaped blobs of unknown origin. Some move, and others don't, but they will all send Fenix straight back to the start of the level immediately upon contact. As the game progresses, new elements are introduced at a steady pace; energy barriers, teleportation gates, and volcanic rock that will ignite Fenix and allow him to break through otherwise impenetrable ice blocks. For all the elements that come into play, however, the game remains easy to understand. Fire melts ice, warps are colour-coded, and enemy behaviour is apparent at a glance. The game's mechanics are easy to learn, which lets the player focus on finding the fastest routes and honing their jumping and dashing skills. When it comes to difficulty, the game offers multiple difficulty settings and alternate modes that can be selected at the level select screen, including an easier mode for newer players. Also featured is a hot-seat multiplayer mode, allowing two players to try their hand at levels and see who can finish the fastest and with the least deaths.
Things get hectic around the fourth world.
Progress in Fenix Furia is primarily measured by the number of stages the player has completed. A handful of secondary objectives come into play as well, such as the aforementioned golden cookies strewn around each world. Collecting these cookies adds to the completion ratio, however the game offers a more direct reward in the form of authentic cookie recipes, which is quite a charming touch. In select levels, the player can also find and enter red portals that send Fenix to an Atari 2600-esque bonus world, if they are reached before they disappear. These bonus levels are short, but often tricky, and upon completion they offer up extra cookies and are unlocked for free play via the main menu. The main levels provided this reviewer with more than enough challenge, though the extra content on display here should please the precision platforming perfectionists out there.
Fenix Furia plays very well, offering up the hyper-responsive controls, and varied, yet intuitive environmental variables that are essential to any quality platformer. The instant respawn upon death, as well as the dedicated level reset button, help to keep the game fast and furious, and allow the player to keep their head in the game rather than fumble through awkward menus. The unlimited jump and dash moves are an interesting addition, as well; once the player gets into the groove, Fenix is a much faster and versatile character than most. Successfully maneuvering through hordes of enemies while barely touching the ground is a great feeling. The game does hit a few stumbling blocks, however, particularly during the boss encounters at the end of each world. While most are straight-forward and challenge the player appropriately, at least one of them left this reviewer scratching their head as to how to finish the fight. A few of the extra "retro" levels were concerning as well, as while the regular speedrun-style gameplay is quite enjoyable, meticulously combing through dull mazes for invisible walls left something to be desired.
Hard to feel chilly when you ignite at the touch of a spark.
The art style of Fenix Furia is rather abstract, but pleasing to the eye, and clear enough so as not to confuse the player once the action gets hectic. The graphics were apparently inspired by a varied selection of sources, including Sega's iconic Sonic the Hedgehog, and '90s Hanna-Barbera cartoon Swat Kats. As a result, the level graphics take on a vivid, high-contrast look that helps keep the player's view clear even at high speeds. Backgrounds are primarily simple gradients, decorated with vague hints of distant landscape, clouds and twilight suns. Characters are kept simple as well for the most part, with the grotesque boss characters having the most complex appearances. Fenix himself is rather well-animated, and even takes a page out of Sonic's book, waving his arms wildly to keep balance as he teeters precariously on the edge of platforms. A nice final touch are the birds that flock in certain areas of the stages - at a glance, they seem like decoration, but they actually offer hints towards faster routes and safe spots.
When it comes to sound design, Fenix Furia ends up sounding average. The game's soundtrack is fairly ordinary, but fitting, featuring a duet of electric guitar and chiptune instruments supported by palm-muted rhythm guitars and synth arppeggios. While the music is well-produced, however, nothing really stands out about it, and it tends to sink into the background and stay there during play. A shame - considering the lack of dialogue and straight-forward gameplay, the opportunity was there for the soundtrack to shine a bit brighter. On the other hand, the sound effects get the job done nicely, and help add to the the instantaneous feedback required to help players keep their timing down as they drum each level into their muscle memory.
The level designer certainly has a sense of humour.
Fenix Furia takes its inspiration from a fine selection of muses, and in the end, despite some minor stumbles, it seems to have taken some good notes and stands as a decent game. The razor-sharp, speedy movement of the protagonist and the game's vivid aesthetic make for a nice twist on the Super Meat Boy school of platforming. While there is room for improvement in the audio department, the game should still offer plenty of satisfaction for those with quick fingers and an appetite for punishment. Those who prefer a slower pace or have a short fuse, however, will undoubtedly be burning with fury.