One-on-one combat is a game of taking turns. You evade, block or repel your enemy’s attacks until your moment comes, that little window of opportunity inviting you onto the front foot. This is the most vital component of any fighting game, of any boss battle. You should have to work for your turn, and when it comes – when to becomes fro, back becomes forth – the outcome should feel like a just reward for your efforts. It’s a concept The Game Bakers has failed to grasp entirely. This game requires a tremendous amount of input, but gives precious little output.
Still, it does not lack spectacle. Furi tests the memory, the reflexes and the thumbs. It looks sumptuous, sounds terrific and has an intriguing, oddly affecting story. And there are moments where everything works as it should, as a plan is finely formed, perfectly implemented and the antagonist who’s had hold of your goat for a few teeth-gnashing hours is finally put to the sword.
Sadly, for much of the rest of its runtime, it’s just kind of annoying. Furi’s great conceptual trick is that it blends the balletic to-and-fro of a melee brawler’s boss fight with the pattern recognition and precision of a bullet-hell shooter. And, when those two elements actually blend, it’s intoxicating. But by and large, rather than elegantly combine its two core concepts, Furi strobes between them. Dodge these bullets; parry these attacks; blink through these lasers. Then do it all again, with slightly more to contend with, or slightly different timing. Eventually, you’ll be given a small window in which to deal some damage. We’re happy to dance to an opponent’s tune, so long as we get to lead at some point. Unfortunately, even when the advantage is yours, Furi calls the shots.
You’ll close in and start up your standard four-hit melee combo, but the boss will backflip away from the third hit, then parry the fourth. You’ll find a gap in an attack string and quickly strike, only for them to cancel their current animation and knock you away. Weaving in and out of a bullet curtain, you’ll line up a charged shot with your laser pistol, only to find that your enemy is invincible. There’s no room for creativity, for improvisation or self-expression; all that matters is proving you’ve committed an entire fight to memory.
It’s a tremendous shame, because the bosses themselves are a finely conceived, smartly designed and varied bunch. The creative health system (see ‘A life less ordinary’) adds tension and elegance to the way fights progress from a simple, accommodating first phase to an insanely punishing climax. Were it not so restrictive, Furi might have been a classic.
Enemy bullets are smartly colour-coded. These standard orange projectiles can be shot away, while a green variant contains a health boost. Blues can be parried, while purple ones will home in on you, forcing you into cover