This article first appeared on VICE UK.
Furi, from Montpellier-based indie studio the Game Bakers, is a collection of intimate, intense boss battles. It's a series of stylish one-on-one skirmishes, in which steel clashes with steel, luminous blasts of energy rip through avatars, and only one combatant walks away alive. It's a furious, often frustrating, and occasionally euphoric game—and really quite special. And while it's available on both the PlayStation 4 and PC, it's "free" right now, for anyone with a PlayStation Plus account. So if you're in that latter camp and have not already done so, download it—it's the first essential new release on the service since Rocket League reached millions of homes in a matter of minutes last year.
Unlike Rocket League, the learning curve of Furi is steep to the point of near verticality. If you're the sort of player who's more likely to mash his or her way to success, caring not about style ratings in the likes of Bayonetta, and constantly undone by the Dark Souls series's exacting timing, be prepared to fail repeatedly before you fight through to the game's conclusion. This is hard. You'll look at the screen, down at your controller, at the window, and wonder how far this sticks-and-triggers contraption would fly through it, given enough oomph. If the game came on a disc, a small but not unsubstantial number of them would be shattered by now, just days after release. You will need a stress ball beside you at all times – but then, the same was, and remains, true of titles like Super Meat Boy, Ninja Gaiden , and those Souls games. Said games considered, maybe keep two squeezable soothers in close proximity, just in case.
In Furi, you play as the Stranger—just think "futuristic Samurai," and you're there. The Stranger's combat vernacular is simple: He has a sword for slashing and parrying, a dash for getting out of tight situations, and an energy pistol for when things get a little too hectic. And by hectic, I mean bullet hell hectic. Similarly to Cavia's cult action RPG Nier, Furi is a curious amalgamation of third-person hack-and-slash swordplay and twin-stick shooting. Each of the ten bosses you encounter during your perilous escape from a neon-swathed prison regularly mixes things up between the two disparate styles, with Furi's unrelenting difficulty forcing you to be equally adept at both if you are to have any hope of surviving.
But then, shouldn't a game that's entirely boss battles be challenging? Each one is memorable, too, thanks to the lashings of artistic flair from Afro Samurai creator Takashi Okazaki, complementing the brawn of the Game Bakers' multi-phase fights. Naturally, the difficulty, which hardly starts low, escalates titillatingly as you progress. Every boss has multiple health bars, and depleting one of these shifts the combat to the next phase, ensuring that you're never dealing with the same attack pattern for more than a couple of minutes at a time.
Reach that final health bar, 15 to 20 minutes into a battle sometimes, and things go right off the rails: Furi gets absolutely fucking ridiculous. You'll find yourself harassed by projectiles from every conceivable angle, knowing full well that you have to dodge each one with immaculate timing and positioning to survive. The pressure's on, too: Losing all of your health will restart the whole encounter. It's genuinely thrilling, heart-racing stuff, where the result is either fist-pumping joy or pad-snapping despondency. There is no middle ground with Furi. This isn't a game that you'll just like, just enough. The onus of success is squarely on the shoulders of your ever-improving skill set. Practice will make, well, not exactly perfect, but you'll get better. And when you finally overcome a boss you've been bashing your head against for half an hour and more, it's as satisfying a feeling as I've felt playing a video game.
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Almost like scoring a game-winning bicycle kick in the last second of a Rocket League game, eh? Segway. It's actually quite fitting that Furi should arrive 12 months after Rocket League dominated most of our lives as the quintessential PlayStation Plus "freebie." I don't expect it to have the same widespread impact as Psyonix's rocket-powered football—the difficulty curve will certainly be divisive—but its availability should hopefully open some eyes to a style of game we don't often see.
It's another important step for Sony's efforts with PlayStation Plus. Like Rocket League before it, Furi is an excellent advertisement for the subscription concept, and an obvious example for why all the piss-babies complaining about a lack of free triple-A games on it need to pipe down. I'd certainly rather play exciting and innovative new indie games like this than something like Knack or Watch Dogs a few years down the line.'Furi' launch trailer
I mean, just look at some of the games that have been on PS Plus so far: Outlast, Spelunky, The Swapper, Rogue Legacy, Transistor, Grow Home, Helldivers—the list goes on. What's not to like here? And when it comes to games making their debut, Sony sure knows how to cherry pick them with Furi and Rocket League both leading the charge. I'm not here to advocate the program – it's got enough fans, anyway—but every now and then we need a game like Furi to remind us that game makers and distributors alike want to keep this medium fresh and exciting, every bit as much as the players.
The Game Bakers' latest is an unexpected gem in a year that, in my opinion, has been full of them, and I may have never played it were it not for PS Plus. The same most likely applies to you, too. That's the strength of this service, and why it's so important that games like Furi exist: to prove its value (if not monetarily, then at least qualitatively). It gives each passing month an air of excitement, of knowing that some game you've never heard of could be the next Rocket League or, indeed, the next Furi. I'm already eagerly anticipating the next surprise barn burner, and I'm not even done with this one yet.
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