For a small indie platformer, Fenix Furia has had a difficult time making the transition to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Originally titled Fenix Rage, the tiny team over at Green Lava Studios had to deal with legal trouble in regards to the game’s original name. Newsweek has a good rundown of the battle between them and id Software, but suffice to say, the situation was complicated. The legal delay wasn’t all bad, though, as the studio was able to rework their platfomer for a new audience.
Although inspired by one of the genre greats, Sonic the Hedgehog, Fenix Furia has more in common with Super Meat Boy than it does the hyper-speed hedgehog. The platformer features the same punishing difficulty and tight controls found in Team Meat’s acclaimed title, but Green Lava Studios has also outfitted the titular hero with the ability to jump and dash continuously. Think of it as a cross between traditional platformer mechanics and the flapping of Flappy Bird. Since all you need to know how to do is dash and jump, the controls are appropriately simplistic.
As the titular Fenix, players are tasked with reaching a blue cube found in over 200 different levels across several worlds. That sound simple enough, but as to be expected from most modern platformers, it’s easier said then done. In order to make it to the exit, you’ll have to deal with challenges such as slime-like enemies, dangerous laser beams, color portals and even an exit that moves to name a few. Some of these obstacles can be used to your advantage, though. Portals can take you from one end of the level to the other and being frozen in ice can be used to pass through lasers unharmed. If it sounds confusing, don’t worry, as the game is great about introducing these wrinkles without overloading you with information.
For the most part, I genuinely enjoy the genre, but a question I always ask in regards to platformers is whether or not the frustration that comes with the challenge is worth dealing with. With Fenix Furia, I’m not quite sure the amount of enjoyment I got from the game was worth putting up with the controller-smashing frustration that accompanied it. Part of that frustration stems from the too floaty jumping that Fenix has. I’m not sure if this was a side effect from the infinite jumping the title provides, but for a game that requires you to fit through tiny windows of opportunity, you float a little too much for my liking.
I also wasn’t thrilled with the boss battles that serve as a conclusion to each world. For starters, they almost all look the same, outside of tweaks to their color and abilities. Secondly, while they make use of the mechanics you have been learning, they feel too different from what the rest of the game provides. One boss has you dashing and jumping through a maze in order to avoid him, while another has you floating around the enemy as he blasts at the walls keeping you together. These sections of the game are at best uninspired, but are more often just flat out annoying.
In general, I was disappointed with level design featured in the game. Outside a handful of levels, mostly towards the conclusion of the game, I felt that most of the stages were too similar to each other. It felt like I was seeing certain layouts reused (oh look, another section featuring enemies going into a bottom portal and reappearing above you) that could have been one and dones. The difficulty of these levels also doesn’t really come from their design, but rather the fact that the game just fills the screen with enemies. That isn’t clever design, that’s just spamming obnoxious challenges. I would have preferred to see 100 tight, well designed levels over 200 mostly forgettable ones.
Fenix Furia already features a good amount of content, but Green Lava Studios also has several different ways for you to play through the game. The standard mode is Rage mode, while Easy mode has the same levels but lets you take two hits before you die. The console port also includes a brand new two player mode, which has you racing off against a friend in order to see who can complete a level the fastest. Rounding out the package are Challenge mode, which limits the amount of times you can jump and dash, and God mode, which tasks you with killing all of the enemies on a map in a certain amount of time.
As with any good platformer, there are various collectibles found in each level of Fenix Furia. For completing levels under a time limit in Rage, Challenge and God mode, players are rewarded with different colored stars. These stars, besides being a badge of accomplishment, can be used to purchase different minigames from the main menu. All of them are fairly simplistic, but it’s something else to do. Additionally, every level also features cookies Fenix can pick-up. Collection of these cookies doesn’t lead to an in-game reward, though. Instead, you get actual cookie recipes that you can use. Not necessary for completion, but pretty neat of Green Lava Studios to include.
More challenging to find are the red cubes hidden in several stages. If you manage to make it to one of these blocks in time, the game will transport you out of your current level and into a three-tiered retro level. These stages are basically more of the same thing you were already doing, just much uglier.
There is a storyline to follow in Fenix Furia, but I’ll give it the same amount of attention the developers did. Told through a series of non-voiced cutscenes, we see Fenix chase down an evil member of his species after he freezes his village. That’s pretty much all there is to say, and it’s clearly only in place to give Fenix a reason to hop from one world to the next. Most platformers are pretty skimpy when it comes to plot, and this one is no exception.
Even considering my unenthusiastic response to the levels, I was impressed by the aesthetics of Fenix Furia. Featuring a similar artstyle to Mike Mignola’s iconic Hellboy, the colors are striking. The character models and platforms stand out stunningly against the colorful backdrops. I even somewhat prefer the look of the game to the more well-known Super Meat Boy, despite their similarities in parts.
For those looking for a devious and devilish challenge, Fenix Furia should sate your appetite. It’s platforming 101, but learning how to deal with the Flappy Bird-like floating and plethora of enemies is enough to give even the best of gamers fits. The plethora of content the title comes packed with certainly makes it worth the price of admission, but if you aren’t a fan of repeatedly dying in the name of challenge, the game doesn’t hold much value. The story is pretty much non-existent, and the level design isn’t memorable enough to suffer though. I feel for Green Lava Studios and their legal issues, I do, but I’m just not sure how much appeal this platformer really has.
This review was based on the PlayStation 4 version of the title, which was provided for us.
Fenix Furia is the type of aneurysm inducing platformer that only appeals to a certain subsect of gamers. For those that are seeking a challenge, you'll find it here. For everyone else, though, I suggest you look elsewhere for your kicks.