Casual titles are a relatively new addition to the world of video games, and their contributions range from questionable to excellent, producing both forgettable titles of the week and enduring time wasters (Peggle owes me at least a month of my life back). Because of its handheld capabilities, the PS Vita works perfectly as a constant gamer’s sidekick while also offering more casual titles for those who don’t have the time to invest in a larger-scale adventure. Landing squarely between unmemorable and addictive is Furmins, the first iOS game developed by Housemarque, which has now been ported to the Vita.
Housemarque might sound familiar, and that’s because they’re behind a few excellent PSN releases, including Super Stardust HD and Dead Nation. Taking a step away from releasing fantastic console titles, Furmins represents their first foray into iOS territory. While it’s easy to see that the title was developed for simpler devices, it stands up surprisingly well on the Vita, making use of its touchscreen capabilities to provide an addictive but brief physics-puzzler that never really breaks away from the shadows of casual games that have come before it.
Each level tasks players with guiding the titular characters to a basket through the use of various movables, all while trying to collect the candy strewn about the levels and earning the three stars each one offers (one for completion, one for timing and one for all of the candy). The concept is simple, and aside from a few elements introduced in the first half of the game, it never becomes intensely complicated. What sets Furmins apart from its peers, though, is the inclusion of a set-up mode, allowing players to set-up the levels in peace before hitting the play button and watching the action unfold. Some objects can only be interacted with in this mode, while others (such as bumpers and conveyor belts) are operated as the Furmins fall towards the basket. If your plan sends the cute and cuddly critters flying into the abyss rather than into their cozy basket, you can easily hit the reset button and tweak your idea without having to wade through tedious game over screens.
While this concept of technically never being able to lose takes away much of the frustration more popular games present (I’m looking at you, Angry Birds), it also means that your precision must be absolutely perfect to get all three stars required to completely master the stage. Moving small platforms through the levels can be a bit rough when your fingers are blocking the object, making precision placement its own problem. However, the fact that its so easy to switch between setting up levels and releasing the Furmins assuages some of that frustration.
Despite being brief, Furmins offers eight worlds to play through, and each one is composed of twelve stages, meaning there are 36 stars to collect in each world. While this sounds like a lengthy puzzler, the worlds are unlocked by stars, meaning that once the first world is complete, you can easily unlock a majority of the worlds and see what the game offers in less than an hour. Every stage within a world is also unlocked once the world itself becomes available, so if one stage stumps you, the rest of the game is still available, giving Furmins a good flow that doesn’t block off most of its content because of one difficult level. Each world also features absolutely gorgeous hand-painted backgrounds, and the foreground levels are twisty and interesting to figure out.
At the end of the day, Furmins is a perfectly adequate addition to a genre that’s already quite crowded. It’s a short collection of entertaining physics puzzles, but it doesn’t offer enough variety to last any longer than a few hours. Most stages can be conquered in minutes, and aside from gathering every star possible, there’s not much motivation to keep playing once the final world is completed. Hopefully Housemarque decides to supplement updates to the game, because new additions to the gameplay would be enough to warrant a revisit. As it stands now, though, Furmins is an entertaining distraction full of colorful critters and beautiful worlds that doesn’t do much wrong but certainly doesn’t innovate handheld physics puzzlers.
This review is based on the PS Vita version of the game, which we were provided with.