From Ashes Rise – Hang onto your controllers, aptly named platformer will have you raging, indeed
Platformers have seen quite the resurgence over the past few years. Games like I Wanna be the Guy, Spelunky, Super Meat Boy, and even Trials have taken the genre in a direction well beyond jumping on turtles and mushrooms. Fenix Rage has stepped into the ring and definitely has a few words for those who think they‘re good at platforming.
As a seasoned veteran of platformers, it was very easy to get cocky with Fenix Rage. Right out the gate I found myself going as fast as I could through the levels. This worked fine for the first few, but the difficulty ramps at a speed not seen in other games likes this. I was dying left and right and I finally took it upon myself to take a deep breath and take my time. Rather than the usual stationary platformers with an enemy or two in the way, Fenix Rage fills each level with gelatinous blobs that intertwine and weave, requiring serious precision and memorization in ways other platformers haven’t tried.
Each level has two tasks. The first, collect the cookie. Easy Enough. The other, beat the par time for the level. I was really surprised how low the times were set right out the gate. You certainly can’t go for both, which gives the levels more replay ability. Despite being annoyed that I couldn’t finish a level in one shebang, this eventually gave me sweet relief.
It’s hard to shake the similarity of the presentation in Fenix Rage to that of Super Meat Boy. The level design, characters, and even the goal of picking up cookies (bandages) and get to the exit have the same feel. There are short cut scenes between worlds that play out just like Meat Boy did as well. Despite all this, the real difference comes in the platforming mechanic. While Meat Boy had you sticking to walls and dashing Fenix Rage uses an infinite double jump and button-masher sprint command.
The sprint command is different than other platformers that simply allow you to run. Here, you push the button and Fenix immediately flies directly to the left or right a little distance. You can continuously tap the button and Fenix will keep going until he hits something. This can be difficult to time and be very tiring for your thumbs. The first boss is a race to the exit, and you need to dash perfectly or die. I kept accidentally bumping an ice cube or some form of terrain and stopping, rather than flying freely through the section as I had hoped. Thankfully, the button was mapped to a trigger as well for when I needed a thumb mashing break.
The infinite double jump, however, is where the real challenge takes place. Other places have compared this feature, unfortunately, to Flappy Bird. I can’t deny the similarity in the way Fenix jumps, but that diminishes the real challenge this presents. As previously mentioned, the little green blobs that love sending you packing back to the beginning of the stage are often moving back in forth in a way where you really have to time your jumps. Having full control of the character while jumping and falling makes a player have to time his jumps out for the entirety of the level and not just for each section.
Death comes often and fast. Once you make contact with anything blobby or a border of the level you find yourself right back a the beginning going full bore right out the gate.
The game certainly lives up the frustration promised, but like other extremely challenging games there’s a sense of determination. It seems like a stretch to compare but once a level was completed or a challenge was met I got the same sense of satisfaction I did when learning to play the Skate series. They have simple mechanics and challenges that seem just out of reach, but once you succeed you are both strengthened and extremely relieved. In the main menu there is a stats option where you can look at your best times, etc. To give a good look at how I did, immediately after finishing the first world’s worth of twenty levels, my death count was at 738. Sure, there were a few levels that had enemies right about me and I continuously jumped into them, but most of those deaths were from trying my damndest to beat the levels.
The cookie-collecting is amusing, as I found that after I had collected all 20 of the cookies in the first world an actual cookie recipe is unlocked in the menu. There are also hidden mini games to collect similar to that of the warp zones in Meat Boy. In certain levels there are red cubes that have their own timer attached. Get to them in the allotted time and you go to these new places and unlock them in the main menu.
The only real trouble I had with the game play in Fenix Rage was the nature of the respawns. As nice as it is to get sent back to the beginning of the level immediately, the moving enemies don’t reset with you and this makes it next to impossible to speed run without having luck aside from skill. A game with this kind of difficulty pays off a player by allowing them to have a sense of memorization, but all you get from Fenix Rage is a pattern to memorize. It is certainly still possible to succeed at this, but for most players this will be difficult in a way that isn’t appealing as you won’t make any progress trying to take the same paths over and over again.
Fenix Rage isn’t for everyone; It is for the elite smug bastards that have something to prove to themselves. The inaccessibility certainly limits its audience, but at the very least despite its similarities to other games, it sets and succeeds in giving the genre something new.
Final Verdict 4/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Reverb Triple XP; Developer: Green Lava Studio; Players: 1; Released: Sept 24, 2014; Genre: Platformer; MSRP: $11.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Fenix Rage provided by the game’s publisher.