They sure did change it like a remix, but did they raise it like a phoenix?
Fenix Furia is not a first-timer here at Hey Poor Player. It seems that, since its original release on PC back in 2014, the game went through a slight name change. Back then, the game was known as Fenix Rage, and was the subject of our own Alex Lupella’s debut review here at Hey Poor Player. Let it be known that I have found a couple more issues with the game than he. Fenix Rage must have been part of some kind of video game witness protection program, because its name has been changed, and now it’s back for a Playstation 4 release. It’s time to hop back into a world of fire, speed, and alternative words for “anger.”
Fenix Furia stars Fenix, a strange little round guy that looks like if Sonic the Hedgehog had instead been conceived as an armadillo (which I now realize wouldn’t be much of a stretch at all, huh.) Fenix lives in a happy little village of other…whatever-he-is-‘s, until an ice comet comes down from the sky and gives him and everyone he loves a really bad day. Out of said comet emerges another guy, one with a shadowy face and a generally evil-looking disposition, and Fenix engages him in hot pursuit. Thus begins the biggest game of platforming cat-and-mouse since Super Meat Boy; this is not the last time you will hear that game mentioned.
Indeed, the Meat Boy comparisons are probably the easiest to sling around in Fenix Furia, and not without good reason. Not only is the setup for the main objective of each level functionally identical, but the difficulty climb seems to be making an attempt at doing the same thing. Hell, even the soundtrack seems to be doing its best shot at a half-decent Danny Baranowsky impression. That doesn’t mean that Fenix Furia is a straight-up ripoff, though, as the game has some unique mechanics going for it. Namely, Fenix is a lot less landlocked than characters in masochism-platformers typically are. To give a brief rundown, Fenix has infinite jump power, and can bounce his way all the way up and off the map with ease (and death, but who’s counting.) He also has an equally limitless quick-dash at the press of the button, which can be hammered to coast across as much open horizontal space as the game allots. Also fun is the fact that our hero is some sort of living matchstick, able to set himself on fire by gliding down any wall glowing red. Once on fire, Fenix will carry the flames around until they are used to break through some kind of fire-specific obstacle (see: earlier mention of ice.)
With our list of the mechanics of Fenix Furia in pyromaniac hand, now we need to talk about the performance of said mechanics, and the sometimes haphazard level design in which it all lives. Levels are basically arrays of self-contained tunnels, leading Fenix through obstacle courses of foes to get to the ever-elusive Evil Ice Dude. Each level also contains an optional cookie objective, which I suppose act as the chili dog to Fenix’s Sonic. Obstacles consist of hundreds and thousands of little green jelly cubes that bounce between walls and through space, in simple but obnoxious patterns that turn them into the main form of obstacle. The level design in Fenix Furia is sometimes fine, using these guys to great effect in creating teeth-gritting challenge, but sometimes they just feel cheap. Deadly obstacles are typically smaller than Fenix, but only slightly. Sometimes it seems like they have hit boxes that extend very slightly outside of their actual bodies.
The real flaw in Fenix Furia, though, is in the earlier-mentioned jumping mechanics. In theory, an infini-jump is a really interesting addition to a platformer, and opens up whole new ways for game designers to create challenges. The problem is that Fenix’s physics feel a little off when he jumps. The character starts and stops perfectly when it comes to walking, running, and dashing about, but his jump feels markedly trigger-happy and jolty, making it far too easy to accidentally ram into an enemy at exactly the wrong time. Fenix dies in one hit unless the game is set to easy mode (which is still a bit of a misnomer to be honest), and death means starting all the way back at the beginning of the level, no matter how big the level is or how far along the death occurred. The point is that there’s a lot of tedium in these levels for those who aren’t the most instantly adept.
All that said, though, Fenix Furia also has a lot going for it. A lot of levels are very satisfying when the game’s physics don’t get in the way, introducing deadly lazer walls and dual-sided portal columns later on that really add a lot to the level design. Even at their most aggravating, levels are consistently awesome to beat, creating the victorious satisfaction oft-synonymous with this type of game. For those seeking the extreme challenge Fenix Furia and the like present, there will be no disappointment. Just a lot of thrown controllers.
It should be noted that Fenix Furia isn’t actually just a straight-up port. This new version of the game has added a full multiplayer mode, introducing Undead Fenix as a second playable character to hop around with. The developers took a mufti-window approach to the local multiplayer, forcing splitscreen into platforming levels and showing each player their own version of the same level. The idea is that players will race to see who can finish a level more quickly. It’s functional, but the splitscreen nature turns out to be problematic, simply because these levels weren’t really designed to be constrained to half a screen. It can be hard to actively navigate, and failure can feel cheap and undeserved. The developers also took player feedback into account and made some fixes to the game’s spikes in difficulty, which were noted as being a bit too punishing back when Fenix Rage was first released. Things feel smoother now, it’s true, but there are still a few levels where things seem to go from 2 to 10 at the drop of the hat. Only so much can be done without compromising the structure of the game, but it’s kind of a shame nonetheless.
Fenix Furia is a functional Meat Boy-Like, complete with similar level structure and general attitude. What the game lacks is the airtight physics engine that made Meatboy’s adventures so memorable. That said, the game does well with its more unique mechanics. It’s kind of fun knowing that self-immolation may very well be the key to any given level. The multilayer isn’t the greatest, but the core single-player package can be some good fun for those in need of some running, jumping, and self-hatred.
Final verdict: 3.5 / 5
Available on: Playstation 4 (reviewed) ; Publisher: Reverb Triple XP; Developer: Green Lava Studio; Players: 1-2; Released: June 8, 2016 (Playstation 4), Sept 24, 2014 (PC); Genre: Platformer; MSRP: $11.99
Full disclosure: this review was written based on code supplied by the game’s publisher, Reverb Triple XP