You’re just a guy, with a giant talking bunny, wanting a change to life as you know it. No, this isn’t some warped version of Donnie Darko, but instead a new fighting and dual-stick shooter hybrid game from developers The Game Bakers. Furi is the name; taking on boss battles is the game. Having already played a boss orientated experience before, can Furi provide more substance and most importantly, engaging gameplay to such a rarely seen concept? Or is there a reason most games have filler between these sections?

Furi places you solely in the shoes of ‘The Stranger’, a man imprisoned and tortured regularly by a guard known as ‘The Chain’. Then, a human-sized rabbit starts talking to you, planting ideas in your head of breaking free, escaping once and for all. This is no ordinary prison though; there are multiple guards lying in wait within the multi-layered hell tasked to keep The Strange there forever more. Taking these guardians down one by one is all that needs to be done to be free…

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It’s not as easy as it sounds though. Each boss standing before you has a unique set of skills ready to unleash upon The Stranger, and learning their attack patterns, movements and susceptibilities are the key to successfully overcoming them. Although the initial boss works more as a tutorial than a true battle, it certainly opens your eyes early on to the fact that it isn’t going to be plain sailing. There wasn’t a single foe which didn’t end me on my first attempt; you’ll realise that button bashing, a lack of knowledge about your opponent and a deficiency in patience will only lead to failure.

The levels are mainly laid out as enclosed circular arenas, with just you, a boss and maybe a few objects that can be of use to hide behind. As far as layouts go, there are times where I am left underwhelmed and others that make me go ‘whoa cool’. One such area of blandness is the sand-like place in which you fight a wise old man, whereas the supposed final boss is far more ingenious as it has you traversing floating platforms in the sky.

With all the varied attacks at the enemy’s disposal, you may feel under-tooled with just a single simple sword combo, a plasma gun, a dashing ability, parrying and charged up versions of slashes, shots and dashes. Much of the enjoyment comes from making the best of what you do have, and the further I progressed, the more I noticed that different bosses will be taken down by being skilful, or becoming skilful, at a certain manoeuvre. At one point you’ll be sat back, enticing and awaiting to counter attack your way to glory, then at another you’ll be spraying plasma shots to forge an opening in a wall of shields in order to go in for the kill. It’s this variation in how to approach a boss that keeps the action fresh.

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Time and time again though, I was let down by my own lack of skill. Despite being on the Furi difficulty, which is what would normally be seen as the ‘normal’ level, it was brutally tough. I can’t blame the game itself though as the mechanics are incredibly responsive, and every single boss exhibits visual cues as a prelude to their next attack. Sadly, my patience wears thin and having to parry or dash at a split-second’s warning really stretches my skills to their limit. It’s a real challenge, but one I can appreciate and commend as being the best kind.

Fortunately, for anyone truly struggling to progress through the obstacles, there is an easier difficulty. The developers clearly don’t want people to switch to ‘Promenade’ unless absolutely necessary, as this disables achievements and ultimately makes the whole experience much shorter. In order to get a feel of all the bosses, it’s a move I had to eventually make and I’m glad I did because know I’m better prepared for another playthrough at the normal setting. All it really does is offer more health bars for you and less for your enemies, offering extra attempts for success.

The bosses themselves have been designed by Takashi Okazaki, character designer for Afro Samurai, and even without that knowledge it’s quite a recognisable style. I adore the fact that no boss looks alike, and over my many years of gaming I’ve seldom seen such unique characters. It helps that they are voiced really well for the short cutscenes too. Whilst on the subject of design, the paths between each of the bosses are so different to each other, it’s impressive and they offer lovely scenery to relax the mind before the next confrontation.

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I’m not usually one for noticing soundtracks, however, the originally created electro style compliments the gameplay nicely, and at times I felt like I was in an action film from the 80s. It’s not overbearing though, thus taking nothing away from what’s going on.

There’s no doubt Furi is potentially one of the most difficult games I’ve played all year, but that is by no means a negative point. This is the best kind of challenge, where luck doesn’t play a part in your success; it’s all down to your skills in reacting and timing. The action is mentally engaging, the bosses are thoroughly well designed and The Game Bakers do a great job at urging you to try harder. There’s even an extra boss thrown in for those on Xbox One – bonus!

Although there’s a story in place, it’s nothing major and could’ve done with a bit of fleshing out. But let’s be honest, Furi is about the damn challenging gameplay, and in that sense it knocks it out of the park. As long as you love it tough, go and grab yourself a bit of Furi.

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