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Originally known as Fenix Rage in its 2014 PC Steam incarnation, but renamed Fenix Furia for its release on PS4 and Xbox One, this Costa Rican-developed indie micro-platformer is a highly demanding test of your memory, reflexes, and coordination.
One of the first things you notice about Fenix Furia is its particularly bijou aesthetic: Everything in this game is small. The levels themselves are generally not much bigger than a single screen, and hazards, denizens and even Fenix himself are all tiny. This is definitely very compact platforming.
The game's story explains that Fenix' village has been destroyed by a huge explosion, leaving just two individuals standing: The eponymous hero, and a mysterious, shadowy figure known as Oktarus. Wanting to find out just who the other survivor is, Fenix sets off in pursuit of Oktarus, a chase that leads him through nine worlds, each with 20 different levels (plus 20 bonus screens should you be deft enough to be able to access them).
Each level presents the same basic challenge: Simply reach the exit, represented by a small blue square upon which sits Oktarus. It's a supremely simple gameplay concept that's anything but in practice. Well, things start out straightforwardly enough, with a few introductory screens where you can run and jump your way to the exit with ease, but the difficulty escalates quickly, and soon the game starts to become very challenging indeed.
Fenix is a highly maneuverable hero. He has unlimited air-jumping capability, meaning that he can essentially fly by repeatedly jumping, Flappy Bird-style, and he also has a dash move that lets him zip forward a short distance at very high speed, breaking any destructible walls that he might crash into. It makes for a character that feels incredibly nimble, which is further enhanced by the lightning fast reaction of the controls. Indeed, joypad input feels almost too twitchy at first, but once you settle in to the sheer speed at which the character can fling himself around the screen, the controls begin to feel great.
And you certainly need that level of response to play Fenix Furia successfully, because it's one seriously fast-moving game. Once past the early training screens, reaching each level's exit starts to become a real challenge, usually involving negotiating a dense array of stationary and mobile hazards. Fortunately, everything that moves does so in a predictable fashion, meaning that the secret to this game is looking for safe spots and gaps that you can jump and dash into. However, doing so is far easier said than done.
Indeed, you'll die a lot while playing Fenix Furia, and I mean a lot. The fact that levels are generally small and compact means that they don't take long to get through. Some screens only take a few seconds to finish if can negotiate them unscathed – but that's the trick here. To do so, you need to run the gauntlet of pixel-perfect jumps, critically-timed dashes, and a myriad of different hazards. Fenix Furia is designed to be deliberately tough, and screens are played rapid-fire: The moment you die, you instantly respawn and can start over again.
This creates a game that’s both frustrating, yet very addictive. Working through a level is a case of learning enemy movement patterns and experimenting with the controls to figure out the precise maneuvers required to avoid the hazards and reach the exit – and "precise" is the operative word here. Fenix Furia is very unforgiving, and offers little margin for error. You oftentimes you know exactly what you need to do, and where you need to go to, but executing the moves to do so successfully requires perfect timing, and in the process of trying to get them right, you'll die a bunch of times. But this is where the addictive side of the game comes in. Since you can start over instantly, you end up replaying levels over and over again until you finally beat them. Well, you do if you enjoy the action, and that's where Fenix Furia is potentially divisive.
If you're a platforming fan who likes games that are a true test of your grit, skills and determination, and where a lot of practice really does make perfect, Fenix Furia is rewarding and fun. Well, I say "fun". It's "fun" in that way where you'll swear and curse, and want to throw the joypad across the room at times, but will have you yelling in delight when you finally conquer a level you've been stuck on. That certainly happened to me numerous times. On one particular screen, I died 46 times before I finally got it right, which really did test my patience to say the least. But I was determined to beat it, and, even though it sounds weird, I enjoyed the challenge of doing so.
The thing you need to keep telling yourself while playing is that this is Fenix Furia's shtick. It's the very essence of hardcore platforming, and it exists to constantly push your skills to their limits, inevitably infuriating and frustrating you in the process. But fortunately the game is polished, well designed and ultimately fair enough to keep you coming back for more, at least for the most part. Going back to the divisive comment I made just now, I can definitely see some people not enjoying the action, though – especially those who don't necessarily want to bang their head against a game that's so uncompromising. Fenix Furia offers no respites, apart from a couple of short cutscenes – most of the time you're right in the thick of things, usually dying repeatedly as you attempt to conquer a level though trial and error, brute force, or the occasional bit of luck – or combination of all those things.
But if you enjoy games like Super Meat Boy, and want to find out just how good your skills really are - Fenix Furia is a solid test of your gaming mettle.
Lasting AppealFeaturing a split-screen two-player mode and over 200 levels, Fenix Furia offers a high level of challenge - assuming you're good enough to keep on pushing through it.
SoundThe soundtrack changes from world to world, but most tunes are short, repetitive, and unfortunately sound a little generic.
VisualsAlthough the graphics are ultimately quite simplistic, they're bright and colorful, and work well enough to deliver a decent-looking experience.
ConclusionFenix Furia is a hardcore micro-platformer that somehow manages to be incredibly challenging, yet still enjoyable to play. Some of its levels will have you cursing out loud due to their high level of difficulty, but when you beat them, you'll whoop with joy. It's definitely not for everyone, but if you want to test your reflexes and coordination to their limits, Fenix Furia is a game that does just that.