Everyone loves 2D platformer-shooters like Contra or Metal Slug. There is something inherently satisfying about running and gunning while dodging bullets with responsive controls. To be armed with a huge weapon that makes big booms and enemies erupt into a flurry of parts is something that speaks to us all on some kind of primordial level.
Rogue-like gameplay elements are something that almost every indie developer feels is necessary to implement into their design in order to add value. The idea is that it creates nigh infinite variety, so that no two experiences are the same.
There have been some attempts at rogue-lite elements implemented in 2D action games before like Rogue Legacy and Mercenary Kings, with promising results. Fury Unleashed in the next experiment in procedural generating action, that comes with its own unique flourishes that make it stand out from its contemporaries.
Developer: Awesome Games Studio
Publisher: Awesome Games Studio
Platforms: Windows PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: May 8th, 2020
Fury Unleashed does a very good job at crafting its comic book aesthetic and back story. It’s so effective at it, you might even be mistaken into thinking that there is an existing comic based on this. The attention to detail in little touches like the creators involved and a publishing company adds to the authenticity.
It turns out, there is a meta story going on. A story within the story of Fury Unleashed involving the artist, writer, and publisher that covers a struggle to make it in the comic industry. It adds to the intrigue as you go deeper on a run.
The art direction, while being a mixed bag of some excellent boss designs and mostly generic everything else, is very on point with its comic book sensibilities. Everything has strong line work and detailed textures that add depth to every little asset.
The one aspect that falters is character animation, which relies on bone joints. This ends up making all animation resemble a flash animation from something you might see on Adult Swim in the mid 00s. This is likely done for efficiency, since it would have added years of development time for animators to bring the detailed 2D assets to life.
The end result is cheap and underwhelming looking poses, and unsatisfying feedback when actually playing. Not every game needs to be Cuphead, but there had to have been a better middle ground than the awkward paper doll-like motions that Fury Unleashed leaves us with.
The upside to relying on an animation pipeline like this is that it does allow the designers to make each piece interchangeable, so that players can customize the avatar or play as other characters without creating an outrageous workload.
After you’ve adjusted to the less than impressive approach to animation, it turns out that Fury Unleashed has a very strong foundation that builds upon itself. Movement is fluid, and even all guns have a visceral crunchiness to the firing. The spray of bullets pelt enemies viciously and violently, like blowing a raspberry of hot lead.
Running, jumping and air-dashing has a kinetic energy to it as the player-character kicks up dust and leaves a blur in his or her wake. The randomized level design is often haphazard which can often lead to incoherently placed obstacles and enemies.
The stage maps are arranged like a gauntlet of comic book panels that randomly connect to another; as if you’re looking at a two-page spread. This is admittedly a creative stroke of genius and is a very clever flourish to a rogue-like system. It evokes memories of Comix Zone, but with much more varied gameplay since the protagonist is capable of substantial growth.
You don’t lose much in Fury Unleashed when you die. You simply have redo the level and you get to retain all of the skills acquired. Every comic or “world” has a theme and culminates with a big boss at the end. This segmented division makes the gameplay very approachable for gamers who are put off by having to start at the beginning.
You’re going to want to start early in a stage, because this allows ample opportunity to have the chance of acquiring loot or further experience to level up abilities between runs. This is also where things get most interesting, since you are likely going to have a run-in with some characters who will offer some dubious trade-offs.
Depending on your skill level, it just might be worth making a deal with the actual Devil. Crippling your max HP for some other bonus is the kind of risk taking that is rewarding, depending on your ability to play a run and gun action game.
Sometimes the particle effects get very busy, and the screen is completely littered with sparks and lights. This can make dodging bullets more difficult than necessary, since hit boxes are harder to discern with such a chaotic display cluttering the action.
There are typically several enemies in a single location, even when fighting bosses. It can be a lot to keep track of, and will result in getting some cheap shots as you frantically try to unload on a huge tank while avoiding grenades.
It is not recommended to play in portable mode on a Switch, since the fonts get really small and the busy backgrounds make it even harder to discern threats and stray bullets.
Fury Unleashed is best played with a partner. Having a buddy may be a liability when trying to make it out alive, but it is the kind of experience where it’s hilarious when things go bad. Things were chaotic enough alone, co-op becomes utter bedlam.
Failure never feels too bad since every run is never wasted. Dying only means getting the chance to spend some skill points on the skill tree to become stronger, which means being able to negotiate the next run even faster.
This is an addictive cycle that encourages to not stop playing. The added element of chance always keeps you on your toes and constantly guessing what might happen next.
The music is fairly standard and unmemorable. A few tracks that do stand out are the surreal and atmospheric pieces that are more restrained and do not rely much on a melody. Not exactly the kind of game music that you would listen to on its own, but it gets the job done for what it needs.
Fury Unleashed is at worst a little generic on the art side of things. The plain character designs that reek of web comic art might turn some people off, but the core package is very substantial and worth playing.
The core mechanics of running and gunning while maintaining a high combo multiplier is satisfying, and taps into a primitive reptilian part of our brain. You feel eager to maintain the flow and the speed in which you move and range of abilities you get to kill, perfectly compliments the violent and irreverent tone.
Fury Unleashed was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a review copy provided by the developer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
Image: Press Release