By Annie Gallagher / October 4th, 2014
|Developer||Green Lava Studios|
|Publisher||Reverb Triple XP|
|Release Date||September 24th 2014|
|Platform||PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One|
When I first heard of Fenix Rage, I heard that it was supposedly a very difficult platformer that would make you tear your hair out or smash your controller in frustration. Now I obviously did not do either of those things, seeing as how I actually have the ability to control my anger, but I will admit that it was a fairly difficult game. However, any time a game prides itself on being hard, it runs the risk of going overboard and being unfairly difficult to the point where it stops being fun. The question that remains is if Fenix Rage falls into that category, or if the difficulty works to its advantage?
While Fenix Rage does technically have a story, I honestly could not tell what it was supposed to be. According to its Steam page, Fenix Rage is about our main character, Fenix, trying to chase down the only remaining survivor of his village that was destroyed by an explosion. For some unexplained reason, Oktarus, the other survivor, is the villain of this game. There are technically cutscenes in this game, but there is no clear sequence of events and a majority of the scenes have no dialogue. I think it is safe to say that one will not be playing this game for its story.
Presentation-wise, Fenix Rage is not particularly impressive. The levels all tend to look the same except for being different colors and they look like they can be created in a generic stage-builder program. The enemy designs all look like the same blob-type enemies as well. The cutscenes are decently drawn but are not overly impressive. Sound effects are handled well enough that everything has their appropriate sound. The music is somewhat of a strange case in that I remember the songs being good while I heard them, but after playing the game I cannot remember how any of them went. I do remember that a lot of them had this industrial hard rock style to them and that they did fit the stages well enough.
My thoughts on the gameplay are rather mixed. When it comes to the positive aspects of Fenix Rage, I can safely say that it does not come close to the level of insane difficulty present in games like I Wanna Be the Guy, and its difficulty is not its sole gimmick. While one may die in Fenix Rage about as much as one would in something like I Wanna Be the Guy, Fenix Rage also has shorter levels and instant respawn times to make up for it. Fenix controls similarly to Samus with her space jump ability, in that you can jump several times while in the air in rapid succession. This manages give Fenix Rage a fairly unique vibe to it that helps separate it from other platformers. A majority of the game’s levels are only one screen long and, if played correctly, could be beaten in mere seconds. While technically there are a lot of levels that are tricky and require concentration, there are just as many levels that are very simplistic and that one will beat the first time through. This is a major issue that Fenix Rage has when it comes to its gameplay; it may have over 200 levels, but that does not mean much when close to half of them are uninteresting. Each level feels more like what would normally be a fraction of a level and it feels as if they were all sectioned off for the sake of having a large number of levels.
There is also a strange lack of a difficulty curve in Fenix Rage. There were several instances in Fenix Rage where I spent at least half an hour on one level and died 200 times, only to beat it and move on to a level that I literally beat on my first try in about 30 seconds. Fenix Rage never really got any harder, it just added more levels that either happened to be harder or easier than the ones you already completed. While some may say that this is to give the player a break between difficult sections, the problem I have with this argument is that there is no point to having these simplistic stages other than to artificially extend play time and have a larger number of levels. In fact, it is easy to tell that Fenix Rage had a real “quantity over quality” approach when one considers that levels later in the game are carbon copies of earlier levels with no changes in design.
However, what is really jarring about the reused stages in Fenix Rage is that it would actually be easy to miss a reused stage seeing as how bland the level design throughout the game is. To give an example of just how obsessed Fenix Rage is with having a large number of levels, there are 20 levels in each world, and there are 9 worlds. The remaining levels in each world can either beat you in seconds, or are incredibly annoying and time consuming due to poor design.
While the level design overall in Fenix Rage is doable and I did not find it to be as hard as the developers made it out to be, it did feel like the moments that caused the most deaths occurred for all the wrong reasons. In some cases, it felt like Fenix Rage was trying to assault your senses by putting a ton of obstacles on screen and making it nigh impossible to keep track of all of them. Other times it made it difficult to keep your eyes own your own character by having him go through portals that make him instantly pop out on the other side and require the player to instantly shift their focus in that same instant. Considering the amount of precision that is required to succeed in Fenix Rage, it comes across as really cheap to outright mess with the player’s sense of perception like that, especially seeing as how they often have obstacles that immediately show up on the other side in that same instant.
In general it feels like a lot of the levels in Fenix Rage are based more on memorization and pattern recognition than most platformers. There are some cases where this works in Fenix Rage’s favor, such as when the solution is to simply use a different strategy rather than just doing the same thing, except faster. However, this type of design can get very annoying in some of the lengthier stages. For example, every stage in Fenix Rage has a cookie that one could collect in addition to clearing the stage normally. While a lot of these cookies may require the player to take creative routes to get them, others just require doing the exact same action that you need to get to the goal. This basically means that you need to perform the same action twice seeing as how you need to collect the cookie and clear the stage in order to keep it. When the obstacle in the way of the cookie is something like having to simultaneously dodge homing bullets while waiting for a short gap between falling slime and making sure that you keep your fire power-up so you can break through ice blocks, or having to leap your way through very narrow rows of bullets that are continuously shifting, the last thing one would want to do is go through the exact same obstacle they went through in order to reach the goal. This would not be so bad if one did not need to recollect the cookie every time that they die, meaning that they need to go through that obstacle two more times.
The boss battles tend to have the same issues as the rest of the game: an inconsistent difficulty curve, being long and drawn out, and being designed to be difficult for unfair reasons. First of all, in terms of inconsistency, I should mention that the first boss was a really difficult boss that took me a while to beat, while the second boss I beat on my first try in seconds, a pattern that repeated throughout the rest of the game. Some bosses just felt like they dragged on too much due to a variety of reasons. One specific boss that stood out was one where you needed to use a boss’s projectiles to break through walls in order to reach the exit. What was annoying about this stage was that both the goal and the cookie were in the same corner of the stage, yet there were still a whole bunch of walls in out-of-the-way directions. These basically served no purpose other than to get the player to waste their time luring the boss in various directions in order to destroy walls that have nothing behind them. Lastly, certain bosses, particularly the boss of the 8th world, were based entirely around an unpredictable pattern, where the only way to counter it is to memorize it through trial and error.
Fenix Rage also has some optional content in the form of both unlockable arcade-style mini games and a bonus world based on Green Lava Studio’s previous game, Fenix Box, which is basically the same as this game except it looks like it was made for the Atari 2600 and is an Ouya exclusive. There are also two optional gameplay modes that one can replay every level in. The first of these is the challenge mode where you play through the level normally except with a limit on the amount of times you can jump or dash. Naturally this ends up with a mode that feels nigh unplayable seeing as how it takes a concept that is already difficult in slow-paced puzzle games and applies it to an intense reflex heavy platformer. The other difficulty mode is a literal god mode where you are invincible and you need to kill every enemy in the stage in a very short window of time. This mode is thankfully fairer than the challenge mode, although one likely will not have the motivation to go all the way through it after clearing the normal game.
While Fenix Rage is certainly playable and was enjoyable to an extent, I personally did not care for it too much as a whole. There were definitely some good intentions but it felt like there was much more of an emphasis on quantity over quality. Instead of having a memorable backdrop or a natural flow of levels, it felt more like the old ’80s arcade games where you did the exact same thing in each level with only a slight difference. However, in those games you were only playing for a short period of time, while Fenix Rage takes at least 20 hours for the main game and likely several more for the extra stuff. Technically there are a lot more differences between levels than most ’80s arcade games, but it really does not feel like it. Once you played Fenix Rage for a few hours, you pretty much played most of what it has to offer. While I did get some enjoyment out of Fenix Rage and I would not say that it is bad by any means, I really do not feel like I can highly recommend it. I think it is safe to say that one can get enough content out of the game for $15.00 if they enjoy it, but the question is if one will enjoy it in the first place. I am hesitant to say that it is necessary to pick up Fenix Rage immediately, it can still be a game that one can get some enjoyment out of.
Review copy provided by the publisher
Fenix BoxFenix RageGreen Lava StudiosIndieplatformerPlayStation 4PS4RetroReverb Trple XPSteamXbox One