By Josh Speer / July 2nd, 2019
|Publisher||JanduSoft, Boomfire Games|
|Release Date||June 27th, 2019|
|Platform||Vita, PS4, Nintendo Switch|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone – Fantasy Violence|
I should start this review by saying I’m a fan of games like Furwind. That is important to note, since in many ways this review will read as an autopsy of sorts. That’s not cause I hate the game. I’m a big fan of indies. But just because I enjoy them doesn’t mean I’m not critical of them. That goes double when I see all the potential a game has, and feel it’s not realized. So let’s start out with what Furwind does right before I have to delve into its many missteps.
The game starts with a lovingly narrated introduction amidst illustrated pages from a book. It tells the tale of a dark force locked away years ago that is fighting back to the world of life, corrupting the natural order. Pretty standard stuff, but nothing bad either. You play a young fox named Furwind who must fight against the rising evil while helping the inhabitants of the forest world you live in. At first I actually thought that Furwind was a metroidvania, since you have a double jump and dash move to traverse your environment, but it’s really more of a platformer adventure game.
Furwind is broken up into 3 separate chapters with a handful of levels each, as well as optional challenge and rescue missions. To play those, you first need to unlock both in the standard stages. The following are the only types of standard stages you’ll come across – forest stages, fiery ruin stages, dark caverns and temple chase stages that grants you a new ability. You’ll get an ability in each chapter, and to make those challenging you’re stripped of your other obtained abilities while you beat these chase stages. For example, you’ll get an aerial dash ability which would have helped make those chase stages much simpler, but sadly you’re restricted to lateral movement and your double jump. I consider myself good at platformers, and I still had a rough time with some of these. While the difficulty does ramp up in each chapter, I was a bit disappointed by the lack of stage variety. I would have loved more, cause while what’s here is fine, it does start to get stale pretty quickly.
In the standard stages, your primary goal is to find both pieces of the golden Totem needed to unlock the stage exit. Each one is protected by a Guardian, ranging from a primal cat warrior to a snail-riding archer to a hive full of insects to a boar wizard. There’s some cool ideas here, but unfortunately in any given level whichever Guardian you face the first time will be the same one you face the second time. I suspect the reason for this is a lack of budget more than a lack of creativity, but it was disappointing nevertheless. Once you’ve faced a Guardian once, you know exactly how to beat them next time, and only rarely do they get armed with new tricks.
Your other goal in every stage is to collect as much loot as possible. Colorful gems will be strewn throughout each stage, and many foes will drop them when defeated. You use these for buying upgrades to your skills and stats from the Mystic Shop run by Korvo, who is the first citizen you rescue. That’s all good and well, but there’s a couple problems. One is that you don’t just need currency to unlock upgrades, you need it to activate checkpoints. Each stage has a couple of them, and every time you use them they cost more. I tried not worrying about using them, but the more frantic the game gets, the more I was forced to. This meant I had less cash to spend on upgrades, which was annoying since there are a ton of them and most of them are necessary. You’ll need to buy more starting health, for example, as well as increasing your stamina meter.
Yes, you heard me right, Furwind has a stamina meter. While it doesn’t govern things like your abilities (which are limited use anyhow) or double jumping, it sadly governs your only physical attack, which is a short tail swing. What that means is if you’re surrounded by foes and are smacking your tail around, you’ll eventually get winded and be defenseless til your stamina recharges. That is a feature no platformer needs, as it just feels like an artificial way to increase the difficulty. Further compounding things is that your other attacks are basically useless. Early on you get Seed Bombs you can toss at foes. Unfortunately, they don’t explode on contact, so you need to be the exact right distance away to have them explode in enemy faces. They also seem to do less damage to foes than your tail swing. Now, to be fair you mostly use Seed Bombs to destroy certain blocks to progress, but it felt like a real missed opportunity for them not to double as a versatile attack alternative. You’re also only able to hold 3 of them at a time, which makes them even harder to justify using except when you absolutely need to. Other than that, you get a Will of the Wisp that will rotate around you and fire projectiles with minor homing capacity, but these were equally underwhelming.
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