Super Meat Boy changed EVERYTHING! The fast-paced, hyper challenging platforming genre will never be the same in a post Meat Boy world. They planted their flag firmly in the ground and claimed the land as their own. It follows, then, that every game in the genre must be measured and compared to their ruler. Fair? Maybe not, but that’s just the reality of it. Just like every military shooter will be measured against Call of Duty, so too will fast platformers have to vault the high bar set by the tiny cube of meat. Fenix Rage may not have surpassed that bar, but it’s on the podium.
In Fenix Rage you play as a tiny blue and yellow guy that looks like a little bit like Sonic the Hedgehog. I don’t mean to reduce every game to basic comparisons, but when a game is so clearly and heavily inspired by previous work, such comparisons are necessary. Basically, this game is Meat Boy. You have extremely tight controls as you move a little guy through multiple very difficult platforming stages. Death is extremely frequent, but upon dying you start your next run immediately, making death less a pain and more just an inevitability.
The similarities go on. There are optional objectives in each stage. In Fenix Rage they’re cookies instead of bandages, but the implementation is exactly the same. Each group of about 20 stages makes up a world. The stages in a world are tied together by a unique aesthetic to that world. Each world ends with a short, cute little cutscene before some form of boss fight to cap things off. Sound familiar? Sounds just like Super Meat Boy.
Now that I’ve put that out there I want to clarify something. Saying a game is just like Super Meat Boy is far from an insult. In fact it’s among the highest praise a game like this can get. There have been tons of games that have tried to emulate the fun, difficulty, and satisfaction of Meat Boy and failed. Fenix Rage bucks that trend and succeeds. If it came first we’d be talking about it with the same reverence, and saying it’s exactly the same is wholly unfair, because there are a host of differences which fundamentally change how you play.
The primary mechanic is the infinite jump. Think of it basically like a double-jump, but infinitely. Through a series of small hops chained together you can basically fly. Also, instead of a run button you have a short dash button, which you can also chain together to zip horizontally across an entire level without ever touching the ground. These mechanics make a meaningful difference. As opposed to the rhythmic running, jumping and wall-sliding of Meat Boy, the challenge in Fenix Rage comes from staying airborne and fitting into tight places with precision.
Interestingly enough, things got even more interesting when I got through the second world. During that world you’re introduced to portals similar to the ones in….well…..Portal. This adds difficulty to the platforming, but also turns some stages into almost a puzzle game. Figuring out where each portal goes and which ones you need to go through becomes a real challenge. The boss fight is really interesting in World 2 as well, as you actually have to go on the offensive and use your dash to “attack” a weak point on the enemy. This is entirely new for me in a game like this. As far as I can remember none of them ever asked you to go on the offensive.
At the end of it all, Fenix Rage is doomed to always be compared to Super Meat Boy, and it deserves to be. After borrowing so many of the core mechanics from Meat Boy the comparisons are warranted. So how does it stack up? Objectively, if both games came out at the same time I think they would almost be neck and neck. Obviously Fenix Rage loses some points for coming after, but if the worst thing you can say about a game is “Damn near as good as Meat Boy” then that’s very high praise. Additionally, the mechanics are different enough as to make a meaningful difference in how you have to approach the stages. Fenix Rage is a fantastic inspired speed-platformer, with just enough uniqueness to make it a definite play for fans of the genre.