Feral Fury Review
Top-down twin-stick roguelikes are ten a penny these days, with every developer thinking that the apparent simplicity of the genre is just as simple to reproduce. It takes something special to be mentioned in the same revered tones as the likes of The Binding of Isaac or Nuclear Throne however and to get there, a game needs challenging gameplay that masters both parts of the equation and provides a reason to head in for another run. The shooting action must be on point and engaging, while character management and leveling need to be balanced well enough that you feel like you’re making progress. A decent story is a bonus, too.
Skandivania Games’ Feral Fury is the latest game to try to reach that high bar and has a fair crack at things. You control a panda Marine (yes, panda as in the bear) who has to gun his or her way through 15 procedurally-generated stages to beat…well…you’re never actually told what you’re trying to beat since the game doesn’t provide any sort of exposition. Other than a short intro sequence that sees Commander Panda (a name I’ve given him) inspecting the ranks of private pandas as they fly towards some sort of combat environment, all you know is that you’re a panda and you have a gun. A quick visit to the game’s website shows that the Great Panda Empire and the Hellhog Horde are battling for domination of the galaxy and that you’re on the side of the bears, so there you go.
“It doesn’t quite make it into the elite, but Feral Fury’s relatively low asking price means that there’s value for money to be found.”
Each stage sees you gunning your way from room to room, trying to locate an exit keycard so that you can make it out and progress to the next stage. As you enter each room, the doors lock behind you until all threats are dealt with. These rooms usually remain clear once you’ve dispatched all the enemies, so if you make it all the way through to finding that keycard, you can plot a safe route as possible to the exit by using the handy minimap that’s always on screen.
It isn’t as simple as all that, though, since Feral Fury presents a very, very stiff challenge. You don’t start each run with masses of health and even if you’ve downed enough enemies in previous runs to pick up enough orbs to unlock a permanent upgrade, you’re never even remotely close to being overpowered. The sheer number of ways that the game can chip away at the health that you do have remaining is generally enough for you to be seeing the “game over” screen sooner, rather than later. You have a combat roll which comes in handy to get out of sticky situations, but as well as their standard attack patterns, enemies usually provide some sort of parting shot or explosion when you finally best them and it’s often these swan songs that will be your undoing. In short, a minor lapse in concentration for that split second as your brain silently celebrates another kill can be the difference between living to fight through another room or heading back to the start. That’s if you don’t get blown up, set on fire, or run through by one of the game’s selection of environmental hazards, of course.
Whether Feral Fury’s steadfast refusal to provide enough information to players is a good or bad thing – even in the early going – will be down to personal preference. Discovering what new power-ups and pickups actually do without being given a blow-by-blow tutorial is part of the joy of running around the game’s levels, but this forced blindness does go a little too far, to the point of things feeling somewhat bare-bones. Few people are going to remember what every single pickup in the game does for example, but if you stumble across a merchant selling scrolls, you’re expected to remember each on by sight as you aren’t told which scroll does what until you’ve spent your money. Also, the control setup indicates that there’s a button dedicated specifically to “Holo Power” but until you’ve fumbled about trying to use it in vain, only to realise later that you need to actually find one of these powers and then wait for it to charge, you’d have no way of knowing since there’s no other mention of these abilities. You had also better be playing close attention if you unlock a temporary buff or curse too since they aren’t indicated anywhere after the initial reveal message.
All of this – for better or worse – makes for a trickier time of things in a game that’s already a challenging proposition. Naturally, that difficulty can vary wildly based on the random nature of level generation. Picking up a handy minigun early on can be enough to even the odds a lot more than you’d think. An easier level is provided, which provides a limited chunk of the gameplay as a taster of the real thing. Boss fights are replaced with birthday parties filled with powerups here but even with that in mind, it’ll still take most players a few runs to get through it. Once they’ve done that, they’ll graduate to the regular difficulty which, with its limited item drops and fiercer foes, will provide a good few hours of gameplay. Surprisingly, the sub-bosses that you’ll come across on this level are poor fare when compared to the challenge put forth by the rest of the game. Their patterns aren’t particularly perplexing and that means it’s just a case of laying down constant fire whilst dodging the odd attack. The final boss is a different story, and should you finally win the day, a harder difficulty level is unlocked which will undoubtedly be beyond the skill set of many players.
This means that aside from a couple of test runs to see just how difficult that top level is completion of the game on regular difficulty will probably be enough for all but the absolutely addicted. Fortunately, it’ll take a handful of hours to get to that point. It doesn’t quite make it into the elite, but Feral Fury’s relatively low asking price means that there’s value for money to be found.
*** PC code provided by the publisher ***
- Challenging and addictive
- Pixel-perfect shooting
- Decent soundtrack
- Feels very bare-bones at times
- Sub-bosses are weak