Developer: Green Lava Studios
Release Date: September 24th 2014
I have to be forthright before I start this review, Fenix Rage is easily one of the hardest games I’ve ever played. I freely admit that I am not the greatest gamer when it comes down to skill; be it a sign of impending middle age or a simple lack of finesse. Dark Souls is reknowned for its toughness and it certainly pushed my capabilities, but there’s room to grind should reactions not carry me past a tough encounter. One of my proudest moments in my many years of gaming is completing Super Meat Boy; no impossible task but it fills me with modest pride somewhat. If, by some miracle, I complete every available moment of Fenix Rage, then it will easily replace that accomplishment.
The world is an acid trip of caustic colours and viscous paints, every bit as rough as it is interesting. It’s quite divisive in style and whilst I welcome the unique visuals, I can’t help but wonder whether a bolder, simpler theme wouldn’t suit it better. Even when the screen is cluttered with sprites, you’ll know exactly where you are and what to avoid so it’s never an issue but being so complicated, it lacks the memorable characters and environments of Electronic Super Joy, Meat Boy and a few others. It’s not a huge detractor by any means though and I greatly appreciate the confidence displayed by the bold and exotic artwork. Beauty is, of course, relative.
Possibly the most appealing factor of Fenix Rage is that even though it fits comfortably into the hardcore platforming genre, it handles unlike any other I’ve encountered. The typical frantic movement drawn from the greatest examples suits it perfectly but the sly addition of a Kirby-esque infinite jumping mechanic quickly breaks any over-confidence. Combined with the ability to charge through weakened walls, there’s an impressive juxtaposition of the familiar and the foreign. Genre veterans will ease into the gameplay smoothly without finding it to be routine.
You’re warmed in very lightly in the first few levels, initially tasked with little more than hopping across barren and simplistic platforms in nondescript locations. I can only assume this is a twisted joke from the developer as the fourth level reveals their deception. Suddenly all bets are off and the kid gloves a thing of the past; it’s a rather jarring jump in challenge. The change in pace is hugely appreciated though given the wealth of easygoing platformers already available. With that said though, the difficulty is going to push any gamer to their limits, no matter how skilled you believe you are. Kudos Green Lava Studios, that’s no small feat!
As if the weaving through enemies and split-second button presses weren’t challenging enough, Fenix Rage laughs at the concept of checkpoints. It wouldn’t be unfair to compare the later gauntlets to finishing a Hard track on Trials without a single fault. When the levels have as many fatal moving parts as a high quality Swiss pocket watch, you need patience as much as you do dexterity. Hesitating can be as fatal as rushing recklessly so mastering balletic swoops between the patrolling foes is as necessary as it is demanding. If you’re the type to throw controllers then I’d advise playing in short sessions; even the calmest person will find their willpower tested. So why would I recommend this?
It’s the satisfaction. Nothing worth having comes easily they say and if that was printed on an inspirational poster it would probably have a picture of Fenix below the phrase. Every single level completed is a major lift to your spirits, the simple wash of joy and relief is addictive. With achievements being a word thrown about in the gaming circles so often it’s lost a little of its clout; Fenix Rage reclaims the true definition and wields it confidently. Super Meat Boy genuinely has nothing on this in terms of sheer difficulty and while those on the outside may struggle to see the appeal in being consistently defeated, anyone that’s ever remarked that modern games pander too much to the casual needs to face up to Fenix Rage. I can guarantee those words will be taken back long before the campaign is over.
Fenix Rage also has a demo available, well worth trying to see if you can handle the challenge!