In Furi you fight bosses. You also wander about through some pretty environments, moving your character from boss fight to boss fight. You can even press a button so all the walking is done for you, meaning ALL you do is fight bosses. This is an idea that's been tried before (last year's Titan Souls comes to mind as one of the most recent, while Shadow of the Colossus is the most famous), but Furi also has some neat ideas of its own to go alongside its punishing difficulty.
The setup is simple: you are imprisoned, but can fight your way to freedom by taking on a series of Jailers. These Jailers are bosses, each one having its own set of attacks, plus a unique visual design and battle arena. Seeing as Furi is all about the boss encounters, these aren't brief. A boss goes through numerous stages, changing attacks after you successfully wipe the health bar and remove one of numerous health tokens. You have a similar health setup. If you lose a health token the boss regains its current health bar, and vice versa.
Combat here is a mixture of melee and counter-based sword-play combined with a dose of bullet-hell madness as you fire a gun (mapped to the right analogue stick) and dodge incoming projectiles. Thanks to tight controls that feel responsive and instinctive (especially if you've played beat 'em ups like DMC or Bayonetta) and a neat dodge move, fights are generally good fun. They can be frustrating, especially when forced to start an encounter from the beginning after duelling out for 15 or more minutes, but this isn't a game that is meant to be forgiving.
On that note, it's a shame the difficulty setting below 'Normal' is such a radical step down in terms of challenge. Rather than offer something tough but more achievable, the easier setting turns the game into a cakewalk. Bosses are stripped of numerous stages so you end up losing any sense of accomplishment, in turn ridding the game of its biggest asset. I wouldn't recommend playing Furi on a difficulty setting below normal, but the level of skill required will definitely be too much for some, and the restarts after almost being victorious too annoying.
Take away the fighting and you're just slowly walking around while a man wearing a bunny head talks nonsense to loosely put together some form of narrative. Breaking up the combat is a good idea, and the world you 'explore' looks really lovely at points, but pretty visuals can't prevent these sequences from becoming dull. The fact that you can just put the game on autopilot says it all.
When it works Furi nails that moreish blend of challenge and reward. Defeating a boss after a 20-minute battle, you down to your last health bar, is immensely satisfying. This is air punch stuff. Not being able to defeat a boss after the fifth, sixth, seventh attempt is not satisfying. Without anything of interest to link battles, it's easy to find yourself spending more time being frustrated than having fun. Furi is an interesting game, if not an an essential one.
Version Tested: PS4