Imagine trying to tell to someone in 1995 that the 16-bit aesthetic would one day become a kind of fetishised commodity in videogames. Imagine sitting there, cross-legged in front of their massive CRT telly playing Chrono Trigger with them, and explaining that in the future even though we can make flecks of mud look better than that whole town there, sometimes developers still choose to make games in 2D. On purpose.
The artisanal pixel art in games like Cellar Door’s Rogue Legacy, and their new co-op action RPG Full Metal Furies, has come to mean something more than simply ‘remember the old times?’ though. It’s become a shorthand for a slightly more complex concept: a kind of games history remix, where old tropes are celebrated and then turned on their heads, and where genres are expanded and blended with modern awareness. Mother Russia Bleeds did that for the side-scrolling brawler in 2016 with a nihilistic shrug and copy of Vice conspicuously in its back pocket. Full Metal Furies does it with an earnest smile, and an unabashed tendency to draw on the kind of early noughties Flash games with which the Toronto studio first cut its teeth.
Here a four-strong squad of eponymous Furies – read that title carefully to avoid disappointment, Furry enthusiasts – must take down powerful Titans using their combined prowess as fighter, sniper, engineer and tank in the classical tradition of Streets of Rage, Battletoads et al. They’re a well-rounded bunch to play, all admirably distinct from one another in the heat of battle in terms of their demands and functions. Which is to say it’s deeply gratifying to throw a sentry gun out while unloading your pistol into a plague of Leeches as Engineer Erin, likewise whirling around with a flaming hammer and pulling off showy counters with Alex the Fighter. Triss draws the short straw on Tank duty, handed a shield and somehow expected to enjoy herself as much as the others with it. At a stretch you could call her an analogue of Overwatch’s Reinhardt, but slapping enemies about with your shield like an angry chef with a baking tray just doesn’t do it like swinging a hammer. As for Meg the near-sighted Sniper, I probably shouldn’t find her rather obvious character trait as funny as I do. She presents a tougher challenge than her trio of companions because, as you might expect of a sniper, she’s only effective at range, and the screen tends to fill up with foes at an alarming rate.
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