You’ll toss your cookies with delight.
The first time I played a game featuring a double-jump, I was overjoyed. This wasn’t because of the extra height afforded to me but because the second jump provided an opportunity to correct what I didn’t accomplish on the first one—namely distance and precision. In most games that let me double-jump, I will use it every single time even for easy-to-surmount distances and platforms. Enter Fenix Rage that gives me infinite jumps, and it suddenly stops being a blessing and becomes a necessity. This is really challenging no matter how many times I can propel myself through the air, but it’s also incredibly addictive and fun.
In the same vein as Super Meat Boy, Fenix Rage is a quickie action platformer full of relatively small levels that should technically take less than a minute to complete, many requiring less than fifteen seconds. Things are not so simple, though, as some of the toughest levels will have you dying repeatedly in blocks of ten to twenty minutes at a time. You would think that such a concept would be incredibly frustrating, and sometimes it is, but you always feel as if you could’ve performed better, not the game.
Each level features enemies of sorts—square green blobs who either attach themselves to walls or rebound repeatedly between them. Touching a single pixel of these guys kills Fenix and sets him back to the beginning. As you progress, more blobs enter the fray, and you begin to face more elaborate patterns as they intersect each other and block your progress. Beating a level often means surveying the area and trying to find openings to guide Fenix to the blue portal at the end, but performing the task requires wielding all aspects of the controls to your advantage.
As stated, Fenix can jump as many times as you wish, and he can also perform a dash move to cross large horizontal distances quickly. Jamming the dash button will make him quickly move in a perfect horizontal line. Besides the directionals, these are your arsenal against the blob mazes. I was readily forced to get over myself and learn how to see the paths in the madness, each victory making me feel triumphant. Whenever I’d perish, I’d think, “No. I am better than this. I can do it,” which doesn’t cross my mind often in challenging games. On occasion, I felt like I was subjecting myself to something akin to Kaizo Mario.
One issue I take with the execution, though, has to do with the cycle of life and death. It is true that Fenix returns right to the beginning when he dies, and the effect is instantaneous. The first problem is that if you were rapidly pushing the jump or dash buttons, you’ll like start moving Fenix from his start position before you realize what’s going on. In some cases, this will lead to another quick death, and for folks trying to beat a leaderboard time, you’ll be starting the clock without your permission.
The other problem is that not every aspect of the stage resets when you die. Walls you’ve smashed are restored, but enemy blobs keep on trucking. In some cases, this doesn’t make a difference, but if your strategy is to find the peace amidst the chaos, their patterns are harder to memorize and plan for if they don’t restart with you. Luckily, this is rectified with a quick restart button. When you know you’ve failed in terms of time or some other missed goal, you can tap it to reset the whole stage. [A recent update allows you to press 'Y' to reset the level. ~Ed. Nick Tan]
This is great when you’ve recognized your own folly, but when the game recognizes your mistake upon death, I wish it just reset the stage. This becomes a larger issue after the first four worlds (80 levels) when you begin the shadow worlds, containing alligator head-like enemies that stalk Fenix. It’s a bit dumb to leave them right where he revives just to kill him again until you hit reset. Nobody likes campers, amirite?!
Still, these problems are a brief nuisance in an otherwise fun and fast-paced game. Getting to the blue portal isn’t your only goal, so it’s fun to challenge yourself in the other myriad ways. Each stage features a cookie Fenix can grab. Most times, this cookie is as challenging to retrieve as it is to get to the end, but you just keep telling yourself it’s possible to get, and you’re going to do it, damn it! Imagine my sheer delight when I discovered that collecting all the cookies in one world nets you a real cookie recipe. My elation was so enormous that I considered giving Fenix Rage a perfect score and calling it a day.
Beating the fastest time on each stage earns the player a yellow star, which can be spent in the Arcade on various games, which rearrange the sprites and mechanics to provide different challenges and distractions, such as a survival game where you need to grab cookies and avoid the green blobs Oktarus, the antagonist, chucks at you. These are fun, but by their nature, they are different from the main game, so your mileage and interest may vary. Full confession: I almost never do time challenges in any games, so I didn’t unlock too many of these to review; regardless, this is entertaining additional content.
There are also red portals in some of the levels which disappear after a set amount of time. They are typically located off the beaten path and harder to notice than the cookies or the goal. Touching these warps Fenix to a set of three retro-styled levels each. Whereas Super Meat Boy had 8-bit era retro levels, these are more like Atari levels where the goal, stages, and blobs are just clean rectangular shapes. They are entertaining throwbacks and become just as insidious as the main game.
The main art style otherwise is more comic book-inspired, utilizing bold lines and colors. The look keeps your eyes open, but it’s not a big draw for me (but it may be for you). Visuals across any single world remain largely the same, so you’ll ignore them once you’re deep in. The music is similar with the same exact track played over the first nineteen levels of each world. The story coupled with the presentation is equally unimportant, represented in short cut-scenes; if it wasn't there, I wouldn’t feel something was missing. It’s untapped potential.
There are more challenges to unlock in Fenix Rage than I should bother mentioning, including one that butts heads with my infinite-jumping utopia, so it’s worth noting that on top of an already enjoyable and cookie-filled game, you’ll find yourself revisiting earlier levels again just to maximize your investment. It could go on for a long time, in other words. Frankly, I’m perfectly OK with that both for myself and for other players. Don’t give up!