Fury of the Furries / Pac-in-Time

Lemmings imitations are a dime a dozen.  A couple years ago the computer game industry saw a wave of sideways-scrolling puzzle games flood the store shelves.  While some of them were good, many were hastily-produced knock-offs designed to cash in on the sudden popularity of green-haired idiots.

At the same time, another type of popular game--the Super Mario style platform jumping game--was conspicuously absent from the PC domain.  Shareware publisher Apogee had success with their lines of Mario-like games, but other companies seemed to shy away, possibly frightened off by the PC's reputation of not being a particularly good arcade action machine.  It didn't take a genius to combine the two genres, but Fury of the Furries is here to prove that once in a while a game can equal more than the sum of its somewhat derivative parts.  Much more.

The simple goal in Fury of the Furries is to guide your hairy little creature from one end of a level to the other.  Doing so requires a captivating blend of puzzle solving and action ability, since your surroundings are noticeably less than inviting.  You will be eaten by fish, impaled on spikes, stung by bees, crushed by falling stone blocks, and dissolved in acid.  Believe it or not, all of this is cute.  Alarmingly cute.  Like Lemmings, this game suckers you in with cuteness, but then it snares you.  Once you play through a few levels, you'll realize far too late that you can't walk away.  Cancel your appointments.  Call in sick.  You're an addict and, yes, it happens that fast.

To start off with, the graphics are very pretty, done in bright eye-catching colors.  Even the music is good!  First impressions are of a highly-polished effort that is charming and attractive.

The first few levels of the game are very easy, serving more to acquatint the new player with the game than to challenge.  You are gradually introduced to the talents of your furry.  The furry has the ability to change color, and in doing so it changes its abilities.  The blue furry can swim underwater and can blow air bubbles to defend itself from menacing sea creatures.  The red furry can eat certain parts of the level, creating passageways to otherwise unreachable areas.  The yellow furry can shoot fireballs to destroy obstacles and enemies.  The green furry can swing from a vine it throws out and attaches to nearly any surface.  This little guy is a lot of fun, and is easily the most skilled at getting to hard to reach places.

Once the levels start getting harder it becomes obvious that they are based around a balance of puzzle solving and arcade-like action.  The puzzles tend to involve manipulating an object or area of the screen to affect another area of the screen to allow you to pass.  Some of these are obvious, but some of them are fairly devious, like dragging blocks of stone around the screen, then dropping them into a pool of water to raise the water's level and allow you to swim to the distant shore.  To make matters worse, you don't always have access to all your furry's colors.  This restriction quite often makes the player look past the obvious solution and find a more creative answer.

As you jump, swing, and swim around the screen from place to place you will also have the opportunity to collect coins, like in Mario-type games.  Collecting 100 coins will give you a bonus life, which you will be very thankful for when you encounter one of the harder arcade levels.  Some of the arcade challenges are actually harder than the puzzles, requiring perfectly timed jumps and extremely dangerous vine-swinging.  Another influence of Mario games is the inclusion of hidden bonus levels.  These rounds send you scurrying around to collect as many coins as you can before your small amount of time runs out.  These bonus levels are sprinkled very liberally throughout the game.  If you see a place you don't see the need to go to or spy some odd object that seems to have no function, it may very well be a hidden level.  The inclusion of these levels add life to the game, as it will be a long time before you've searched each level thoroughly for bonuses.

Fury of the Furries is a lot of fun to play, but it does have a few drawbacks.  For starters, there are too many extremely easy levels in the game.  This is more of a problem in the beginning of the game.  A few cakewalks in the beginning are understandable, but it carries on too long; it does, however, get better as you progress.  Also, the copy protection code sheet is typed in verry faint pale blue ink.  Although it succeeds in the fact that you can't photocopy it, it's painful and annoying to read.  The game-saving feature is another irritant.  The game saves your position automatically every five levels, but you can't save your progress any other way.  This means you end up repeating many levels needlessly, which I found to be annoying.

On the whole, I think Fury of the Furries is a terrific game.  There are a few flaws, but only minor ones.  The cute colorful graphics will charm you, and before long you'll discover that you said "just one more level" about two hours ago and you no longer have any intention of stopping.  The puzzles are challenging but not too tough, and the action is hotter than any Mario cartridge for the SNES.  The only problem is that it isn't available in the US right now.  It was designed by a game company called Kalisto, and is being distributed in the UK by Mindscape.  With any luck it will find it's way to American shores soon.  When it does, I strongly urge you to pick up a copy.  Action gamers and puzzle freaks both should find a lot to love in this game.  Just don't start playing when you have work piled up, because it won't get touched for a long time.