Fenix Rage comes from new Costa Rican developer Green Lava Studios. It’s a respectable early effort for the three-man team, but falls short of tough-as-nails platforming inspiration Super Meat Boy. You play as Fenix, a purple and orange…thing. It looks like an anthropomorphic mushroom dressed in a Sonic the Hedgehog costume. A villainous member of this species has wrecked his peaceful world and Fenix chases him through the warp cubes that end each level. The wordless story and cutscenes are minimal, and mostly involve revealing a boss or mundane events like a guy throwing a rock at someone or getting pooped on by a bird.
Instead of a traditional run button and wall jump setup you see in most platformers, Fenix can perform an unlimited series of mid-air jumps and horizontal dashes. The levels have you dodging an increasingly ridiculous amount of hazards, collecting a cookie (if you’re feeling especially bold), and leaving through the end goal.
Impressive variety abounds throughout the 200-plus levels, with new elements introduced in every world. Early on, you learn to slide down special walls to catch fire so you can dash through ice walls. Later, you purposely get hit with an ice beam to turn you into a cube so you can fall through laser beams. Some stages are huge, with swarms of enemies filling the air; others are small technical maps like a winding tunnel of instant death. Colored portals teleport you – and tons of enemies – around the map in clever ways. End goals get in on the devious trickery by warping around the screen or moving away the moment you get close.
As much as I’m impressed by the many tweaks to the formula, certain core elements are lacking. Due to the infinite jumps and dashes, the challenge mainly increases by decreasing the safe ground to land on and filling the air with projectiles. I grew tired of enemies constantly bombarding me from every direction, and tapping the jump button to stay aloft (like Flappy Bird) while dodging random sprays of projectiles gets frustrating. In several starting-zone sections, I threw lives away over and over until I happened to punch through a wall of enemies. Luck is often just as important a factor as skill.
Thankfully, respawns happen instantaneously, so there’s no barrier to trying again. In some cases, however, it’s too jarring. You’re teleported back to the start without even knowing what killed you. This is especially confounding when you use a portal, get killed by an enemy instantly on the other side, and then appear immediately back to the beginning before you even know what’s going on.
Bosses ratchet up the challenge even further. Some of them chase after you through deadly tunnels, causing hand-cramping amounts of jump- and dash-button mashing. Others require you to remain airborne and dodge projectiles until they break the walls and ceilings behind you and let you escape. These are all rough, but at least they work with the mechanics the game has taught you to use. The bosses that require you to attack with the dash move are a pain unless the target is extra large. Fenix isn’t built for offense in any other scenario; every dash attack comes with the risk of the boss moving at the last second and you hitting a spot on its body that kills you instead, starting the whole fight over.
Experts will collect cookies and earn stars to unlock extra modes and levels. The arcade section is full of bland one-off minigames. Fenix’s Box collects fun multilevel packs that look straight out of an Atari 2600 game and reference Green Lava's earlier Android platforming title. Other modes encourage players to go back through all of the levels, limiting the amount of jumps and dashes per stage (this is a nightmare) or granting you invincibility and tasking you with killing everything that moves within a time limit (this gets ridiculous once the enemy count rises over 50).
Fenix Rage wears its gimmick on its sleeve, so if you’re ready to be worked into frothy-mouthed anger, this delivers. You might hit a wall and want to quit forever, especially since there is no way to skip levels you’re stuck on; you can’t make progress on other stages and come back to the problem level after a break. I have nothing against mega-difficult games, there are just better ones to spend your time with than Fenix Rage.
It’s a respectable early effort for the three-man team, but falls short of tough-as-nails platforming inspiration Super Meat Boy.