A compelling bite-sized rail shooter.
FUR Squadron is an unapologetic love letter to Star Fox and Star Fox 64. Gameplay, level design, and even dialogue regularly pay homage to those classic shooters. While the content on offer is somewhat limited, there is a lot of charm and solid mechanics beneath this bite-sized rail-shooter.
FUR Squadron takes place entirely inside of a training simulation. The world is represented as bright, colorful, wireframe graphics that look particularly striking when playing on the OLED Nintendo Switch. When something goes wrong in the simulation, the two pilots trapped inside, along with their technician on the outside, will need to find a way out, all while surviving a simulation that is desperate to shoot them down. Your ship is equipped with a standard laser which can be upgraded via pickups to increase its attack power. Your laser can also be charged and locked onto enemies. Missiles can be picked up throughout stages for stronger area-of-effect attacks. And of course, you can barrel roll with the R button. The default sensitivity on ship movement is a bit stiff for my taste, but the controls are easily customizable in the settings menu.
Levels are strictly rail-line and for the most part, don’t put up much of a fight on the standard difficulty, though additional difficulties can be unlocked upon completion. The stages do a nice job of shaking up environmental settings and by extension stage hazards. The strict visual style does, however, tend to lend all levels a very similar appearance. That being said, within that style they’re all very well realized. Each one strikes a satisfying balance between shooting down enemies and needing to dodge around environmental hazards. Stages generally end with a boss fight, which varies from extremely straightforward to genuinely interesting. The music and overall sound design is also excellent. Characters speak in gibberish except for specific words, and the soundtrack is wonderfully synchronized to the action on screen.
Where FUR Squadron struggles is in its content. A playthrough only lasts around twenty-five minutes. With no alternate paths to take on future playthroughs, replay value is entirely based on clearing the game at higher difficulties. It may be enough to keep genre enthusiasts engaged for an hour or two, but it lacks the diverse number of permutations, so loved by high score seekers, that can be found in its inspiration. FUR Squadron is a reasonably well executed love letter to Star Fox and rail shooters in general, and it is clear that the potential is there for this developer to pull off something of a much larger scale. It is short and simple, but a fun diversion for genre fans if only for an afternoon.