Move over Poochy; Furwind is coming for the title of cutest critter around.
In a world full of cute protagonists, it’s possible there’s never been one quite as adorable as Furwind, a small fox who oozes charm. Tasked with saving the forest from a spreading darkness, you must venture forth tackling platforming challenges and eliminating enemies on the path to salvation. Along the way, power-ups bolster the arsenal, but unfortunately not all end of them up hitting the mark. Although I appreciate that each world featured a number of different style levels, this only made the limited number of enemy types feel a bit more disappointing.
Furwind champions itself as an action-platformer, and it lives up to that billing. Controlling the charming fox feels good; movement isn’t too fast, instead opting for a more methodical approach to platforming. There is a bit of inertia that you’ll need to account for once you’ve stopped moving. A double jump is critical for overcoming obstacles, but walking off an edge does register as a jump, which can lead to annoying moments when trying to jump at the last possible second. There are multiple attacks to use when dealing with foes that come at the expense of different resources. The standard attack, a tail whip, and the aerial buttslam both deplete the stamina bar, which slowly refills over time. Up to three acorn bombs can be held at any given point and these are rolled out and explode. I found them to be lackluster, so I rarely used them outside certain areas when walls needed to be bombed. They tend to roll far, making it difficult to land a hit and I didn’t find myself in many situations where it wasn’t just easier to run up and tail whip the enemy.
As you progress further into the game, three new abilities are learned, each with varying functions and usefulness. The first is a dash through the air that deals damage to anything in your path but also works wonders for traversal. The second is an ability the restores one health point and definitely comes in handy when dealing with bosses. Last to be unlocked is a ranged attack; however, I never felt it was all that helpful. Each of these abilities start with only one charge unlocked, but can be upgraded to three charges at the store with gems collected in each level. Health and stamina power ups can also be purchased as well as some other cool perks.
In each of the three worlds, there are a few distinct level types you’ll encounter. The standard level layout has you exploring an area to find two pieces of a pendant, with each piece guarded by a miniboss. Your goal is to collect both pieces and then find the exit door to move on. Some of the most clever stages put you in a completely dark area, requiring the aid of fireflies to see. However crystals that are placed all around distract them, forcing you to find a nest to collect more before they all disappear. If you’re not quick enough, the darkness will consume the poor little fox forcing you to start over. Hidden within these levels are challenge scrolls which at first may seem optional to collect, but a certain number of challenges must be completed to progress the story. Once collected, you can jump into a challenge level where you must work your way to a red orb to unlock the exit and then work your way back to it. These are generally littered with enemies or platforming obstacles that are a bit more difficult than those found at other points in the game.
Another level you’ll encounter tasks you with rescuing a fellow villager. These essentially boil down to being killroom levels, requiring you to defeat all the enemies to free your caged friend. Some of the most fun and challenging levels, which also happen to be where you unlock Furwind’s new abilities, are tough platforming stages that require you to race against a wave of dark energy that’s constantly closing in on you, forcing quick and precise movement. Waiting at the end of each world is a boss which I found to be a nice cap to each world. Although the level diversity is great, enemies don’t share the same fate. There are only a handful of enemy types; later in the game souped up versions with different color pallets are introduced, but given how creative the developers were with the different levels, I couldn’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed.
Pixel art has become increasingly widespread, but Furwind makes good use of it, especially when considering the retro inspired roots. Furwind himself is incredibly adorable, especially his cute animations as he is launched into the air and coasts back down to the ground. Bosses are also well done with interesting designs, but backgrounds tend to be a bit too similar from world to world. Different colors are used to indicate a world change, but since the game takes place in a forest, you can expect to see a lot of trees. The UI is a bit strange as it shows all six heart slots even though you only start with three unlocked and there are some weird moments when the voiceover doesn’t match the text shown on screen verbatim. It ultimately doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the game, but it can be a bit jarring.
Furwind definitely hits some high notes, but also falls short in other regards. The platforming is solid and outside a few abilities that missed the mark, combat is satisfying. Level design and variety are wonderful, continuing to stay fresh throughout. However in contrast, the enemy design was a let down due to a small pool of enemies. Fun boss battles and the cutest protagonist ever do help to mitigate the shortcomings resulting in a brisk and enjoyable experience.