Fenix Rage

Fenix Rage is Super Meat Boy by way of Portal, a whiplash-fast platformer driven by infinite double-jumps and simple portal puzzles. Like Meat Boy, each level is a self-contained room consisting of an entrance, an exit, and a whole lot of moving hazards in between. Sprinting, dashing, and double-jumping are the core of the gameplay, and hitting any enemies or hazards will kill you instantly. And like Portal, much of the gameplay revolves around using colored portals to navigate and avoid danger.

Unlike a standard platformer hero, Fenix can dash upwards and sideways an infinite number of times. Levels are designed around this unique principle, forcing you to perform a series of increasingly complex aerial acrobatics to avoid enemies, flames, and lasers on the way to the exit. A series of collectable cookies are also scattered around the levels in devious locations for the ambitious, and in one of the more charming twists the game has to offer, collecting them will reward you with real-life cookie recipes.

There’s an impressive variety on display across the game’s 200-plus levels. Friction plays an important part in early-game puzzle solving, as you can quickly slide down walls to set yourself alight. Once you’re on fire, you can burn through walls of ice. On the other hand, ice beams will freeze you and let you slide through lasers. The aforementioned portals always play an important part in the proceedings too, making some levels more about maze navigation than about pure platforming - but watch out, because enemies and even level exits can teleport, too.

All of the wacky wrinkles introduced over the campaign definitely keep things fresh, and serve to differentiate Fenix Rage from its increasingly numerous peers in the sub-genre. Although the game shares many similarities with Meat Boy, you’ll have to rewire your brain to think in dashes and double-jumps. It’s definitely satisfying when the game’s speed and mechanics click and you land a successful run at last.

Those successful runs are few and far between, and they often felt a little too much like the result of luck for my taste. The game typically ramps up the challenge in one of three ways: making the grounded safe zones smaller, increasing the number of enemies in the air, and making the navigation puzzles more complex. The latter can get frustrating because the levels move at such a speed that it’s often impossible to tell where you’ll come out of a teleporter before you end up going in.

Speaking of speed and deaths, Fenix Rage respawns you instantly when you die. There’s not even a second of downtime between dying and respawning, which sounds great in theory. In practice it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. Since much of the game takes place in the air, many levels will spawn you falling, a jarring wake-up call that that can result in a vicious cycle of death. This is especially an issue in the game’s larger levels, which might see you dying on one side of the level only to instantly reappear on the opposite side. A little more visual feedback on respawns would have been nice.

Worlds end with boss battles that serve as an amalgamation of all the challenges you’ve faced so far. Some will require you to use your dash move as an attack, while others have you running away from massive, screen-destroying enemies. The game’s mechanics aren’t designed around going on the offensive, so the former tend to suffer while the latter offer pretty consistent thrills.

When all was said and done with Fenix Rage’s campaign, that inconsistency ended up being one of my primary takeaways. The game offers a ton of content that’ll take you hours and hours to push through, but going into a level you’re never quite sure if you’ll end up screaming in rage ten minutes from the outset. Levels that require dashing through very small spaces suffer especially here, as there seems to be a slight inconsistency in the hit detection when dashing that can lead to a lot of frustrating deaths over the course of 200 levels.

After you finish with Fenix Rage’s campaign, a suite of minigames awaits you. The “arcade” mode mashes multiple levels together in slick Atari-retro style, but the gameplay fails to keep up with the fun presentation. Most of the minigames fall flat, especially the side mode that sends you back through all of the levels, but with a limited number of jumps and dashes. It’s not fun at all.

Fenix Rage tries to secure a spot alongside classic masocore platformers like Super Meat Boy and Spelunky, but it overshoots the jump and ironically ends up being a little too difficult to play. Inconsistent hit detection and a lack of feedback on respawns rattle the careful balance needed to maintain the fun in all the challenge, and the minigames that were intended to break up the flow end up stopping it dead in its tracks. Even so, there’s a solid gimmick at the heart of the game, and there are some golden levels contained within the massive campaign. It lacks the heart and the polish of its peers, but Fenix Rage is a competent platformer nonetheless.