|Publisher||Reverb Triple XP|
|Developer||Green Lava Studios|
|Platform||XB1, PS4, PC|
Imagine a brightly colored 2D side-scroller inspired, in no small part, by the compact level designs and precision-based speed of Super Meat Boy, throw in some cookies and the unpredictability of enemy and obstacle patterns that keep moving when you die and reset to the start point, and you’ve got Green Lava Studios’ Fenix Rage—a dangerously addictive platformer that pushes your buttons in all the right ways.
Fenix Rage remains as strong and as work-inhibitive as when first introduced to me during PAX East. Had the demo not concluded after the second stage and new boss fight shown this time around, I suspect designer and programmer Eduardo Ramírez would’ve needed to politely pry the controller from my hands and escort me, sulking, to my next appointment under the chaperoning care of one of my co-workers. It’s not that Fenix Rage is wildly and welcomingly innovative that it left my brains plastered to the ceiling. Rather, it’s that among an ever-growing number of games that favor complexity through the quantity of gameplay mechanics, Fenix Rage burns a little brighter for keeping things simple and iterating just enough on something familiar that it becomes inviting all over again, tempting repeat rapid-fire replays that never feel like second (or third, or fourth, or fifth, or sixth) attempts.
Every death—and there’s plenty if you aren’t equipped with inhuman hand-eye coordination—sends the player back to the start of the stage, but none of the dancing enemy patterns reset themselves. They remain constantly moving, leaping up and down, sliding left and right. Pattern memorization isn’t completely abandoned, but it’s not at all a reliable solution, since any given run can differ substantially from the last attempt. This carries over to boss fights, too. It took me an embarrassing number of deaths before I realized that the boss, seamlessly, would reset itself to to square one whenever I went down. With one minor tweak to the formula, Ramírez and the rest of Green Lava Studios have come up with a way to keep in a fail state of sorts, but not make it punishing, and in the process ratchet up the tension, leaving players—or me, at least—hunched forward with determination.