Review - taking your frustrations out on furry critters as they hop around a luscious cartoony world. Sounds like a Tweenies fantasy, I agree, but the subject of today's review really does want you to do this!
Rumble in the Jungle
If you've ever watched an episode of the Tweenies or Sesame Street and felt you wanted to unload both barrels of a shotgun into the furry critters darting around the screen then you're qualified to play Fur Fighters. Your characters (for there are six of them) are members of an elite group set to bring about the downfall of the evil General Viggo. Having done this once already the great General took the added precaution this time of kidnapping the our furry heroes' families, and obviously your job in FF is to rescue them from his clutches and prevent him taking over the world. Simple! As if controlling a furry special forces team weren't surreal enough, the world you wander around is occupied with lots of other talking animals, and they seem to catch a stray bullet with startling frequency. At one point I was awaiting a young enemy fellow as he emerged from a port-a-loo and one of my bullets whistled past his head and impacted on the skull of a hopping bunny that just so happened to be coming on-screen at the time. Ah well, you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Despite the fact that in a Machiavellian, subconscious way you're taking out your frustrations with the shape of childrens' television on these poor animals, you do actually find yourself trying to avoid doing it after a while. Perhaps there ought to be more games than encourage humanity rather than destruction.. (Get out of my sight -Ed) But anyway, off you run into the big bright world outside to rescue your chums and kin.
The gameplay takes the shape of a puzzle and shooty action in equal segments, or at least it would if the game didn't spoil the puzzles for you at every turn. The problem is that you are being guided by a chap called General Bristol. Well, I say "guided", but actually his role is rather perplexing. He's expected to explain the story to you at junctures and show slightly confused players how to finish up puzzles, but rather annoyingly, whenever you go near him he spouts off with one or the other. As such if you come across a puzzle - even a fairly simple one you'll be able to solve - and accidentally bump into the General, the chances are he won't so much offer you a clue as actually tell you the solution. The game gives you mixed signals like this all the time; the humour is decidedly adult, yet the game's insistence on "guiding" you makes it a walkover. You don't have to talk to Bristol, but you ought to if you want the storyline. The other annoying thing is that you can't skip what he's saying either, so you either have to work out he's offering you a solution to the puzzle and take your eye off the screen for about five seconds or you have to grin and bear it. Neither is terribly attractive.
Fur Fighters' visuals are very impressive throughout - the characters do look furry thanks to the superb textures, and that's an effect even Hollywood has trouble pulling off. It's viewed through a third person perspective, something that's worked quite a few times in the past on the Dreamcast (MDK2 is a good example), but sadly FF developers Bizarre haven't caught onto how best to present it. I've lost count of the amount of times when I've made a simple jump and fallen to the ground hopelessly due to the position of the camera. Although the camera is rather awful, the presentation is otherwise sublime. For example the switching between characters is almost seamless, which has to be a plus. The animation is quite remarkable, even on non-player characters. Fur Fighters captures the feel of a cartoon world surprisingly well, which helps to accentuate the humorous aspects. With lots of humour, action and puzzles, FF will take some twenty of so hours to complete the first time through, and thanks to the multitude of different characters at your behest, there's plenty of longevity. In fact, although fairly linear on the whole, the wealth of different weapons and characters to suit each situation means that quite often you can approach one position from many angles and still come through unscathed!
How to bake friends and influence people
Although the single player is unquestionably where most of the creative seed has been sewn, Fur Fighters is an action game and no action game would be complete without some form of multiplayer mode. "Fluffmatch" isn't as deep as the multiplayer modes seen in Nintendo's Goldeneye-but-a-bit-better Perfect Dark or Unreal Tournament, but it's decently complementary to the single player action. While not exemplary, Fur Fighters' level design both here and in the single player game is very strong throughout. The layout varies drastically from map to map and consistently high framerate helps.. there's even the option of a first person perspective for this mode, which really puts the cat amongst the pigeons. Although the first person mode is entertaining and important for the twitch-kill style of play in multiplayer (after all the weapons can be devastating), you kind of wonder if it would have been fun to make it an option in the single player. The Dreamcast has scant few options for FPS fans as it is, and this would have added another selling point to an already impressive game, and reduced the problem with the camera. Alas. Unfortunately due to time constraints or something similar there's nothing more for the communal player. Options like Capture the Flag and Teamplay would no doubt have added to the already strong multiplayer but it was not to be. Perhaps for the sequel, then, should Bizarre choose the produce one.
Ultimately Fur Fighters is a fast and furious action game that suffers at times due to its own interest in speeding up. General Bristol's "helpful" tips dumb down the puzzle aspect of the adventure and take some of the fun out of the hands of the player, and coupled with the stodginess of the storyline make the General into little more than excess baggage.. It must be said however that there's a lot of style and finesse involved in FF, but with a little more time, tweaking of the camera and perhaps some more multiplayer options it could have been something even more revolutionary.