Backer Demand: Furious Angels

PC, Mac

Patreon Backers who support Buried Treasure at £20/m or higher can force me to write a review of anything. The colour of a tennis ball, aeroplane journeys, the gap between a car seat and the door… anything. Javier has decided he wants me to fail at Furious Angels, a game that’s consumed hundreds of hours of his time.

A punishingly difficult game like Furious Angels might seem the sort of thing I’d usual run away from, my arms flapping above my head, tears streaming from my eyes. But oddly, this top-down twin-stick shooter from 2017 has completely got its hooks in me. I’m terrible at it, but I’m enjoying being terrible.

On paper, this is a very ordinary approach to the twin-stick format. You control a small nippy ship, zoomed around with the left stick, firing in the direction you point the right stick. Enemy ships come into the screen, and you shoot them, while avoiding their attacks. A textbook example. Except there’s something that makes Furious Angels more special, and it’s a combination of its utterly perfect controls and superbly balanced ramping difficulty.

Your vessel begins on your mothership, a base you need to protect, as waves of enemies arrive. The first is just a few small ships, jets, then you get bombers that fire missiles at you, followed by larger helicarrier-like Scorpions, and so on, each new wave containing all the enemies of the last as well. It’s about managing them, farming them almost, to keep on top of the increasing danger.

Your ship can heal quickly when you stop firing, but stopping firing is incredibly risky. It also grows larger as new ship parts are attached every so many kills, and while it makes you more powerful, this also slows you down. Attack power versus speed is a delicate balance, and oftentimes receiving enough damage that you return to your original weeny machine can be a boon, let you regain control over the increasing mayhem.

I say all this with a lot of confidence for someone whose longest game has been just over five minutes. But wow, when I reached that five minutes I was very impressed with myself. I imagine this is a stupendously dreadful and embarrassing achievement in the eyes of those who are actually good at this game, but I don’t much care about such things – I’m having a lot of fun trying to get better, trying to learn the systems (the “loops” I believe the cool kids say), and nudging my way further into the game.

Still, the game’s old enough that I can get myself into the top 5 on the daily leadership tables! Sure, there are only seven entries, but IT STILL COUNTS.

I’m really glad Javier had me play this. It’s a lot of fun, despite my clear ineptitude. It’s such a complete pleasure to control, and the art is gorgeous – I love how my ship looks as it leans and turns its hairpin manoeuvres. I do wish there were at some better damage indicators, as it’s very hard to tell the difference between a completely healthy spacejet and one you’re about to lose. I’d also like a version that allows for some progression, some permanent improvements to let me see further into the game – although perhaps there are and I’m just too rubbish to have reached them?

Either way, I’ve had a great time with this. It’s a fine skill, to create a game that is still entertaining even when you suck at it, and importantly, that always feels fair. Furious Angels nails that.

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