Awesome Games' Fury Unleashed combines the ruthlessly addictive gameplay loops of the likes of Dead Cells and Enter the Gungeon with old-school, run-and-gun action platforming in the vein of the classic Contra series, resulting in one of the very best examples of the roguelite genre that's currently available on Nintendo Switch. Its combo-driven action is fast, frantic and brutally tough stuff – a frenzied explosion of lasers, rockets, exotic alien technology and Metal Slug-esque machinery – that's backed up by slick controls, satisfyingly expansive traversal and a ton of completely OTT weaponry with which to dispose of the various jungle nasties, sci-fi Nazis and telekinetic aliens that stand in your way as you leap and bound – in solo or co-op mode – through its comic book levels.
You assume the role of Fury, a no-nonsense action hero whose creator is having serious doubts about the future of his long-running Fury Unleashed franchise; he's a disillusioned artist in a world that's lost interest in his comic's signature brand of '90s ultra-violence. It's up to you to blast through three main missions – with a fourth unlocked once you've murdered your way through these – in an effort to prove to your disenchanted creator that this action star's still got what it takes to entertain the masses. It's an unexpectedly fun and fully fleshed-out backstory that takes a few surprising twists and turns along the way and is beautifully intertwined with the gameplay, each mission taking the shape of a comic book spread with procedurally generated panels that you'll need to explore fully in order to max out your weaponry, discover armour upgrades and reach its climactic boss battle ending.
Fans of Dead Cells will immediately feel at home with the ebb and flow of the gameplay here, making repeated sorties through brutally tough levels, grabbing what weapon upgrades, boons and boosts you can as you go and inevitably dying, dying and dying again – restarting the whole thing from square one each time with only the persistent nature of your character's skill tree and expanding arsenal of weapons with which to begin each run to keep you sane. As you blast through levels here enemies will drop a mixture of black and gold orbs. Gold, the in-game currency, will allow you purchase various equipment while the black "ink" is absorbed into your XP, gaining you upgrade points with which to unlock branches of Fury's skill tree as you go.
It's in the unlocking of these skills that Fury Unleashed derives most of its depth. This is very much a combo-centric affair that wants to push you not just to survive as you make way through its levels but to do so quickly and stylishly as racking up bigger combos nets you bigger rewards – not just more XP but health drops and defensive upgrades that help keep Fury alive as he leaps, dashes, stomps and triple jumps around the screen, blowing everything that crosses his path to bloody pieces. Unlocking the right skills is essential to early success here. You'll obviously look to level up your health pool and offensive capabilities early doors but you'll also need to balance these concerns with upgrading aspects of your skill tree that help keep your all-important combos alive.
You'll want to extend the time it takes between kills for your combo counter to reset, max out how much health drops from each dead enemy – once you've crossed the magic five consecutive kills barrier – and ensure that the layers of shielding you accrue as your streak builds can take as much damage as possible before breaking and leaving you open to combo-nullifying hits. You'll also want to max out your ability to teleport between panels on the game map, a clever function that's vital to racking up truly huge combos, enabling you to warp out of dead ends or empty rooms and right back into the heart of the action.
In many ways, the flow of the moment-to-moment gameplay here is also hugely reminiscent of the recently rebooted Doom franchise, with that same feverish focus on constant movement, attacking viciously when an opening presents itself and knowing how to get the hell out of the way when you're being bombarded by enemy ordnance. Timing is crucial here. As is the way in nu-Doom, keeping the pressure on your enemies, going on the offensive at all times, is how the game wants you to play and it rewards you handsomely for doing so. It's also got that very same pulpy, gory, satisfying gunplay with big meaty weapons that dole out massive amounts of gloriously graphic damage. There really is a huge weapon selection here, too; you might start out with bog-standard pistols, shotguns and assault rifles but before long you'll be firing screaming ghost heads, enemy-melting lasers, acid rounds and plasma from bizarre alien weaponry and experimental Nazi technology.
There are a ton of primary and secondary weapons as well as all manner of grenades, melee weapons and potions which temporarily imbue your attacks with elemental damage to get to grips with here and, much like any roguelite, the likely success of a particular run through the game's ferocious gauntlet can depend on what combination of these things happen to drop for you. This can be offset somewhat by completing various weapon challenges during runs that permanently unlock better guns, enabling you to equip them before starting out to give you an advantage.
Indeed, as you make your way through levels you'll happen across all manner of challenges to complete for extra rewards – maybe you'll be charged with using melee attacks to kill the next five enemies or doubling your current combo count in order to receive some boon or boost to help you on your way. You'll also come across a wandering gunsmith who can whip up exotic weapons for you based on schematics you'll find scattered throughout the world as well as the devil himself who'll offer you special prizes in exchange for a little of your life bar. There are, in short, a ton of variables that keep your runs feeling fresh no matter how many times you find yourself revisiting the same areas – and you'll find yourself revisiting them plenty.
It took us a good fifteen hours to make our way through the four scenarios on offer here, replaying each one over and over until we'd learned everything about every single enemy and weapon type we were facing. Make no mistake, much like its most obvious influences, this is a tough game that demands patience and mastery if you're to see it through. There is an easy mode with various options and tweaks available to make things more palatable if you're feeling out of your depth, but we found this was still pretty demanding, you'll still die lots and enemies don't hesitate for a second to waste you when you make a mistake. Such is the way with roguelites.
Each scenario in Fury Unleashed has a total of three main end-of-level bosses – as well as countless mini-bosses hidden throughout their panels – that you'll face off against and you'll have to achieve victory against all three of these, meaning you'll have to successfully complete each scenario three times in order to unlock the ability to begin your next run without repeating the preceding comic book. It takes time to overcome these obstacles – we must have played the opening jungle mission for a good four hours before we unlocked the ability to start runs from the sci-fi Nazi one that follows it – but the slick controls, satisfying combat and sense of progression you get from slowly unlocking branches of your skill tree keep you coming back for more.
You'll also unlock new character skins as you complete tasks, defeat bosses and see missions through to their end with Fury's hair, war paint, armour colourings and accessories also fully customisable. Alongside a codex that fills up with story details and entries for each and every one of the enemies and weapons you defeat and discover as you play and a bunch of in-game achievements to work towards unlocking, there's plenty here to keep you hooked.
Unfortunately, with regards to this Switch port of the game, although it looks fantastic in both docked and handheld modes, there are some framerate issues which tend to plague the action when on-screen activity gets really hectic. For 90% of the time, Fury Unleashed plays perfectly smoothly and it's only on a handful of occasions that you'll happen upon an area that's busy enough to drag the framerate down, but it's definitely an issue and one late-stage boss battle, in particular, is a complete slideshow as a result. Hopefully Awesome Games can address this with a patch sooner rather than later because this is otherwise an enormously slick, polished and entertaining game that sits right up alongside Dead Cells as the very best the roguelite genre has to offer on Switch.
Edit: According to the developer, a Day One patch (which was subject to QA delays at Nintendo) is now live and addresses various performance issues.
Fury Unleashed takes the central gameplay loops of the likes of Dead Cells and Enter the Gungeon and infuses them with pulpy '90s action platforming resulting in one of the best roguelites currently available on Nintendo Switch. Awesome Games' effort has benefited massively from five years in development and an extended period of early access on PC that's seen its gameplay polished to near perfection with slick and responsive controls, a huge and satisfyingly meaty armoury of weapons, zippy traversal mechanics and procedurally generated levels crammed full of secrets, challenges and hard-hitting enemies waiting to stop you in your tracks time and time again. There are unfortunately some niggling framerate issues that need addressing with this Switch port but, overall, this is a superbly addictive and hugely satisfying addition to the roguelike genre.