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Fumiko! Review

Fumiko! Review

So a brief explanation on Serial Experiments Lain since it’ll help explain Fumiko’s review. Serial Experiments Lain is an anime that deals with the idea of identity and the envisaged problems of the idea of the internet, referred as The Wired in series. Serial Experiments Lain examines and pushes existential questions with the idea of self and, depending on your outlook, can be seen as either contrived or insightful. And to a lesser extent, Fumiko! falls into that vein of thought. Although with less material problem and more pacing.

At its heart, Fumiko! is a fun game, functioning as a third person puzzle-platformer, narrative driven game. There are definitely things that make it an interesting title that warrant giving it a shout out, since not that many games tackle the idea of self with a mixture of AI, value of existence, and possible Frankenstein's monster dilemma (to a certain extent depending on reading). Our eponymous character Fumiko is an AI of sorts that’s dropped into a weird Edge of Tomorrow vibe, constantly resetting with the only thing persisting being this outside voice. And without spoiling the dialogue, the game balances its use of narrative in interesting ways. The only problem is that it lacks a fully immersed world.

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Not with a bang, but a flare for an end.

For better or worse, Fumiko! hides its world and narrative behind secrets. Which, at its core, isn’t a bad method of narrative delivery. Dark Souls explores its world before you the play the game with it, Destiny had developing folklore/stories through lore pieces scattered in nearly everything, but here, it’s short snippets of dialogue scattered around a very empty world. Like Serial Experiments Lain, Fumiko! imagines a very large and empty world filled with hollow shells that are meant to represent people. Whilst this review isn’t also going to discern the nature of Serial Experiments Lain, Fumiko! is a game that is clearly inspired and parallels Lain.

Being a short experience, the narrative delivered is very brief and with how voided everything feels and looks, it’s not exactly a strong selling point. Mechanically, there’s very little to pick apart as buggy or broken necessarily. That said, the level design needs work. It’s replication of a network whilst accurate to its depiction doesn’t lend to much, with the phrase less is more being something the developer should look into. Being a sprawling mess of space, it ruins what is a striking artstyle if a little jarring at times with how models look and function compared to its environment.

At multiple times, the ability to go the wrong way or walking aimlessly is all too apparent. If you’re someone who struggles with depth perception in games, this is almost a textbook example of what makes 3D games difficult to navigate without references. With no shadow, or solid lines to gauge a jump, leap, run, or point, navigating the terrain becomes a guessing game in itself. Couple this with the transparency of environment, it becomes a weird mirror maze, except more horrid and infuriating as you hit things you think are invisible walls when really it’s a wall the camera or transparency has hidden. Also, the actual sense of direction is very hit and miss. The critical path is very hard to gauge to the point where/that actively looking for it is more necessary than where the next jump or lift is.

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Lots of style and design that plays with perspective, almost too much.

Other problems include the vagueness of hitboxes, use of physics to abstractly interact with the environment, and, possibly the worst, its use of navigation. To elaborate, the use of jump is almost a universal game verb. It does many things, except in Fumiko! it’s a blank verb that lacks a real adjective to make it better. It starts off as a double jump, then triple, the quadruple, then it’s reduced. Huzzah a navigation problem, if the game revolved around the constant struggle of jumping to reach a platform. Throw in a little jump management where saving on a checkpoint actively made the game harder, this would be getting more praise. Except this a game set on making jump just a verb, in one fell swoop here’s a thousand jumps. The same goes for the dash: it’s given, removed, then enhanced to absurdities.

The use of temporary power-ups help break up the monotony with puzzles. Except when I want to praise its inventiveness and use of gameplay, it’s underwhelmed by its overall use. To make a point, a boss battle requires a power-up to interact with objects that then inflict damage onto the boss. Except, there aren’t previous mechanics that build to it. And this is a story in itself it retells again and again, torn between narrative and mechanics. It’s very hard to tell which came first, with not enough presented to tell which was more important. And since it’s such a physics-based game, it bears mentioning that the game is very floaty, from its jumps and movement, the game is almost too reliant on the engine’s physics. To the point there’s a button to accelerate your downward force, something definitely feels off now.

Okay, okay, so there’s floaty mechanics, open-world syndrome, sparse narrative, and perception difficulties. Are there that many downpoints? Only because this is a game with practically no bugs to complain about. Well aside from a weird controller issue where the dash wasn’t working after unlocking, and level 19 requiring a restart when the purple orb mechanics weren’t working. Which, funny enough, fixed the controller problems so there’s a heads up if something’s not working. A faultless thing in the game is the use of music, its use of varying tunes and sounds just help flesh Fumiko! from being a bland experience, assuming the colours haven’t blinded you. If anything though, this is still a well made game that just needs a lot of reigning in with what’s already in the game. That includes some of the puzzles being obtuse and requiring a search for level 21 because it reaches “guess what the developer is insanely thinking” point and click levels. Seriously though, the game didn’t have one of those mechanics previously it would require blind luck to figure it out.

5.00/10 5

Fumiko! (Reviewed on Windows)

The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.

As harsh as this review can be read, given the game design basics Fumiko! breaks throughout the game. It’s saving grace is the use of lite narrative to sell an interesting concept, and its use of steller music choice, stops this review from becoming a critical breakdown on everything wrong in the game. Because for every step forward Fumiko! makes, it takes two steps back - and makes the floor transparent. A word of warning, not for the visually impaired. Even my eyes needed a break after two hours.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Owen Chan

Owen Chan

Staff Writer

Is at least 50% anime.

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