You probably know Housmarque from their work on the Super Stardust series and the twin stick shooter Resogun, which was one of the bright spots of the PS4’s launch line-up. In a bit of a departure from those action packed arcade shooters, Housmarque also bring us Furmins, a Vita port of a touch-based iOS game. Furmins is a physics-based puzzle game in the vein of Lemmings. Your task is to construct a path that allows adorable puffball creatures to the goal. Unfortunately it's not very stimulating, and although the various puzzles can test your problem solving skills and creativity, the risks and rewards involved never feel incentive enough to keep going.
Each level starts with a few glowing objects - mostly bounce pads, melting blocks of ice, and solid triangles - that you can position as needed to guide the Furmins to their goal. By pressing the play button in the top right corner you set the game in motion and the Furmins will fall straight down from their starting position. Vectors, momentum, velocity and, of course, gravity are all factors in moving your Furmins from point A to point B. If they fall off the level or become immobile you can reset the stage and take time to readjust the objects in a way you think will be more effective. Once you hit the play button you cannot adjust any of the puzzle pieces or rearrange any of the objects any longer. The only form of interactivity available at this point is tapping the touchscreen or rear touchpad to activate launch pads or reverse the direction of conveyor belts that may be strewn about the level. These elements add a sense of timing to your quest for success, requiring you to pay more attention to what happens onscreen.
Furmins involves a lot of trial and error; experimentation is encouraged as there is no set way to reach any given goal marker in the game. You earn a bonus for objects you leave untouched from the beginning of the level. New objects and environmental hazards are constantly introduced to keep things seeming fresh. Some of the latter stages truly stumped me for a long time and my best experiences playing came from discovering unorthodox work-arounds for the increasingly complicated sets of mazes that cap off the game.
You earn stars based on your performance in each level. One star is earned for guiding all of the Furmins to the goal. A second star is unlocked if you complete the goal within the allotted time limit. The third star is awarded if you manage to collect the various pieces of candy scattered about the levels. These stars can be used to unlock later stages of increasing difficulty. Thankfully, you are able to unlock the majority of the levels without collecting three stars on every level.
The visuals are pleasant but I would not go as far as saying they are eye-catching. The backgrounds are drawn in 2D, while the sharp 3D models stand out against a hand drawn 2D background. The Furmins all look the same and though it is nice to see them fall in line at the goal towards the end of each level, overall there aren’t any visually arresting moments to make you stop and say wow. Despite the relative graphical simplicity, I experienced a few strange and irritating instances of framerate drops. These usually occurred whenever I used an object to render an independently moving object immobile. The music is upbeat and whimsical but it tends to grate on after a while; greater variety in the musical arrangement would have been a welcome change up from stage to stage.
Furmins cost $6.99 on the PlayStation Store. I would feel more comfortable with a purchase if it were at about half that price, doubly so since little has been changed from the iOS version to warrant double dipping to experience Furmins on the Vita. In total there are 8 stages featuring 12 individual levels, for a total of 96 puzzles to complete, and a 9th stage is promised as upcoming DLC. There are online leaderboards, so you can compare how you are doing with the rest of the world and friends, as well as 14 trophies tied to the game that pretty much all involve collecting stars, but all told you'll spend about four not particularly memorable hours racking your brain trying to aid these Furmins. If you can appreciate a slow, challenging puzzle game Furmins might be worth a look, but most people will not find the experience particularly rewarding.
This review is based on a digital copy of Furmins for the PSV, provided by the publisher.