Featherpunk Prime Review
A vibrant, exciting twin-stick platform shooter set within a neon tower of death, Featherpunk Prime follows a cyber flamingo on a quest to rescue its stolen brethren.
If run and gun, sidescrolling shooters like Contra or Metal Slug are your kind’ve game, Featherpunk Prime might be the next title to add to your library. With randomly generated levels and roguelite persistent upgrades, it’s a fun blaster with a surprising degree of difficulty.
A leg to stand on
Featherpunk Prime puts you in the electronic shoes of a cyber flamingo whose brethren are abducted by the evil Cybirdroid. Infiltrating their headquarters, you’ll need to navigate through the tower, fighting a variety of security drones and tackling bosses in an effort to rescue your kin.
Levels are randomly generated neon nightmares, each filled with a variety of traps and enemies bent on your destruction. You’ll encounter laser barriers, missile launchers, and seeker drones who will chase you down relentlessly. You’ll come under fire from a barrage of creeping red death, lasers and bullets endlessly propelled towards you. You only have one life, and you’ll die, a lot — and that’s OK.
Tying into roguelite features, Featherpunk Prime enjoys persistent progress; upgrades made to health or weapon damage, as well as any extra abilities unlocked, persist through each playthrough, meaning that the punishing initial difficulty will slowly decline as you start over ever more powerful. Dying also won’t completely set you back — every six levels you’ll reach a checkpoint that allows you to restart from that floor in future playthroughs.
Traps and enemies aren’t the only thing you’ll need to worry about; large-scale, screen obliterating bosses will prove to be a major obstacle to get past. Reminiscent of Super Metroid‘s goliaths, each boss battle has its own special mechanics that must be learnt and handled properly in order to proceed. While the persistent upgrades are always useful, you can’t really brute force your way past these fights; you’ll need to be patient and look for cues, learning how different attacks are telegraphed and the safest spots to return fire from.
A nice feature of the game is the different weapons available — though you’ll start with just a pistol, every time you reach a new level a random weapon will be waiting for you to grab. You’re able to carry two different weapons at any one time and may freely swap, and while some weapons are ammo-based, their actual ammunition supply is infinite; it just means you’ll need to spend a short period reloading them. Weapons are fairly typical, with shotguns having loose spread and miniguns having a high rate of fire, and more versatile weapons — such as with shots that bounce and ricochet around — are weaker to keep weapons decently balanced.
Featherpunk Prime is a tricky game. If you’re not fond of games that are tough to play, this one probably won’t be for you. While it’s nowhere on par with sadistic difficulty games like I Wanna Be The Guy, you’ll definitely have to spend a good number of hours in order to conquer Featherpunk Prime. It’s certainly not a game you can breeze through in a couple of hours, and fans of challenging titles will feel right at home.
If you’re like me and use DualShock controllers for PC gaming, you’ll be happy to know that Featherpunk Prime recognises plugged-in DS4 controllers, displaying button prompts correctly as triangle or circle instead of Y and B. It’s a nice quality of life change for people who find PlayStation controllers more comfortable.
However, while there are options to remap controls to an extent, one of the biggest problems we had with Featherpunk Prime was jumping, a mainstay in any platformer. Quick, grab a controller, and tell me what button you’d instinctively press to jump. I’d put money on you saying X (PlayStation) or A (Xbox).
Unfortunately, Featherpunk Prime goes against decades of established muscle memory by assigning jump to a shoulder button. I can understand why — with the right analog stick used for aiming, the developers obviously wanted to avoid moving your thumb from the stick to the face buttons in order to jump, but it feels very clunky and difficult to get used to. I tried remapping “up” on the left stick to jumping for a more natural motion, but the game wouldn’t allow it.
Once you’re used to the controls, they’re fine, but it’s an extra layer of mechanical difficulty which toughens the barrier to entry; Featherpunk Prime isn’t a game you can easily pick up and play through. Beyond that however, Featherpunk Prime is a solid, fun to play platformer that a blast to play, even if you’re not great at it (to which I can attest).