Part rhythm game and part endless runner, Fermi’s Path is a fast-paced arcade game that’s going to have you wanting to tap your feet to the music and stamp them in frustration at the same time.
Fermi, nothing but a ball of particles, is the protagonist here – if we can go as far as to call him that. Fixed on rails, Fermi has to navigate his way to safety, avoiding multiple obstacles and enemies while collecting as many gold nuts as he can on the way. It’s a very simple premise, and the gameplay and control scheme is very easy to pick up; the challenge of the game comes in its difficulty. Quite simply put, Fermi’s Path is devilish. That’s both its charm and its curse.
The main aim of the game is to get as high a score as possible, so avoiding obstacles and collecting as many pick-ups as possible is key. Along with gold nuts, there are also three tokens to pick up on each level, as well as a smattering of extra lives. Each level also has a “black hole” pick up that will transport you to a bonus section of the level. As Fermi, you can rotate 360 degrees around your fixed rail and jump up in the air; some obstacles require you to jump over them, whilst some are too tall so you’ll have to slink around the rail to avoid them. Unfortunately, there’s not a massively discernible difference between what a collectible looks like and what an enemy/barrier looks like, which meant that many times I found myself rushing towards an enemy, thinking it was a pick-up, only to be greeted with certain death. It takes some getting used to, and when you’re speeding along a track, twisting around it as you go, you don’t always get time to fully register what you need to avoid.
There are three difficulty levels to choose from, but none actually affect the levels in any way: selecting “hard” merely starts you with less lives than medium or easy. There’s no particular learning curve either: Fermi’s Path starts off fiendish and only gets harder as you progress. You’re going to be playing the same levels again and again in a fit of trial and error as you try to memorise the safest routes, learning when to jump and remembering where the collectibles lie.
“Together the brisk action and pulsing music make for a cathartic experience, and you’ll soon be tapping your foot and nodding your head along to the beats”
The action of the game is perfectly co-ordinated with the music: a fast-paced synthy electronic soundtrack accompanies each level, and keeping in time with the beat will help you reach the end of each level. Together the brisk action and pulsing music make for a cathartic experience, and you’ll soon be tapping your foot and nodding your head along to the beats you add every time you jump or pick up a collectible.
As you might expect from a game on rails, it doesn’t offer much variety in its gameplay, and Fermi’s Path isn’t particularly diverse in its audio and visuals, either. Even though there are 20 in total, a level never feels particularly different from the one before it – only in terms of difficulty. Although the trance-inducing spacey visuals are a treat, aside from the odd change in hue, there isn’t much to discern one level from the next. And even though each level has an individual music track, they’re often so similar-sounding that you’ll never be quite sure if you’re just listening to the same beats on repeat.
Despite the repetition though, Fermi’s Path is fun. Like any endless runner, it’s fairly basic in what it does – but it does it well. There’s plenty of replayability, as completing each level unlocks an “infinite mode”, which allows you to keep on going until you die. For score chasers, there’s always that plight for a higher score and an online leaderboard will give you something to aim for. It’s not going to keep you gripped for hours, and the difficulty level will be a barrier for some players, but Fermi’s Path is certainly worth a try.