From the very outset, Fermi's Path will put you in mind of a number of other games. The game tasks you with controlling a particle, which moves forward automatically and leaves you to dodge and jump over obstacles such as you do in Temple Run or any number of other endless runners. The rotation mechanic, which sees you rolling around the outside of a pipe to get to each of the four available sides of it, spinning the screen as you do so, will make you think of the likes of Amplitude or Frequency. Circling around trying to pick up items that make a high-pitched clinking sound as you grab them will send you right back to the days of the special stages in Sonic the Hedgehog 2.
Sadly though, Fermi's Path doesn't really come all that close to reaching the heady heights of any of those titles. A simple tutorial level shows the issues right from the outset. First off, the audio is too quiet, since the developer has set the default level too low. That can be changed in a menu, thankfully. Secondly, the controller has two bumpers and two triggers that would be absolutely perfect for the gameplay mechanic that's employed here, but the developer has nonsensically decided that movement should be controlled with the left stick. Again, that can be changed via a menu. Thirdly – and this is something that can't be fixed by tooling around in the options – either the particle that you're controlling moves far too slowly, or the objects you have to avoid are only made clear far too late for you to be able to do anything about it.
The first few levels are fine, although you'll notice quite early on that it can be very, very tricky to tell the difference between something that you have to avoid, something you have to collect, and something that you have to shoot. Each of the game's 23 levels must be played in the fixed-length "Path" mode and then when complete, can be played again in "Infinite" mode, which is exactly as described. About halfway through the set, you'll run into serious trouble when you discover obstacles with moving parts that need to be avoided. At this point, you realise that in order to beat the Path mode for a level from now on, you pretty much need to memorise it from start to finish, since the slightest delay in movement will cause you to hit something. Not only that, but the nature of the game means that if you do make a mistake and try any sort of corrective manoeuvre to get back on the straight and narrow, you'll likely wind up having to restart the level thanks to the fact that you can't clearly see what's on the other three sides of the pipe. Miss a turn and Fermi's Path will punish you by throwing you into an obstacle, then another, then another. With absolutely no period of invulnerability after you've hit something, you can realistically go from having a full complement of health to being dead within a very short space of time.
It's infuriating to say the least. Not just because you have to go back to the start of the level, but because every such failure will remind you that Fermi's Path is very close to being a clever and enjoyable game – even if it is tremendously simplistic - and that it would be even closer was it not for a collection of relatively minor issues that come together to kill the atmosphere.
The ingredients are all there. The visuals are sharp, the audio is on point and the concept is simple and clear enough to get the job done, but it's those little things that kill. That fourth time in a run that you've taken a shot at something that you thought was an enemy, only to find that it was a collectable. The second time that you've gone out of your way to avoid obstacles so that you could grab a pickup, only for that pickup to be an enemy that shoots you and takes out your last remaining chunk of energy. That eleventh attempt at completing a level that fails because even though you swear that you've safely avoided an obstacle (because it's now behind you) and are safe to make a turn, the game decides that you've turned too early and clipped it. That final collectable piece that is actually impossible to grab without jumping and making three turns that could well see you colliding with a wall of obstacles that you couldn't see. It all adds up.
Despite some issues, Fermi's Path definitely shows enough potential in the early going to the extent that it looks like it'll be a fun and engaging game that you'll be playing for a good long time. Then the issues creep in and chip, chip, chip away until there's very little left to make you want to fire it up again. Some will play through and get some enjoyment out of it, but the long and the short of things is that this an endless runner at its core, where the developers have tried to throw in a campaign mode of sorts and where the running isn't all that much fun.