Title: Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue
Release Date: December 14, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Thunderful Publishing
The gameloop of roguelikes is essential. However, to keep players returning, there need to be incentives to make it feel like no one lost time. This is what Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue does well, but the actual execution of this gameloop becomes the chore as the experience lacks the depth needed to stand out past its initial charming presentation.
Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue has an actual story that attempts to explain why the city is practically burning down every night caused by scary fire monsters. Now, I would have accepted an arcade-like game where the monsters that our Firegirl was fighting were just her imagination. Still, the developers did put some time into slowly rolling out a narrative of corruption and coverups after collecting certain items or reaching milestones throughout the levels.
It’s all pretty surface level, but I enjoyed that they gave Firegirl a backstory and incorporated that story into the game’s lore. In retrospect, a lot of lore gets unpacked in the narrative, but none of this actually makes the game more enjoyable.
The gameloop has players build up their firehouse by running into burning buildings and saving people. These saved citizens may lend a hand to improve various aspects of your base to earn additional bonuses after a match or raise stats. Unfortunately, all upgrades come at a cost, and early gameplay makes it seem like you’ll never have enough to pay for the more interesting ones. This is only a problem in the opening because it gives the impression that you’ll have to play the stages a lot if you want to get anywhere.
However, once you start upgrading your bonuses, money becomes much easier to acquire, even if you fail, which you will, a lot. The flipside of this is navigating the firehouse to figure out where everything is. It’s a rather large building, and everything that you’re able to upgrade would have been better off listed in a simple to parse menu instead of trying to remember where the room with the dog is in so you can pet it.
The missions themselves take place across a few different procedurally generated maps. Set on providing quick experiences to the player, the stages last anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. Every stage has you run through an environment that is on fire armed with a hose and ax to fight whatever is stopping you from saving the people in need.
To rescue citizens, you simply need to find them and touch them. Although you’re cheered on for saving someone, there’s no animation of you actually getting them out; they just stand there and wait for you to leave. Other hiding objects within the levels are water tanks and health that both come in handy.
Water usage will drain during use, but it’s your only line of defense against the fire monsters and serves as a way to extend your jump. These actions are often used throughout the stages, which adds another layer of management as you attempt to save all the citizens, make sure you don’t run out of time, try to avoid damage, or run out of water. If time ends or your take too many hits, the stage is over, and you’re graded. Thankfully, no matter if you win or lose, you’ll get some cash, but some deaths are just unfair. There really needs to be a quick countdown before the level starts because some stages begin with a pit, and since I’m holding the run direction, you can bet that I died this way multiple times.
Although the game is challenging, I felt there needed to be significant balance adjustments made to the in-game systems. Things like the ax swing speed or perfecting the physics when trying to make a jump. Direction is also an issue, but I don’t know if this is by design. Some stages become maze-like with platforming sections that don’t fit into the fast gameloop. I think the death drops are just a little too much when the jumping isn’t precise, and you have to deal with mid-jump enemies or huge fire bosses throwing fireballs at you.
The sounds track is brief and only seems to feature a handful of songs that you’ll hear over and over. I wish there were voiced audio for the characters to give them more personality, but the designs do well to carry the charm.
Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue is fun for about an hour. Then you’ll realize that you’ve seen much of what the game has to offer and must now focus on upgrading and surviving. The rollout of the narrative is appreciated, but this game does have a pacing problem. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a pick-up and play arcade firefighter game or a simulation time sink where most of the fun comes after multiple hours. There’s no doubt some potential here, but I’d wait for a few updates before rushing into this burning building.
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