There is one more boss – the final one – but in order to fight him, you are required to extinguish all the fire in the game. As for tips for the boss himself? Well, you’ll have to figure that out for yourself!
I really wanted to like Firework. Honestly, I did. Billed as a retro Mega Man-like experience with a sprinkling of Burning Rangers, this should have been an easy win; yet this game ended up being the biggest disappointment of the year so far for me.
Let’s dive into it.
RELIGHT MY FIRE
The story opens with you controlling a spherical ball as it journeys in search of freedom. Very quickly, the story cuts away to Yan who – as it turns out – is telling a story to a room full of spheres to both entertain and caution them. Suddenly, an alarm goes off and he needs to dash off and find out what’s up. After dealing with some mischievous spheres, Yan stumbles into the depths of the facility which seem to have caught fire. At the bottom he encounters the Fire Troops, who appear to be up to no good and refer to him as The Defective One. Thus starts your journey through the facility to uncover the what the mysterious Fire Troops are up to, and to rescue the lost spheres. It’s an intriguing setup, but unfortunately it never really develops that much. The fiery henchmen that make up the three bosses of the game have their own personalities, but are a little hit or miss as to whether you will find them appealing or not.
The game uses a retro 2D aesthetic and resembles the older Mega Man titles; the art style is done pretty well, with the sterile and broken facility being offset by the fire everywhere. Enemies are also made of fire too for the most part, making it very clear as to what is a danger to you and what isn’t. There’s not a lot of variety in the environments, but considering the length of the game it won’t necessarily prove to be too much of an issue. The real highlight is the game’s soundtrack. Whilst it doesn’t provide the memorable tunes that the Mega Man series is famous for, they’re still well put together and enjoyable melodies to accompany you on your journey.
GOTTA WORK IT
Whilst the game looks a bit like the older Mega Man titles, it plays a bit more like the action orientated Mega Man X / Zero games -albeit in a much more linear fashion. Yan starts out with his water gun, which will be his primary method of attack for the majority of the game. You work through the facility from A to B, taking out the three main bosses – which can be found at the end of each area of the facility after overcoming the unique platforming gimmicks found within. You don’t have a choice where to go, but given that there are no boss weaknesses in Firework, its not really much of an issue. Some of the level gimmicks can be neat, if a little uninspired. Navigating moving platforms over spikes using Yan’s dash is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of fun in the countless other platformers that do the same thing. Other gimmicks can be a little more annoying, such as the area that is almost completely in darkness, with a particularly annoying labyrinthine section that has you doing a pick-a-path to find the way through.
Some of the level gimmicks can be neat, if a little uninspired. Navigating moving platforms over spikes using Yan’s dash is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of fun in the countless other platformers that do the same thing. Other gimmicks can be a little more annoying, such as the area that is almost completely in darkness, with a particularly annoying labyrinthine section that has you doing a pick-a-path to find the way through. Thankfully such frustration is mitigated by generally good controls, which are tight most of the time. The exception to this is Yan’s dash, which gives him the ability to perform a dash in eight directions, which is great for adding a little variety to the platforming challenges, although the diagonal dashing can be a little … unreliable, at times. By the end, I found it easier to sustain damage by using only the cardinal directions and taking intentional damage because it was easier than the alternative. The game has frequent checkpoints, which will refill your health upon death, so brute forcing your way through is a genuine strategy to get through tougher sections. Putting out fire too will also grant you gems that can provide a protective shield of sorts, making this game far more easier than the games it resembles.
Just as the platforming can be a mixed bag, so too is the combat. There’s a variety of enemies, and some can be interesting opponents. One enemy is a fiery dude operating a cannon made of fire – that shoots huge fireballs: it’s glorious nonsense. Other times there are interesting designs that are a little underwhelming, in particular one enemy type is a huge dog that is curiously static and will stand there while you kill it. I’m not sure whether or not this is a bug in the game, but this intimidating enemy seems to be a waste of time.
GET EQUIPPED WITH
Much like the Mega Man titles, defeating a main boss will reward you with a new tool to aid you on your journey. Whilst no boss weaknesses exist in Firework, some of these may still prove useful:
There’s one more upgrade in the game for finding all the missing spheres. No idea what it is though, so good luck if you wish to find it yourself!
Thankfully bosses hold up far better for the most part. Throughout your journey, you will encounter quite a few main bosses and mini bosses, and they all differ greatly from one another. Some have very basic patterns and can be easy to take down (even later in the game), while others can prove to be a decent challenge. The second of the main bosses was far too RNG based for my liking, with countless unavoidable deaths to him, but most can be beaten in a few lives or less. Speaking of that second boss, I encountered a bug on beating him which sent me back to the title screen after collecting his upgrade, but that seemed to be the only technical issue I had.
The main issue with the game lies in what the game requires you to do in order to beat it. Upon beating the third and final of the Fire Team cronies, you will quickly find yourself reaching the bad ending with the game telling you that you need to put out all the fire in the game in order to beat it. Think Ghosts ‘n Goblins notorious gimmick, but with a worse game and you’ll have the right idea. At least that title remixes the levels in a harder way to make it more interesting; Firework, on the other hand, lets you keep your useless upgrades. Yay? Whilst it is possible to do this in one playthrough, there’s absolutely no way of knowing these requirements beforehand. There’s also a final upgrade you can obtain to help with the final boss by finding all the missing spheres from the hidden rooms scattered through the games, but this isn’t required for the true ending.
Whilst Mail Mole is definitely the worse game of the two, Firework annoys me more by the wasted potential it had. When the game is fun, it’s an absolute blast. But it’s ruined by largely derivative platforming, mediocre combat, a janky dash mechanic, a short run time, and the need to put out all the fire in the game for the true ending (which feels more like padding to make up for the game’s length). The game does have a solid foundation, however, and I really hope the development team can use that to produce something better for their next game.