Ever since I played Sega’s oft-forgotten Burning Rangers, I developed a bit of a soft spot for fire fighting games. There aren’t many of them about, with Mighty Switch Force 2 being the obvious title that comes to mind – along with some other lesser known ones like Embr and Firework. Their quality may vary, but none of them captured that same joyful feeling I had when playing Sega’s masterpiece.
Then along came Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash DX. With it’s arcade-like gameplay and it’s stunning visuals, it looked like it may satiate that burning desire I had. It looked charming, it looked action packed, it seemed right up my alley.
Let’s find out how it does!
Many thanks to Thunderful for the review code.
Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX focuses on the titular Firegirl, the daughter of a famous fire fighter who tragically lost his life one day whilst on the job. Following in his footsteps, Firegirl works hard to put out the constant fires that are popping up around the city. Is it a result of arson, or is there something more sinister afoot?
Story is pretty light in the game due to its roguelite nature, but finding certain key items will push the story along bit by bit until it comes to the finale. There are some twists here and there that you’ll see coming in a laughably predictable fashion, but the story is only really here to frame the action so it’s pretty inoffensive for the most part. The main appeal with following the story is simply to take in the gorgeous spritework whilst taking a break from the core gameplay loop.
ROGUELITE MY FIRE
Unlike most roguelites, Firegirl isn’t really about different runs through the game. Instead, randomised levels are generated and you simply have to beat them (or not) in order to earn money, fans, survivors, and the key collectible (which I won’t spoil). Failing results in you incurring hefty medical bills, but any collectibles will still be retained and you’ll still end up earning money – just less of it.
Certain survivors can be recruited to the station and offer various services, such as upgrading your equipment, providing extra health, or other similar bonuses. There’s not really any such thing as a failed run as death will still give you the opportunity for progression until you eventually trigger the endgame.
When you start out, you’ll only have one mission type to choose from: burning apartment building. Using your axe to break down doors and your hose to put out fires, it’s a race against the clock to find survivors and escape. It feels very arcadey with a voiceover providing some nice commentary when you pick up items or rescue survivors, and everything has a very weighty feel to it that makes firefighting pretty satisfactory. Of particular note, you can use your hose in mid-air in order to fly upwards or across gaps. It feels like a cross between the hover and rocket nozzles from Mario Sunshine and is a lot of fun to use once you get the hang of it.
Enemies come in different flavours and there’s a surprising amount of variety to them. Rather than having you just fight fire, you’re actually fighting demonically infused fire – that means you’ll have walking flames, fiery bats, spitters, and so on. Some of them can be a tad spongey, but that’s where the secondary mechanic comes into play: water management. Your hose can only hold a certain amount of water before it turns into a merely splash, so you want to make sure you’re not spraying willy nilly and are always on the lookout for ways to refill your tank.
Things can start out tough as you end up taking lots of hits trying to navigate your way around these randomly generated mazes, and it does become a tad frustrating dying continuously; however, this becomes less of an issue once you start gaining useful upgrades and earning medals (don’t forget to equip them!). As you get used to the game and Firegirl becomes a little stronger, it starts to become a fun little gameplay loop – at least until the repetition starts to set in.
The main problem with the game lies with the lack of variety on offer. Apartment complexes are mixed up enough for them to feel like different buildings – albeit with the same aesthetics – but some of the other level variants, like the train, just feel identical. In short bursts it’s not too much of an issue, but within an hour or so you’ll start to feel the repetition sink in. With only four level types on offer, expect to be replaying very similar missions again and again. Given that there is a storyline here, I feel like the roguelite nature should have been restricted to enemy, survivor, and item locations only and instead focused on making a set number of levels that you need to successfully complete instead. The game seems like it suffers from being a roguelike rather than being bolstered by it.
And it’s a shame too, since the game’s presentation is top notch. Both the 2D sprites and 3D backgrounds are absolutely jaw-dropping in how beautiful they are. The fire effects and lighting, in particular, are some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen. The audio design is no slacker either, with the aforementioned announcer being my own personal highlight. The game can struggle to keep up with the game at times when there is a lot going on, as there are momentary dips in framerate now and then that are noticeable but not game-affecting. As a retro game connoisseur, it wasn’t something that bothered me; those more sensitive to such things may find it more annoying, though.
Firegirl is an absolutely stunning game, with a very addictive arcade gameplay loop. The roguelite randomness when coupled with only four stages means that it is best played in short bursts, but those looking for some firefighting action will find this game is worth a squirt or two at the very least!