I play (and review) a lot of indie games and often notice trends. Much like how the Rogue-lite genre is one that a lot of indie devs delve into. I do love a good Rogue-lite title but the issue with there being so many of them is that, well frankly, not all of them are very good. Developer Dejima and publisher Thunderful Games throw their firefighter helmet into the Rogue-lite ring with Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX.
Take on the role of a young rescue officer starting her career. Armed with a trusty axe and high-pressure fire hose that also acts as a jetpack, Firegirl responds to emergency calls across the city. Can Firegirl save all the trapped civilians caught in each blaze? Can she uncover the truth of why these fires have engulfed the city? Find out in a mystery that goes all the way to the top…
So here, you play as Firegirl, the daughter of a much-respected firefighter, who died while saving the city from attacking fire monsters. 10 years later and those fire monsters are back wreaking havoc. Firegirl, following in her father’s footsteps, tries to defend the city from those pesky fire monsters. Truthfully, there is actually quite a bit more to the story that is revealed as the game progresses, but I’m not about to spoil that here.
The first thing to mention about Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX is that it is a much spruced-up version of the original game that was released on PC a while back and got some very average reviews. I never did play the original version but from what I have been reading, this new version is a lot more than just a slight upgrade. From all-new level designs, difficulty balancing, a better upgrade system and more. In terms of the gameplay, this is a very typical Rogue-lite platformer and if you are familiar with the genre, then you should know what to expect before you even press the start button. Explore randomly generated levels, earn in-game currency, upgrade, die and try again.
With this firefighting twist on the genre, the levels you explore are all timed and you need to move fast or have the building burn down, ending your run. Putting out the various fire monsters can earn you some valuable extra seconds and finding clocks adds even more extra time. Armed with your trusty axe, you can hack down doors and certain types of rubble that may be in your way. Explore the levels, try to rescue trapped civilians… and the occasional cat and then head to the exit. At the end, you are given a summary of your efforts and awarded cash accordingly. Leave any civilians behind and you will be docked money, save cats to not only gain some extra coin, but also beef up your fan level. The more fans you have the more bonus money you will get.
Your fire extinguisher can be used to put fires out (obviously) and it can also be used as a kind of water-hover-thing to help you reach higher platforms or get across larger gaps. You do only have a finite supply of water but more can be found on the levels. Still, you do need to conserve water as and when you can because you just don’t know when, or even if, a water refill is going to be there when you need it. Back at HQ, you can use your money to buy all sorts of upgrades. Have your extinguisher hold more water, upgrade to a longer stream and more. Some of the civilians you save can be employed at the HQ to unlock even more upgrades. Add to your hit points, increase your fan levels and rewards. There’s even a handy shop where you can buy better equipment. Failing a level will result in you losing money, but there’s even an upgrade that can help with that too.
There are also a variety of levels just to keep you on your toes. Maybe you’ll be saving civilians from a burning building, maybe you’ll need to stop a runaway train, maybe you’ll need to deal with a forest fire or rescue people from a skyscraper. Given the randomly generated nature of the Rogue-lite genre, you really don’t know what this game with throw at you until it is thrown at you. The various levels will have you testing your firefighting skills in different ways and really do offer some much-needed diversity to stop you from getting too bored with the core gameplay. Not that I am saying the core gameplay is boring, it’s not. I just really liked the fact that Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX mixes things up for you to keep you on your toes. There are a lot of other games in this genre that just don’t do that and rely heavily on the random generation instead. Here, you not only get randomly generated levels but also a variety of levels too.
Looks-wise, what you have is a 2D sprite game in a 3D world. 2.5D, I guess? The presentation is very ‘arcadey’ with an announcer excitedly calling out when you pick up extra time, save a civilian and so on. Your fans will cheer when you do save a civilian… or a cat. And the game really has a very uplifting and joyful feel to it, with just the right amount of high-jinx and cartoony action. It feels like you are playing a 16-bit game from around 1993.
If I were to pick out a niggle or two, and I will. The game starts out a tad tricky but by the time you have got a few of the upgrades, especially ones that reduce upgrade costs and increase your bonus money, it all gets a bit too easy very quickly and you’ll soon have more than enough money to buy all the upgrades. The basic idea of the game is to collect tomes that will summon the big bad boss to fight, and that is the end of the game. Honestly, that took me around 4 hours and I did feel a bit disappointed by that. Effectively, you can play the game for as long as you like and just not collect the tomes that trigger the big boss, so you could get a lot more than 4 hours if you wish. After the credits roll, you can continue to play and nab any upgrades you may have missed. But once you have bested the final boss and seen the story out to its end… what’s the point? I think that different difficulty settings would be a great idea, a ‘hardcore’ mode for seasoned players or something.
Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX also does this thing when running through levels where the perspective slightly shifts angles itself…and it’s really annoying, to be honest. The option to turn it off would be good. You can see it happening in the trailer above, or in this screenshot.
While the various levels, that I previously mentioned, do add a bit of variety, there are only four and they do begin to feel a bit too samey after a couple of hours. Every train level looks the same, every forest stage looks the same, etc. Yeah the layouts change, but the graphics and assets don’t. You’ll see the same green and brown walls every single time you tackle the building stage. A few more scenarios, levels and variety of those levels could’ve really added a lot more gameplay value I feel.
£15 is what Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX is going to set you back, not a bad price. In terms of game length though… I’m not sure if it really is worth it. I don’t mind a short game if the price is right and this feels more like a £10 title than a £15 one. 4 hours it took me to see the end credits and as much as I did enjoy the game, that still feels quite short to me. As I said, that was because of the tome collecting that advances the story. If you want to play longer, just don’t pick up the tomes. But I also think that 4-5 hours is about the right length anyway, any longer than that and Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX would begin to drag. The gameplay is fun but limiting. This is a tough game to summarise as it doesn’t really do anything badly and what it does do can be great fun… but I do think it needed a bit more depth to warrant that £15 asking price. I do recommend this one but with the warning that it can be a bit too easy and that perhaps it can be shallow.