Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue - First Impressions
Fight fires and save lives in Dejima's action-packed platformer.
A few months ago, Thunderful and Dejima unveiled Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue, a gorgeous indie title that tasked players with taking up the role of a young rescue officer as she began her career in the dangerous world of fighting fires. The game is coming in December, but as part of the latest Steam Next Fest, there is a playable demo that is now available to give interested players a chance to get hands-on, and ahead of that demo going live, I've had the chance to dive in and put together some thoughts on the title.
Straight off the bat, Firegirl sets up its story by seeing you as the protagonist Firegirl diving headfirst into a burning firestation to save a trapped civilian. You later find out that it was a test scenario created by the station's chief to check you are field ready, before you are given a public ceremony for your bravery and then sent to work, dowsing flames and saving lives.
The game plays purely from a 2D perspective, despite the level design having depth, meaning you can only move/aim, up and down and side-to-side. This style means that while levels might have open doors behind Firegirl or in vision, you can only explore in specific ways, and in effect what this creates is a style of gameplay where it is about outmaneuvering hazards for the most part, rather than exploring.
And because the art of firefighting is a time sensitive field where wasting time can result in lost lives, Firegirl asks you to head into levels to find trapped civilians and animals in a specific time limit. You can extend the amount of time you get by extinguishing the pyro monsters that are often responsible for the blazing infernos, but in general you'll need to use your fire hose and axe to clear debris and any flames in your path otherwise you won't escape the flaming building before it collapses.
From my experience fighting the flames, Firegirl is actually a very challenging game to beat. Firegirl only has a specific amount of health (a minimum of 3), and she loses a portion each time she takes any damage from fire or the pyro monsters that want to stop Firegirl in her tracks. The challenge comes from the fact that flaming buildings have a lot of hazards, and the fire will come at Firegirl from all kinds of angles, meaning you have to be fast to dodge any hazards that are coming your way. And of course, lose all of your lives, and you'll leave the scene in a hospital, and not as a triumphant hero.
The challenge is amplified by the fact that Firegirl uses procedurally-generated levels, meaning your experience on one mission probably won't help you all that much in the next run. Add to this the fact that the mechanics currently feel a little clunky and heavy, with Firegirl's movement and firehose aiming systems often feeling like they are fighting you, even when using a controller, as recommended.
But, even though I won't deny that Firegirl is a little tough right now, this game has some impressive positives, namely the visuals. The world design is amazing and uses a combination of pixel and non-pixel art to make for a strange mash-up that works flawlessly. Firegirl, characters, pyro monsters, actual fires, and a few other things are pixelated, with everything else looking more realistic, and combined it's hard not to be left in awe at times - and this is only bolstered by the amazing use of reflections.
On top of the visuals, Firegirl also has quite an extensive upgrading system that sees you spending money earned from successful missions on better gear and facilities for Firegirl and the firestation. These could increase Firegirl's health, allow her to spray water for a longer time, or even reduce the cost of having to head to the infirmary after an unsuccessful mission, which all in all do help ease the challenge a tad, even if the opening section is pretty brutal.
I will say that I am excited for Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue. Despite the difficulty feeling a little savage in the early stages, and the controls being a little clunky, there's plenty to look forward to whenever Firegirl does eventually launch in December. For the time being, be sure to check out the demo of the game as part of the October Steam Next Fest celebrations, which started today.