A series of fires have sprung up all over the city. It looks like arson and the fire department is hard-pressed to stop them. Enter Firegirl, the daughter of a heroic fireman that gave his life to stop a similar series of fires many years ago. It’s her job to put out those fires, save as many lives as she can, and get to the bottom of this once and for all. Sounds simple enough, but what are all those rumours of fire monsters about?!
Developed by Dejima, Firegirl: Hack ‘N Splash Rescue DX is an action platformer in which you take on the role of the titular Firegirl – a rookie firefighter out to save the city. Armed with your trusty fire axe and a portable extinguisher, Firegirl’s gameplay loop is simplicity itself. You’re popped into a level with the task of extinguishing fire monsters that are burning up everything in your path while also scouring the levels for survivors, be they human or animal.
The game adds complexity by introducing different fire monster forms you have to deal with, a tight stage timer, and several obstacles in your path. You can smash through obstacles with your axe, while your portable hose extinguishes the monsters and conventional fire hazards in your path. Every monster you take down adds valuable seconds to the clock, but most survivors are hidden behind obstacles or doors that take time to hack through.
Further complexity is added via a procedural level generation system. So while there are only four types of levels, the further into the game you get, the longer they become. You may need to rescue even more survivors to rescue, or you might need to stop a burning train that is longer and more damaged. Once you’ve saved everyone you can, you have to find the exit and get out of dodge.
Completing a successful run earns you a salary from the city and fans that donate to your cause. The more fans you have, the more money you bank. If you fail a mission, however, you’ve got casualties on the list and your fans won’t give you a dime. Failing a mission also usually results in medical bills for you so it’s in your best interest to succeed every time.
There’s a little bit of base building and perk upgrades thrown into the mix as well. Your firehouse is a shell when you start off on your adventure and you need money to rejuvenate it. Specific survivors will apply for a position with you, bringing ultra-useful perks with them. A chef will increase your life amount, while others will help you gain more fans along with multipliers for donations. The most useful perk is the one that adds more time to your mission counter. Your fire extinguisher can also be upgraded with a larger water reservoir and more power, while a dodgy shop across the road will sell you better clothing for armour protection and a faster axe.
My initial mission runs in Firegirl: Hack ‘N Splash Rescue DX were quite frustrating until I learned how the game works and could start putting money into the upgrade and perk systems. Once that was done, the game became much easier, with most failures the result of me rushing through missions. Thankfully, even as each run became longer and more challenging, the gameplay held up superbly. There’s a distinct feeling of arcadey-ness to Firegirl, whether it’s your fans appearing at the bottom of the screen as a cheering mob who look like they’re watching a movie in a theatre, or the announcer when you rescue someone or pick up more time.
Even with the procedural generation – a feature I’m just not a fan of, period – I found myself unable to put down Firegirl because the minute-to-minute gameplay was absolutely addictive. It scratched the right itch between challenging gameplay and the urge to complete a run flawlessly. Even with a fair amount of failed missions because I ran out of time – or dropped Firegirl beneath the wheels of a runaway train – there was always a sense of campaign progression and forward momentum.
Visually, Firegirl is just gorgeous and filled to the brim with personality, using 2D sprites in a 3D world. The sprite work is fantastically animated and full of personality in the way the characters move, the expressions on their faces, and the wonderfully cute noises the fire monsters make when you put them out. The developers have used camera movement and a receding polygon world to create a sense of depth that works wonders. The combination of 2D sprites for foreground elements, the 3D word receding into the distance, and the gorgeous 2D art for the sky come together to create striking scenes. The 3D elements look good as well, with some nice reflections caused by the fire, water, and the surfaces of metallic train cars. The game’s audio is just as good with top-notch sound effects and catchy music. I’ve found myself humming the theme song long after I’d put my console away for the day.
If there are any problems with Firegirl, it would be how little time the monsters give you for dealing with them. For most, you’re looking at a measly 1 to 2 seconds added back on the clock. Usually, it’s faster just to avoid them when possible, and get the job done. It eases up significantly once you have that survivor who can increase your time on the clock, but before then, you’re incentivised to simply skip past the monsters.
Despite all the smoke and burning buildings, Firegirl: Hack ‘N Splash Rescue DX felt like a breath of fresh air in a crowded indie market. With gorgeous visuals, catchy audio, and truly addictive gameplay, I found myself unable to put the game down. Even after I’d completed the campaign, I immediately felt the need to buy all the upgrades in the post-game runs. When the worlds burning, it takes a special kind of hero to keep it turning – and Firegirl is that hero!
A review code for Firegirl: Hack ‘N Splash Rescue DX was provided to gameblur by the publisher.
Firegirl: Hack 'N Splash Rescue DX (Nintendo Switch) ReviewFiregirl: Hack 'N Splash Rescue DX (Nintendo Switch) Review
Story8/10 Very Good
Audio8/10 Very Good
- Gorgeous visuals
- Addictive gameplay
- Hummable tunes
- Monsters don’t give you back enough time