Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue Review
Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue is a charming platformer from Dejima Games and Thunderful Group. It is about a young woman who becomes a firefighter, like her father before her, at a time where her city is experiencing more fires than it ever has before. The game’s DNA is made up mostly of a platformer, but has elements of roguelite and classic 2D arcade shooters.
The core gameplay involves rushing into procedurally generated burning buildings, runaway trains, malls, or forests in search of survivors. Firegirl uses her axe to destroy obstructions or doors to a new area, as well as her firehose to put out flames and boost her jump. In this game, Firegirl literally fights fires. The flames are sentient monsters that are in her way, swoop down at her in the form of birds, shoot fireballs like traps, or explode like mines.
Some recued survivors can become recruits for the fire station, giving bonuses and benefits that help Firegirl on her missions. Some recruits increase the amount of money earned from missions, some can upgrade her gear, and some help located survivors. These abilities and upgrades can be purchased to improve their effectiveness.
Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue has a visual style that mixes 2D pixel-art models for the player and NPCs into 2.5D/3D environments. It looks good, in a cartoony kind of way. The visual style fits well with the arcade elements. The music also reflects the pixel-art designs with electronic beats and melodies.
The game is stylish, inspired, and creative. It has all the ingredients required for a fun arcade game. However, it is put together in ways that leave a lot to be desired. In a tragic combination of my personal lack of skill and the game’s level of difficulty, Firegirl is both very punishing and lenient. I found myself dying in various ways or running out of time on a mission almost every single time.
Again, I claim no proficiency at this type of game, but success is incredibly elusive. Frustratingly so. Even so, you still get paid a base amount of money for a mission, regardless of the outcome. The story will also advance, though I have no idea what I am doing to trigger this. Failing missions will still pay you enough to gradually upgrade your abilities and equipment, which will keep you alive a little longer.
Each level is procedurally generated, so no two missions will be the same. The layout of the level will also change mid-mission. What I mean by that is, you could move a screen to the right, drop down into a new room, move left, then go up again and be in a completely different room than where you started. This is not inherently a bad thing, but that means there is no backtracking. If you miss a survivor, you cannot go back for them and you cannot get the full rewards for the mission. You can also miss an exit and who knows if you have enough time on the mission clock before you find another. If you run out of time, that’s a failed mission.
Maintain Your Equipment
Running out of time is not a huge problem though, since enemies are a much bigger threat to Firegirl. Some enemies are stationary, so you can just soak them until they are extinguished, but other enemies fly. To take care of these flyers, you can aim your hose with the mouse, but there is no reticle. There is just the stream of water, which you can use to judge if you need to aim higher or lower. The more water you use, the lower the water pressure, which will affect the range and power of your attacks.
Firegirl’s platforming capabilities rely on her hose to boost the distance or height of her jump, which is again effected by water pressure. This makes platforming and combat frustrating since you can only use the hose to attack or to jump, not both at the same time. When jetting, you are vulnerable, but when stationary, you might not be able to hit enemies.
Surviving room after room of enemies and obstacles is tough. Saving all the survivors in a mission is the only way to successfully complete a mission. Only after saving everyone will Firegirl’s fans donate extra money at the end of a mission. Getting out with only one survivor will not earn any bonus cash, so finding an exit at that point would be the same as saving no one at all. It also plays the “failure” music, which is pretty disheartening. I would have really liked a mission replay option. I feel like I have no opportunity to learn from my mistakes or overcome something with a second try.
Rising From the Ashes
On top of the difficulty of the Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash, I am constantly in a fight with the controls. The hose and axe (both controlled with the mouse) are unresponsive literally half the time. There is no telling how many times a fire-bat has slowly descended upon me because my hose would not work. I’m sure it could be fixed with a patch, but it is also a pretty major oversight for it to only work half the time.
For all of the gripes I have had with Firegirl, a few of these things can be fixed to make the game more enjoyable. I’ll say it again, it has all the ingredients required for a fun arcade game. Personally, I would like to see different options for difficulty: a difficulty curve, or an option to pick between Easy, Medium, or Hard missions. Right now, managing the platforming and combat controls is tough enough. It feels like there are an endless amount of ways for you to fail. Most of them are not your fault.
The core gameplay is fun, but the constant and unrelenting fists of failure really put a damper on things. Some of the issues I found with Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash could be improved with more polishing. However, others might take a little more work.
***Steam key was provided by the publisher***
- Great artwork and music
- Inspired, charming concept
- Fun abilities and upgrade system
- No difficulty curve/options
- Unresponsive controls
- Unwinnable scenarios