There aren't enough games about the noble art of firefighting. Sure, there's forgotten Sega Saturn cult classic Burning Rangers, and you can always head to Nintendo Switch Online to check out gems like The Ignition Factor, but there's a dearth of devs creating new games where you get to be a firefighter. Thankfully, French developer Dejima is stepping up to change that with Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue, a roguelite platformer in which you must extinguish blazes and rescue survivors across a number of different environments. I got to take a look at a preview build of Firegirl, and while it does show some promise, there are some glaring issues it needs to address.
In essence, Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue is a unique spin on an arcade-style platformer. Each situation presents you with a procedurally generated blaze and a random number of survivors to rescue. Once you battle your way through the fire and rescue all of the survivors, you'll then need to find an exit through which to escape. This ain't your typical fire though; instead, you'll be battling elemental monsters including bats, fire demons, and globs of lava that spit projectiles at you. As you can probably tell, this isn't your game if you're looking for a realistic firefighting sim.
That lack of realism is apparent right from the get-go. Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue has a gorgeous 2D-come-3D pixel aesthetic; it's hard to adequately convey through screenshots, but the visuals look and feel wonderfully chunky. While you won't be able to move in three dimensions, the visuals help to suggest a world beyond the building you're currently battling through. They also help to build atmosphere; when you're inside a burning building, the kinetic sense of movement and vibrant, glowing colors immerse you in the environment and make you feel like you're really battling your way through the inferno.
Unfortunately, that vibrant sense of visual color can also be an impediment. Sometimes, when there are multiple "enemies" in a room, it can be hard to keep track of what's going on. Monsters are surrounded by a glow effect, but if a room is particularly busy, the effects can sometimes blend into one another, making it difficult to see whether you're going to be hit by an attack or not. There are also times when a busy level makes it tough to know where to go; it took me a while to figure out that certain environmental features were actually platforms rather than background detail because these elements didn't feel differentiated from the backdrops.
The occasional confusion caused by the visuals is a problem because Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue is not an easy experience. The tutorial mission eases you into the core loop well enough; enter the building, destroy or circumvent hazards, find survivor, find the exit. After that introduction, though, the difficulty quickly ramps up, and not necessarily in a good way. Enemy placement can feel unfair and ill-judged; I often felt like I could neither defeat nor avoid enemies when they appeared in certain combinations, meaning that some runs were over before they began.
That difficulty is mitigated to a significant degree by the lack of punishment for failure. If you fail a mission, you're shown a rather disturbingly basic assessment of your failure, including how many people you allowed to die. From there, it's simply back to the fire station to try again. While it's good that Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue doesn't punish you too harshly for falling foul of its brutal difficulty, it does mean that the difference between failure and success feels narrow. The preview build I played has had much of its narrative cut down, so there's every chance the rewards and punishments for success and failure in the finished version are more compelling. In this build, though, the overarching structure feels a touch pointless.
There are some issues with level design clarity and quality here as well. On one occasion, Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue informed me I was close to a survivor's location, but there was literally nowhere I could go from the point at which it warned me. I then rescued what I thought were two survivors, only to be informed at the end of the stage that cats don't count and that someone died because of me. I have no idea where that person could have been, but it certainly wasn't in one of the several rooms I encountered that contained absolutely nothing. Perhaps these rooms existed to force me to waste time and run down the time limit a little more, but they were often difficult to access, which would indicate a reward on the other side. These empty rooms felt more like accidents than deliberate impediments.
Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue is aiming to be an arcade-style platformer, but its controls and pacing are a little too slow for that to ever truly come across. Your fire hose is essentially your sole weapon here (excepting your fire axe), but aiming it feels stiff and awkward. Similarly, you've got access to a fire hose jump that can rocket you up towards new areas, but if you misjudge the timing slightly, it can easily cause you to plummet to your doom, often slamming into an enemy you had no way of seeing before you fell. The clumsiness of the control scheme begins as a minor annoyance, but as the difficulty ratchets up, Firegirl just becomes frustrating rather than rewarding.
I hope Dejima can iron out Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue's issues. There's a solid roguelike firefighting platformer in here, but it's buried beneath the burning rubble of awkward controls, slow pacing, and wonky procedural generation. The mixture of Firegirl's brutally unforgiving difficulty, its odd controls, and its flawed procedural generation make it too frustrating a cocktail at the moment. If Dejima can sharpen its axe and cut down these issues, then it could rescue something great from Firegirl's current state. As it stands, though, Firegirl is, unfortunately, a bit of a damp squib.
TechRaptor previewed Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue on PC via Steam using a preview code provided by the publisher. The game is set to launch for PlayStation consoles, Xbox platforms, PC, and Nintendo Switch on December 14th.