As the name suggests, Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX is a deluxe version of a previously released game. The PC original launched on Steam last December, eventually garnering a ‘mixed’ reception from roguelike fans. Clearly unhappy with the feedback, developer Dejima has given it a complete overhaul for its console debut. We guess PC gamers should be thanked for highlighting the kinks.
Worry not, as they aren’t being left out – existing owners gain this new version as a free upgrade.
If the firefighting theme wasn’t enough, this roguelike manages to stand out from the crowd by offering randomised platforming frolics. With three minutes on the clock, it’s a case of navigating various buildings to save citizens (and their pets), extinguishing comic-book-style fire monsters – which adds extra time – and finding an exit. Firegirl can only withstand a few hits, and her water tank – which doubles as a jetpack – must be kept topped up.
This means you need to think tactically about which blazes to tackle, ergo how long to spend in each area. Drenching a larger monster may add a valuable extra 20 seconds to the timer, but there’s always the risk of not having enough water to jetpack your way to safety.
These considerations make for a learning curve – you’re likely to fail your first few callouts until learning what’s achievable within the three-minute timespan. The jetpack takes a while to master, too, with the trick being to keep moving while airborne. Firegirl’s hose also has low pressure initially, with improved pressure and reach being one of the key upgrades.
After saving the day a few times, amassing a following of fans in the process, storyline threads start to unravel, helping to give your heroics a greater sense of purpose. New characters step forward – including a friendly mayor eager to be re-elected – and people start to question why so many fires are erupting across the city. Shortly after, the game’s driving force emerges – Firegirl needs to find and collect sacred tomes, which – obviously, perhaps – appear at random, hidden within the stages.
With the plot established and a sense of purpose provided, the focus switches to upgrading both the firehouse and Firegirl’s arsenal. Some saved citizens can be recruited, opening new wings in the firehouse. Shops, essentially, bestowing health upgrades and more. There’s an actual shop adjacent the firehouse, too – run by an amusing chap wearing several fire helmets – with equipment to help our heroine run faster, smash down doors quicker, etc. All these upgrades make survival a tad easier, and all improvements are noticeable. Rest assured that after spending several runs worth of money on a single fire axe, you’re going to reap the benefits.
Clearly, there are algorithms working their magic behind the scenes. More than one, it would seem. Over time (presumably based on your success rate) new encounters appear – both enemy and citizen types. More significantly, new locations open. These are used sparingly; at a rate of around one an hour, during my experience. This means during the first couple of hours of play, you’re going to be fighting fires in the same locations until more unlock. Fatigue can settle during this time – I found myself jumping in and out for quick sessions, rather than settling for a long haul.
The level randomisation is open to further critique. Occasionally you’ll be making good headway through a stage, only for the dramatic one-minute countdown to commence – during which no extra time can be added – leaving you to wonder if the algorithm has generated a stage so large that it’s impossible to complete in three minutes. Adding to these woes, the apartment building stages often involve leaping from roofs; some gaps lead to instant doom while others have stairwells leading to the next area. The developers have taken this into account – it’s possible to look up and down while using the jetpack – but it can still make for a finicky experience. And an early grave.
The train stage is the complete opposite of everything mentioned in that last paragraph – a short, linear quest to make your way through several ruined carriages, leaping from one to the next. While timing jumps takes a degree of skill, these stages are mostly a breeze, easily beatable long before the timer runs out. You can at least guarantee a bumper payday whenever these stages appear, which certainly helps with the sense of progression.
Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX, then, is a slightly uneven package – with an emphasis on the word slightly. The mix of vibrant 3D backdrops and sharp 2D pixel art, along with the use of subtle lighting and blurring effects, is appealing and the gradually unfolding story helps draw you in further. It’s pleasingly silly, too – more so than you may expect. But the constant re-treading of old ground and the occasionally questionable randomisation may leave you cold. This is a game best experienced in small doses, and even then, it comes with the caveat of always having to look where you leap.
Published by Thunderful, Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX is out 22nd June on PS4, Xbox One, Switch and Steam.