Watching trailers and reading the Steam page for Firegirl Hack ’n Splash Rescue DX, it certainly looks like my kind of game. It’s a platformer with a unique mixture of 2D sprites in 3D environments. The levels are procedurally generated, and the movement options look exciting thanks to a fire hose acting as both the primary weapon and as a rocket for verticality. Plus, who doesn’t want to fight fire monsters while rescuing people and kittens? Sounds awesome to me.
What a shame that it turned out to be an actual garbage fire. Pretty much from the moment I started playing, the game was ruined by repetition, cheap shots in the place of real difficulty, dull grinding, and terrible writing. I slogged through the early parts in the hope that with some equipment upgrades, the game might evolve into something more fun, but even at “full power” Firegirl never realizes the entertainment promised in its trailers.
The biggest problem is that after the tutorial, there’s only one level to play for an agonizingly long time. Firegirl goes to put out fires in the same “building” (the level actually takes place across a block of buildings) over and over. Even this would be forgivable, except at the start of the game, both her hose pressure and water reserve are so low that she’s frequently left with nothing in the tank to reach the exit. Adding insult to injury is the frequency where the exit is in sight, just beyond her reach, and nothing can be done except let the timer run down. The developers didn’t even think through their design enough to add an option to restart the level or leave early in unwinnable situations.
Then there’s the cheap shots. The random placement of enemies frequently drops gotcha traps on the other side of doors, and while the controls allow for looking up and down to assess threats above and below Firegirl, looking left and right wasn’t considered necessary. Even after I finally ground enough cash to add more oomph to the fire hose, I was still getting downed close to the exit thanks to traps I wasn’t allowed to see coming.
Eventually, the game unlocks a second scenario to play, a runaway train that’s broken into sections, and I lost track of the number of times I died on it because I ran out of water trying to cross platforms and landing on the tracks for a one-shot kill. Even after I had maxed the water tank capacity, the growing length of these trains combined with exceedingly rare water refills made them painful slogs.
The tank upgrade options also dangle an expensive carrot in front of you, allowing Firegirl to refill the tank using humidity in the air. It starts out at 50,000 dollars, but one of the firehouse workers you can rescue will reduce the cost of upgrades. (After paying him, of course. Wouldn’t want to skip the grind, would we?) Thing is, I ground out 47,000 dollars to get this upgrade, only to find out it refills at a rate that might as well be doing nothing at all.
After rescuing a few more workers, the payout for both successful and failed missions begins to make the grind less painful, but that’s damning with faint praise because win or lose it’s still a long, painful process to upgrade equipment.
The next level unlocks are a forest fire followed by Nekotomi Plaza, and in both cases, they suck until the hose pressure is upgraded to a minimum of level seven. Before that, enemies are always just out of reach, and trying to handle the platforming sections will leave Firegirl without a way to reach the survivors, let alone the exit. Oh, and fall damage is a thing in this game, and the high heights of both levels will ensure that Firegirl is breaking both legs with routine frequency.
Getting stuck on the environment also becomes a problem in the forest and tower levels. Piles of rubble and rocks can glue Firegirl in place or lock her in a falling animation, and while I can usually free her after some combination of jumps and water blasts, the time and water lost trying to free her almost always meant the mission was a failure. And let me point out again, there’s no way to quit or restart. You just have to hope you find an exit to take the bare minimum payout instead of burning up and losing funds to the infirmary.
Nekotomi Plaze also adds in a further cheap shot, a new fire monster who lobs ranged attacks like a sniper, but who can’t be harmed. This asshole is in pretty much every tight corridor and stairwell, making sure to lop three or four hearts from Firegirl, plus all her armor points. (Armor must be purchased, of course. LOVE THAT GRIND, BABY!)
I can’t fail to mention that what kills the fun isn’t just that there’s so few levels to play in, but the fact that it’s possible to keep playing the same level over and over until I’m sick of seeing the same things, even if they’re in a different layout each time. I would be thinking, I’ve done the train three times now. Please, just let me have something different! But no, it’s back to the train again.
Twice in the game, the final boss is shown as a huge and unstoppable Fire God. So going into the final level, I kind of expected to be playing it over and over. But no, despite all the cheap shots and dull repetition in the regular levels, the boss goes down with pathetic ease. Even though he’s got twenty hands, he can only wave them up and down or punch in and out of holes in the walls. It’s easy to avoid him, rescue all the people inside, and then hose his teeth down. (Bizarrely, the developers didn’t think to pull back the camera to show the scale of the boss, the ONLY boss of the whole game, I might add.)
I’m not even touching the story because it’s pathetic. I’d barely started when I called out the story to my hubby, and it’s easy to guess not only because of the cringy cut-scenes, but because the villain is literally signposted outside the starting area. I keep forgetting that even though as a medium, video games are literally older than me, game writers still prefer to crank out the most simplistic drivel possible. This kind of mental garbage is why gamers go ape shit over more complex stories like The Last of Us and Control, because it’s so rare to play anything where the writers seem to give a shit about provoking actual thought instead of just “You good, they evil; shooty shooty time!”
Y’all should know the drill by now. I so want to give this hot mess 1 star, but that’s reserved for the “broken and unplayable” category. Even with the occasional trapped character moments, this is still playable for the most part. I just kind of wish I hadn’t fallen for the trailer’s charms, because Firegirl Hack ’n Splash Rescue DX turns out to be a cheap barbecue that’s all sizzle and no meat. I give it 2 stars and move on to what I hope are better games. I recommend it to people who love grinding for hours only to get the barest minimum of return on their invested time. And hey, I’m not judging you, really. If that’s your idea of fun, you do you.