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Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue

Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue

Whip out a firehose and save the city from dangerous fire monsters in Dejima's roguelike platformer.

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A few months ago, I got the chance to take a look at Dejima's roguelike platformer, Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue. It was game that I was very excited for as the previous announcement of the title caught my attention thanks to its striking visuals and unique premise, yet having that chance to check out the game ahead of launch, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth, as the great concept was hampered by clunky controls and an absurdly challenging difficulty. But that was over two months ago.

Now, Firegirl has officially launched on PC and I've once again dove into the game to see how it stacks up. Without foreshadowing too much, there have been many improvements and I still firmly believe this is a great concept at its core, but like it was during the preview period, this is still a very difficult game to love. I'll explain why.

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The general idea of Firegirl is to play as a young firefighter, where the aim is to thrust yourself into a burning building to save a variety of trapped civilians by dousing flames, caused by fire monsters, and smashing obstacles. This is all in an effort to become a renowned figure in the emergency services scene, which in turn will see your station gain better funding so you can acquire upgrades to tackle more challenging rescues. It's an idea that is genuinely unique and interesting and Dejima should be credited for serving this up.

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In fact, I'd like to go a step further, as this idea is even delivered relatively well. The roguelike nature (while often being frustrating, as is the nature of the genre) keeps the gameplay feeling fresh at every turn as no level is the same. Stack this up with the interesting mechanics that ask you to use your fire hose to not only put out the fire monsters but also complete a variety of unique traversal moves, such as to leap higher distances and glide across gaps, all to reach new areas to save trapped people, making for a game that is engaging and enticing from the outset.

Then on top of this, the visuals are genuinely fantastic. The combination of a more realistic overworld mashed up with pixelated sprite characters in a 2.5D setting is handled incredibly well, and is significantly elevated by the remarkable reflections that are found pretty much wherever there is any source of water in the world. All of these things are genuine highlights that still make me excited about playing this game, because they have been developed and delivered to such a high quality degree. This is also why it's so disappointing that a lot of other areas still let this game down significantly, and even make it a chore to play.

Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash RescueFiregirl: Hack 'n Splash RescueFiregirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue

First of all is the difficulty. I know this might seem strange to bring up ahead of everything else, but this game can be ridiculously hard. Granted, this is because the margins for error are so fine with the controls, and you never really have that great a hold on what you can get Firegirl to do in-game. What this means is that you will fail the majority of your missions until you get some serious upgrades (for example; more hearts, a larger water tank, lower hospital bills, more time to complete each level and more) to be able to make you more resilient. And up until that point, there's not much you can do but suffer as you have to beat each level within a minimum of three minutes, do it with taking four hits of damage (this is even harder since there's basically no immunity framing between taking damage), and you also have to find an exit to escape a level without dying, which can be a massive pain as the roguelike nature can mean you'll find an exit five seconds into a level and then not again for two and a half minutes.

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The reason why all these factors playing into the difficulty become an issue is because you need to successfully save civilians and leave a level without losing all your hearts, or else you will basically not make any money and therefore struggle to acquire upgrades. Once a level is over, you are rewarded with a cash pay out that is either boosted due to success, or more likely significantly lowered as you'll have hospital bills to pay for to heal Firegirl's injuries. The real catch is that the pay out is only boosted if you completely nail a mission, meaning you save every civilian and escape in one piece, which is very challenging to do. In effect, you'll spend the first one, two, three plus hours clawing for any scraps of cash you can find to get some upgrades to have a better chance to successfully ace a level and get the extra cash reward.

The point is, the economy is absolutely savage. Sure, it's a by-product of the difficulty, which is a by-product of the clunky controls and the ruthless roguelike nature, but they all come together to make for a game that is truly difficult to enjoy playing at times. The bizarre part is that the concept and idea is so unique and interesting that I still want to play Firegirl, despite it being a very frustrating game to play most of the time.

Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue

This is such a strange situation because Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue is close to being something special. The idea, the concept, the premise is all unique and fantastic, but it's held back and hampered in so many truly frustrating ways that I'm still left with that same sour taste that I had back during the preview period. I really want to like this game a lot as I know it has potential, but right now, Firegirl fails to entertain me or rather do so in a way that I feel engaged or happy when playing, and for that matter, it's hard to really put a stamp of approval on this title at the moment.

Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash RescueFiregirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue
Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue
05 Gamereactor UK
5 / 10
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Visuals are fantastic. General idea behind the game is unique and interesting. Gameplay mechanics have a great premise.
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Brutal difficulty. The economy is savage. Roguelike nature can be frustrating. Controls are clunky and hard to handle.
overall score
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