When the world is on fire there is only one person equipped to save the day – Firegirl! In its new and improved version now releasing on all consoles, Firegirl: Hack ‘n Slash DX sees you fighting through blazing buildings, forest fires and derailed trains, extinguishing fire demons and saving the poor trapped citizens of a city under attack from an ancient malevolent force. Equipped only with your handy fire axe and fire hose it is up to you, the Firegirl, to follow in your father’s footsteps and put a stop to the never-ending curse plaguing your city.
With a neat but simple style, Firegirl’s throwback to the era of arcade rooms and easy to pick ‘n play amusement games should see it burning onto your game cabinet in a hurry, but be warned that some flames burn bright and fast before inevitably extinguishing with a whimper.
An Arcade Throwback
Firegirl: Hack n’ Slash DX is a roguelite platformer done in an old arcade style – both visually and mechanically. Visually Firegirl is a 2.5d side scrolling platformer with the environment and backgrounds given a more modern rendered look nicely juxtaposed against the more retro 8-bit sprite style of the game’s colourful cast of characters.
This visual indicator helps sell the games conceit as an arcade machine with a modern update; it harkens back to the classic 8-bit machines wherein the gameplay loop and challenge remains short and simple, with a timed-aspect to all of it allowing for multiple go arounds to improve your score or pass off to another player who’ll be able to pick it up with ease. Away from any deeply thought-out cinematic storytelling or headache-inducing tiered reward systems, Firegirl is founded quite simply on a love of playing the game – one that I found to be particularly refreshing in a modern age of battle passes, unlockable skins, and debased dopamine drip-fed dollar-grabbing systems. It is, however, not limitless, and loses steam fairly quickly after only a few hours.
As Firegirl you are the frontline defence for the slew of fires suddenly cropping up all over the city in alarming fashion. Unfortunately the fire station is extremely underfunded so it is up to you alone to dive into buildings and get trapped residents out.
Levels place you in one of four environment types and give you 3 minutes to find the trapped citizens and extinguishing fire demons before eventually making your way to an exit before the timer runs out. Your weapon of choice is your water hose which you can shoot at enemies (which doing so will add some more time back to your clock) or use as a propulsion to reach further and higher jumps. However your extinguisher of course has limited water and also has a pressure cap meaning sustained shooting is punished with a weaker stream.
You also have an axe which is used to clear blockages and break down doors, and in classic arcade style pickups along the way will replenish your water, heal you, or add more time to the clock.
The gameplay never really strays beyond those basic building blocks. Fortunately however that gameplay loop is good fun, especially with the use of the hose as a mode of traversal. Levels are procedurally generated so navigation through them can be maze-like, often with multiple paths in differing directions that may or may not take you to a trapped citizen or an exit, and paths also close once passed meaning you cannot back track. This maze-like quality also lends itself well to the gamble of using your time wisely, since you may never quite know how far off the next exit may be. You might well find yourself by an exit with 90 seconds left and one resident still to find, so it can become a gamble between pressing on in hopes of succeeding or taking the hit on missing one citizen but still making it out alive before the building burns down completely.
Every level grants your fire house a pay out which can then be used to make upgrades both to your character and your station, however certain failures such as dying or missing survivors on a level will incur expenses taken out of your budget. These tasks, whether succeeded or failed, will also affect your number of fans either positively or negatively. As you save people and complete good deeds news of your successes will make their way around the city and garner your station more support, meaning more donations will come into your budget. You can also invest money on upgrades to help boost your fan count and the value of their donations.
All of this is all well and good, and the small snippets of story that sometimes play out between levels are a nice motivator to keep playing, however Firegirl suffers in its immense repetitiveness. Only having 4 environments leaves the variation in gameplay feeling extremely tired after going through the same hallways from level to level. Certain levels are also just far less fun than others; the woods and the train for one are levels that I tended to be less enthusiastic for when they came up just because they aren’t all to interesting to look at, and though the apartment block and the office high rise were better they still reached a point of oversaturation when I was eventually just looking to get the game over with. Though I enjoyed the arcade style throwback it did show how barebones those systems could be when the intention was never to play for more than an hour.
Upgrading your fire house also eventually feels like a task more of going through the motions than an exciting opportunity to expand the scope of the game. There are only so many times that you can spend all your money on increasing fan engagement before it becomes an entirely trivial, looping task of increasing futility.
Knowing its limitations, Firegirl is thankfully not too long – you can probably finish it within an afternoon or a weekend. Of course if you can’t get enough of the fire rescues then in theory you can keep playing forever since the procedural levels are always available even once the story is finished. My bets would be, however, that though you will probably also have a lot of fun with the game for at least the first 2-3 hours and that will be all the satisfaction you need, which is entirely fine and not a knock against Firegirl and the 2-person team at Dejima at all. Firegirl: Hack n’ Slash DX overall is a neat achievement, dolling out that sweet arcade throwback and giving a simple if fleeting game experience that is purely fun – just as the old coin slot machines were. When it burns, Firegirl burns hot and bright; but, unfortunately for such a flame, it also burns itself out all too quickly.
Final Score: 6.5/10