Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX Review (PS5) – Relight The Fire
While it still has some smoke damage, Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX on PS5 is a much more enjoyable experience compared to its initial release. The Finger Guns Review.
When I reviewed Firegirl in December 2021 for its initial release on PC, I gave it a score of 5/10. I said that “While Firegirl has more than a few singed edges, there’s definitely potential here“. The overriding feeling with that review is that if the developers were given the chance to patch up the game, there’s every chance it might shine eventually. “If Dejima Games are given the time to patch out the bugs, fiddle with the balancing and smooth out the plot pacing, Firegirl will be a good game eventually“, I said.
Well, 8 months later and the Hack ‘n Splash game has burst onto the PS5 (and other consoles) in the form of the DX version. Promising “new enemies, reworked environments, a rebalanced difficulty curve, a streamlined upgrade tree, improved level design and more”, the DX version aims to relight the fire beneath Firegirl that was little more than a meagre sparkler when the game original launched.
Having spent 8 hours with the game, completing it twice, I’m happy to report that while Firegirl DX still has some issues, it’s a much, much better game this time around.
Just A Warm Up
When listed down, the improvements to Firegirl DX sound quite siloed. In reality, the improvements are intrinsically linked in order to elevate the whole experience.
Let’s start with the Story, an element that the developers haven’t listed as an improvement but benefits regardless. The premise remains unchanged: You play as the titular Firegirl. A decade after her father died in the biggest blaze that the city has ever seen, this young woman has joined an underfunded firefighting service. There’s suspicious activity going on though. Mysterious fires are popping up all over the city and they’re being started by monsters and odd tomes rather than carelessly disposed matches. It’s up to the Firegirl to get to the bottom of who’s causing these fires and why.
Delivered via the occasional cut scene and set piece level, you get to see this dialled in but perfectly passable tale unfold. In the original version of this game, the story felt like it dragged. It started quickly, setting the scene but then a number of lulls meant that the pace felt all over the place. That’s not the case now. The pace is consistent, something that has been punched up significantly.
Fighting Fire. Literally.
In terms of game play, Firegirl DX is 2D shooter, platformer and roguelike. Set in one of 4 venues, each of which has their own unique flavour and structure, the aim of each procedurally generated level is to rescue the civilians trapped by the fires then escape the area safely. To rescue a civilian, all you have to do is reach their location in the area. You’ve only got so much time in order to do that however. At the start of the game, you’ll have only 3 minutes to get in there, find the trapped folk and get out again without dying. Fail on any of these fronts and the rewards at the end of the level are vastly reduced.
In order to complete these objectives, the Firegirl has 2 tools at her disposal. Firstly, there’s her trusty fire axe. With a click of the button, she can swipe with this tool which will trash doors, obstacles or furniture that stands in the way. This isn’t any deeper or useful as that; it’ll literally assist you in getting around the buildings in the game and little else.
The second tool is much more useful – the fire hose. Governed by a water gauge at the top of the screen, this hose is method of your ranged attack and doubles as a jetpack too. When stationary, firing the hose will shoot out a jet of water which will damage and eventually extinguish the fiery enemies you’ll come across. If you trigger the hose while you’re in the air, it’ll propel you around like a rocket jump, only with water. Traversal is really quite fun in Firegirl DX because of this hose. This also doubles as an aerial attack that fires downwards because any flame monsters caught in the jet also gets doused.
As you progress through Firegirl DX, you’ll come face to face with a number of fire monsters, a few of which are new to the DX version of the game. Defeating these monsters extends your time in a level from anywhere between 1 second and 20 seconds, which makes fighting these flame monsters rewarding – much more rewarding than in the original game. You’ll have to employ a number of different strategies to take on these different enemies. Some groups of static flames act as simple fodder to block your path while others will home in on your and attack. The new enemies, especially a homing air attack enemy that kind of looks like a snake, are among the most challenging in the entire game.
A Fan Of The Flames
The original version of this game was challenging and, if I’m honest, a bit of a drag. Because the difficulty was quite high, there was a serious grind to earn enough so that you could afford upgrades to make subsequent play easier. That loop of playing, upgrading then progressing further seemed unbalanced.
In Firegirl DX, all of these elements have been revamped. The algorithm to the procedural generation is much more generous with water collectables, time pick ups and escape routes. The income system is more rewarding and more fairly balanced against the available upgrades so that there’s no long lulls in progression and unlockables. All in all, the game is easier, much more approachable and more rewarding than the original version. This also means you get to see more of the story beats in quick succession.
One aspect of the original game that didn’t need to be improved and remains just as good in the DX version are the visuals. The game is played along a 2D slice of a 3D world which combines flat visuals with deep 3D models. It’s a really excellent combination that gives Firegirl DX a unique, charming and evocative look.
Burn Me Once, Shame On You. Burn Me Twice…
It’s fair to say that Firegirl DX addresses all of the complaints I had with the original game. It’s a shame then that this new version of the game comes complete with a list of all new issues.
In the first area you find yourself working through, a blazing residential building, you’ll definitely encounter turret like fire monsters that spit balls of flame across the room. I found that if I attempted to shoot these balls of flame with my hose, the game would freeze. This isn’t a hard PS5 freeze – you can still head to the PS menu and restart the game – but the game does stall completely. This happened to me 3 times within my first hour with the game but then suddenly stopped happening.
The second issue rears its ugly head during the forest level. Each and every time I’ve played on this level, the camera has somehow zoomed out so far that you can’t actually tell what’s going on anymore. This zoom comes with an odd visual effect that stretches the 3D environments. The camera will then randomly zoom back in again. While this isn’t game breaking, it comes close. Thankfully, the camera will eventually right itself with some further exploration.
Finally, there’s a few little niggles that start to mount up. Take the UI for example – as you unlock more safety equipment and health bars, the icons that represent all of this start to stack on top of one another making it difficult to read.
The primary difference between all of the issues in Firegirl DX compared to the original game is that the flaws here, while frustrating, do not undermine the entire experience. You can really feel the progress that has been made since the PC version launched and this tuned up version is undeniably a better game this time around. It is of course a shame that a few new issues have found their way in to the DX version but the core of the game is so much more enjoyable that I could recommend it with a few caveats.
A reworked version of the original game that addresses most of the criticism that was aimed at it, Firegirl DX is a much more enjoyable game this time around. It unfortunately falls foul of a few new issues as it blazes a trail on consoles but these flaws can’t spoil what is a fun blend of 2D and 3D visuals in a competent roguelike package.
Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX is available now on PS5 (review version), PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series consoles, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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