Blue Fire gained traction when it was included as a part of one of Nintendo’s ‘Indie Game Showcase’ events, with developer ROBI Studios’ platforming-adventure certainly catching the attention of gamers thanks to its slick gameplay and cute-yet-dark aesthetic. It almost looked like a 3D Hollow Knight in a lot of ways, which can only be a good thing… add to that some Legend of Zelda-like combat as well as a few hints of Dark Souls for good measure and it felt like the game really had the recipe for success.
In many ways, it all comes together to make for an enjoyable gameplay experience too. However, it also has a few niggles that creep in along the way that prevent Blue Fire from striving towards the brilliance of the titles that inspired it.
You shouldn’t expect a story-heavy experience in Blue Fire, with it adopting the ‘less is more’ approach by giving players a sparse amount of detail after the protagonist wakes in a gothic-stylised locale that is covered with a deadly infection. Who needs incentive to go on an adventure though, right? Fortunately, you do encounter NPCs during your journey that’ll reveal more about the world and the goals that you have to achieve, so nothing ever feels pointless… just a bit bared-boned and a little obtuse.
Blue Fire’s gameplay blends together precision-based fast-paced platforming with an array of combat showdowns against the enemies lurking through the world.
The biggest focus is placed on the game’s platforming, with the player having to bolt their way through a myriad of challenging areas to reach their goal. The protagonist starts off quite nimble with their dashing and jumping, but will eventually unlock new abilities such as wall-running and a double-jump that don’t only make it easier to get around but also allows them to reach areas that were previously inaccessible. Add some locked doors and the requirement to do a bit of backtracking to the mix and you’ll quickly catch on to Blue Fire’s metroidvania-style undertones.
Platforming always feels slick throughout Blue Fire, even IF it can take a bit of getting used to – I’ll admit, I was missing a lot of easy jumps when I first started playing, but once I got to grips with the controls and how the protagonist feels to play as I started landing my jumps and dashes with ease. Some solid level design ensures that the platforming always feels satisfying though, with plenty of obstacles in place that’ll require a fair bit of skill to get through. They may demand precision, they may demand you avoid hazards, or you may just have to string together plenty of slick manoeuvres in quick succession; either way, there’s a level of challenge in place that’ll keep players absolutely enthralled as they glide their way through each area.
It’s rarely simple to travel from point A to B and it makes traversal in the game feel like a treat. It reminded me of Hollow Knight in a lot of ways (especially with a cutesy hero) but the 3D perspective of the game opens up more avenues for creativity and variety as far as platforming is concerned. It’s really good stuff and easily stands out as the highlight of the experience, whilst the optional Voids (challenges based entirely around your platforming skills) made for some of its finest moments. The only thing that caused any issues could be the camera on some occasions, though these moments were few and far enough between not to become too much of an issue.
Combat on the other hand wasn’t quite so suave. Now don’t get me wrong, battling in Blue Fire is ok and the way that it allows you to lock onto enemies and mash out attacks reminded me a lot of The Legend of Zelda’s battling (which is typically a good thing). I just couldn’t help but to feel that it lacked excitement, with the blend of sword-swinging and shielding rarely grabbing my attention – even when I was bringing some aerial manoeuvres into the mix to catch my foes off-guard.
It probably doesn’t help that there isn’t a whole lot of challenge to encounters, especially since it’s easy to exploit the enemy AI in order to keep out of the way of their attacks and unleash plenty of your own unhindered. Admittedly, battling multiple enemies does give a sterner test to players and I enjoyed taking on the boss encounters that added a bit more strategy to each showdown, but for the most part Blue Fire’s combat just felt a bit mediocre – especially when compared to the more thrilling platforming antics of the experience.
Remember how I said that Blue Fire also feels a little bit like Dark Souls? Well, that’s especially evident when you die, with all of the fragments (the game’s currency) you have collected from beating up enemies being left behind with your corpse. You can recover it all if you return to your body, but die again in the meantime? Yep, it’s gone. This actually felt like a bit of an unnecessary addition to the game and more of an unsatisfying hindrance, especially since high-risk platforming where you might need multiple attempts to succeed plays such a big role in the game.
You’ll want to keep hold of your ore too, especially since it’s used to purchase items across the world, unlock Spirits which you can equip to boost your capabilities, or even emotes to give the protagonist some fresh moves. “Why would you bother purchasing emotes in a single player game?”, I hear you ask. Well, I thought the same thing too, until I realised there were areas in the game where you can use them to unlock some secrets. It’s a neat feature, even if I did kind of begrudge spending my fragments on them – especially when those aforementioned Spirits offered plenty of ways to really refine your skillset in-game.
Blue Fire features some great platforming antics and solid level design, but the mediocre combat-mechanics see it falling short of the titles that inspired it. The camera could be a little bit guilty of feeling clumsy in places too, though the instances of it are few and far enough between that it never feels like too big of an issue.
There’s no doubting that nothing ever feels awful in Blue Fire and if you’re looking for a game that really excels with its platforming, then it will definitely be for you. If you were hoping for an adventure that offered a bit more depth and nuance in its design though, you might find that it doesn’t always hit the same highs across the board.
Developer: ROBI Studios
Publisher: Graffiti Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC