Enter the devastated world of Penumbra where near-desolate civilisations once thrived. In Blue Fire, you play as a short warrior with extraordinary acrobatic abilities as you conquer temple dungeons and face off against fearsome foes. If you've been looking for a 3D platformer that offers the same level of difficulty as some of the recent tough as nails platformers from indie developers, Blue Fire may well provide what you're looking for.
3D platformers are a dime a dozen. They're often attempted and so easily fall short by awkward controls, obtuse camera control and/or basic level design. Blue Fire wonderfully avoids these pitfalls by providing a 3D adventure packed full of poise and precision. This is cemented from the very beginning with the inclusion of the dash ability, allowing the little guy to reach distant platforms. The platforming is also fine-tuned by how long you hold down the jump and dash buttons and while this may take some practice to grow accustomed to, these abilities are implemented in such a way that allows you to pull off some truly awe-inspiring maneouvres.
Your arsenal of abilities grows as you progress and collect more spirits. Whilst in the dungeon to find the first god, you'll unlock the ability to run across walls Matrix style. This then expands to other useful abilities to choose from, such as moving quicker and gaining health upon defeating enemies.
Throughout your adventure, you will come across Void Statues. These statues will lead you to a Void, which is the term used for a short solitary platforming challenge akin to those first seen in Super Mario Sunshine. These Voids range in difficulty, being ranked by five stars. I'll say that even the one star Voids are challenging so when you come across a four or five star, be prepared to pull a few hairs out in frustration. I grew up with a Nintendo 64 and 3D platformers are my bread and butter, but Blue Fire takes it to a whole new level entirely.
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In the game's early release build, there were some unfortunately consistent frame rate dips during crucial moments of the game. As Blue Fire is so insistent on precision, it can often result in unfortunate mishaps and deaths. Most of these dips seem to be ironed out in the full release, however there are still recurring dips that may lead to a controller throw or two.
The world design is, unfortunately, where Blue Fire falls short. It's not that the platforming isn't well crafted or that the dungeons aren't memorable, it's simply that due to the world's complexities, the exclusion of a map (or any remnants of one) comes at a major disservice as it makes it way too easy for the player to get lost. When entering a new area, that location's aesthetics can be very similar, making different rooms difficult to discern from one another. Also, can you imagine exploring a complex dungeon in any Legend of Zelda game and not being able to refer to a map? It's unfathomable!
The dungeons are both clever and infuriating, especially when it comes to platforming. As mentioned previously, the exclusion of a map is inexcusable and this becomes a larger issue within these segments of the game. Some seasoned Legend of Zelda players may welcome the challenge and not having a map helps to encourage exploration, but for quality of life's sake, it comes across as frustrating rather than achieving what a video game should be at the end of the day: entertaining.
Conveniently enough, Grafitti Games have provided a full official strategy guide upon the game's release and while this certainly does help, a map could have also fixed many of these problems naturally.
Story / Personality
Blue Fire presents a consistent air of sombre melancholy, coupled with a charm that can be compared to an alternate universe combination of Studio Ghibli and Tim Burton. Its charm is memorable and the plot has a lot more depth than I had initially expected. However with that being said, it never had me in awe of its storytelling and certainly seemed as though it was included as an afterthought.
Graphics / Art Direction
Blue Fire contains some wonderfully crisp graphics that do not take a hit on Switch in the slightest. Its dark, melancholic aesthetic provides a consistent mood that, at times, feels a little drab but luckily, ROBI Studios did well to provide variety outside of the many different shades of grey that you may have seen in early trailers.
The character designs are, for lack of a better word, fine, but the protagonist is cute and recognisable in a dark yet endearing sort of way. As you collect new swords and unlock new robes, you can customise his look which is always good fun. I also may be a tad bias as his haircut reminds me of my own anxty teen years...
Music / Sound Design
I was very impressed with the soundtrack as it presents a lot more variety than initially anticipated. Whether it captures the fast paced intensity of boss fights or the serenity in more open atmospheric areas, its focus on melodies does well to create some truly wonderful ambience.
Final Score: 73%
I am officially in two minds over Blue Fire; on the one hand, it's a beautifully crafted 3D platformer slash Legend of Zelda-style action-adventure game that we've all been dreaming about and yet on the other hand, its artificially increased difficulty that comes as a result of the exclusion of a map has me utterly dumbfounded. The more you delve into this world, the more the latter will infuriate you and if you combine that with its deliberate difficulty, it's a recipe for distaster. However with that all being said, Blue Fire is still a wonderful adventure with some slick platforming to boot.
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