Running headfirst into dangerous situations, rescuing innocents in need and braving blazing infernos for the greater good are all very romantic, very exciting ideas that make the job of a firefighter seem akin to that of a superhero. Although, reality often checks such notions with danger and tragedy and in Firegirl: Hack ’n Splash Rescue DX, the player has the chance to be the one doing the heroics and turn tragedies into triumph as they take the role of a young rookie firefighter following in her father’s footsteps and uncovering dangerous secrets among the flames. Get to the truck and don’t forget your gear - it’s going to get hot and it’s up to you to put out the flames.
The Good - Fighting Fire With Everything and the Kitchen Sink
Firegirl has simple gameplay: run, jump, smack and shoot water in order to progress through platforming levels, find survivors and get out. At first, the movement is fairly sluggish and does not feel great, but as the player progresses through stages, more and more upgrade options become available. These upgrades include having more water capacity, obtaining more money after each successful mission, getting a faster ax, getting a cute dog to pet in between every outing and more. Getting more powerful is addicting and there’s a very clear turning point where the Firegirl becomes a powerful one-woman fire-fighting force. It is exciting to get more and more money in order to buy more upgrades and the game delivers throughout the whole process.
On the part of actually making use of those upgrades, Firegirl has a simple and effective gameplay loop where a fire breaks out in one of four locations - a residential building, a plaza, a moving train and a forest - and the firegirl is dispatched to rescue the survivors. The stages and obstacles are procedurally generated to not feel too similar and seem to scale very well with the player’s own power level. The stages will continue to be generated until the player has gathered the necessary items to progress the story. It is possible to continue playing through the stages for as long as the player wants to, obtaining more upgrades and perfecting the game plan.
Visually speaking, Firegirl looks like an old-style arcade game in a very good way. The individual character sprites all have a lot of personality and funny animation loops, while the enemies have a variety of designs and behavior; some act as quite awe-inspiring visuals, such as a pod of blazing whales in the background of the burning forest. The stages themselves don’t look as good but are more than serviceable; each has at least a few areas that truly shine visually.
- Rewarding, addicting upgrades and progression
- Solid gameplay loop and scaling
- Awe-inspiring arcade-like visuals
The Bad - A Fire Hazard
While Firegirl has the basics covered, the game lacks polish. The biggest problems with it are its lack of optimisation and an abundance of what can only be described as jank. Issues with performance and unexpected glitches are rampant. While they are certainly not game-breaking, they are extremely noticeable and more than enough to sour the experience.
On occasion, particularly during burning forest maps, the camera will zoom out to give the player a better view of the area. This results in heavy frame rate dips and input lag as the Switch somehow struggles to adjust to the effects despite being easily able to run much more taxing games. On burning train stages, if the player jumps high enough, the platforms will simply vanish out of thin air from beneath them, leading to an unexpected game over when they come down expecting to land safely after bypassing some enemies. It is also not uncommon that approaching a particularly odd-angled obstacle will cause Firegirl to glitch out in the middle of her jump animation for a few seconds.
Aside from performance issues, the early game is particularly rough on the players and stays like that until more upgrades are found, but not necessarily in fair ways. The camera is very close to the main character and enemies can often be obscured due to odd, uncontrollable angles that lead to a lot of avoidable collision damage. Said collision damage also has a tendency to ragdoll Firegirl backward at bullet speed, possibly into a pit or off a five-storey balcony that she just got to via water jumping.
Throughout the levels, there is no such thing as a map despite the procedurally generated stages and their size growing in complexity with every mission. The player will often find themselves running around blind, on low health and with no extra resources, with no way to keep track of their current position, all while the clock continues to tick down. With the need to find survivors and then an exit while managing things such as health, water level and closed-off paths, Firegirl is deeply frustrating without key upgrades.
- Terrible optimisation and stage-ending glitches
- Harsh camera angles and over-the-top ragdolling
- Frustrating pre-upgrade balance
Final Score: 6/10
Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash DX has a lot of potential and is far from a terrible game, but it sorely lacks polish. The seeds of an excellent retro video game are there, but the optimisation issues and frustrating design choices make it hard to see all of its good qualities. Make no mistake, they are there - it’s just hard to get to them without getting burned.
Thank you for checking out our Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue DX Switch review, thank you to Thunderful for providing the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support: