This time of the year there should be more snow games, but as the fluffy white stuff doesn’t seem to fall on all countries, why not make some point-and-clicker Fire with Daedalic Entertainment?
(Germany 2015, developer/publisher: Daedalic Entertainment, platform: PC)
Neanderthal Ungh dozes off when watching his village’s fire, so when it goes out, he has to rekindle the flame in a Stone Age world that isn’t very friendly to him.
Simple things in Stone Age life
If one expects an interesting plot with many twists or memorable character conversations, one will get disappointed. There is neither a complicated or even engaging story, no main protagonist who expresses any sort of individuality outside his fun movements and slapstick scenes, nor are their actual dialogue options to choose from, as one only speaks to the NPCs with icon-based bubbles, similar to Dropsy, but without the weirdness. There isn’t much in the way of story progression other than the basic premise of getting fire back to Ungh’s village. Except for the ending, there aren’t any surprises and one often feels as if the environments Ungh traverses aren’t connected by a narrative thread.
Simpleton meets simpletons to do Stone Age level work
However, despite the lack of a real story, the world the Neanderthal discovers holds all sorts of weird people and animals, making each new section fun to explore. They might not say anything, but one still gets a sense of place, even if this place is a stranger version of the Stone Age, much more Ice Age comedy than real survival threat. This means that the humor is usually based on the weird behavior of the NPCs or Ungh himself, be it pulling on all sorts of tails, entering a dinosaur’s mouth or doing rain dances, giving bananas to science monkeys and feeding strange-looking birds. The game is divided into a level-like structure with various environments one can also revisit. This is only necessary to find hidden items which aren’t necessary for story or game progression, but which unlock concept art and achievements. Despite not having an impact on the plot, it adds to the sense of accomplishment when unlocking new areas.
It’s all about the puzzles then, and as it is the case with games based around all sorts of logical conundrums, illogical ones are just around the corner. However, like all the best adventure games, obscure puzzle solutions can also be part of the fun, especially if they’re as out of this world as in Fire. Changing between different animals forms in order to get through small places with a mouse or carry around big objects with a bear or fly around as a bee is great, but when these abilities have to be combined, the puzzle design almost reaches LucasArts classic status. This is quite surprising, considering that there aren’t any object combinations due to the Neanderthal’s ability to only carry around one object at a time. It doesn’t mean that the puzzles are made any easier by this, as some are pretty devious and difficult to solve.
This is retro
Of course the puzzle design isn’t perfect, as can be seen with the limited inventory system that can become annoying if one has to switch between screens only because the current object isn’t the right one to use at the moment. Another problem is the lack of hints and too many logical code-based puzzles. Granted, they’re mostly logical, but fewer of these and more environmental puzzles would have been nice. The same goes for the playtime that is very short with just 2 hours. A few mini games, e.g. navigating a mouse through a labyrinth without touching the spiky sides or steering Ungh through space without him being drawn into black holes, are also annoying and frustrating, even if other arcade-like games, e.g. shooting down alien ships Space Invaders-style, are fun. What is less fun though is that it’s impossible to save one’s level progress. Quitting the game always means one has to restart a level anew which is obviously not the most motivating thing if one is stuck on a particularly tricky puzzle or has to repeat mini games or time-sensitive sections.
This looks and sounds good
Graphically, the game looks superb with lush and detailed environments, great animation and very nice backgrounds so that each new screen and level is a joy to explore. The music with its various catchy tunes is also fun to listen to. Even without voice acting, the sound effects are sufficient enough to get lost in this alternative Stone Age world. The colorful comic scenes might be too much for those who like their games more realistic and down to earth, but with a younger audience in mind (despite some questionable animal cruelty) the presentation fits the overall tone.
Fir-ing up a good game
Fire is not the longest game. It doesn’t have the most memorable character and its plot is as simple as it can be. However, unlike so many casual games or child-friendly point-and-clickers, it has enough personality in its drawings and imaginative puzzle design that it’s an entertaining game while it lasts. For a very small asking price, the 2 hours are well spent, offering colorful levels and mostly puzzles which are as much fun as Ungh or other people/creatures he meets. It has its difficulty spikes and problematic savegame and inventory systems, but with a great soundtrack and graphics which turn it into a playable comic, these shortcomings are easily forgotten.
Buy the PC game on
Amazon Germany (Retail)
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