Genre: Point-And-Click Adventure
Release date: April 19, 2015
NOTE: This review contains a spoiler; it's well-marked and surrounded by white space
I saw Fire at last year’s E3 as the only American in a conference space filled with bubbling, excited German reporters. Fire wasn’t just a change of pace for Daedalic’s already impressive showcase -- it was a breath of fresh air for all of the convention. Most everything I had seen was humorless and deadly serious. Fire was the only game at the Expo that truly stuck out in tone -- bright and cartoony, goofy and childish, and most of all just good, simple fun. It brought me back to the golden era of LucasArt’s point-and-clicks, and even childhood Humongous Entertaintment. The game's ability to put me in a nostalgic, childish mood won me over all of E3’s countless technological displays.
Having finally gotten my hands on the title, I can happily say Fire’s enchanting childlike appeal is not inclusive to a room full of adventure-game-enthused foreign press. Right off the bat, Fire delivers high on the whimsy and high on the fun. Its glorious color pops right off the screen and its charmingly detailed, cartoony design invokes the carefree freedom of simpler, prehistoric time. However, once all that color starts to fade there isn’t a lot of substance left to save said appeal from going extinct. If you go into Fire expecting strictly clever and engaging puzzle design, there is enough here to satisfy for a quick couple of hours.
You play as a brightly drawn cartoon Neanderthal named Ungh, whose name is reflective of the overall simplicity. The game is made up of ten scenes, each of which take place on a single screen that you can pan across left and right horizontally. You scroll back and forth on each screen to click on countless little details scattered in the environment that often result in hilarious animations. If you click a point in the environment that appears traversable, Ungh will simply walk to that point on the screen. If you click, say, an elephant's tail, Ungh will pull on its tail and make it roar. It all works in a very simple one-click fashion, highly reminiscent of Somorost.
In each scene, Ungh is ultimately trying to reach a strange orb-like creature that’s just slightly out of reach. If you interact with the environment enough in the correct sequence, Ungh can make his way through all of the scene and eventually reach the orb -- which always manages to get away before Ungh can actually obtain it.
This routine pretty much remains the same throughout every level. That said, the gameplay is initially compelling as you can make your way through each environment rather swiftly and easily, being rewarded with an abundance of funny animation as the result of clever puzzle-solving.
One early scene, for example, involves rubbing moss off a stone by moving your cursor back-and-forth over it to unveil a connect-the-dot pattern which you recreate by clicking the stars in the sky. The stars, however, are obstructed by a rain cloud which requires you to retrieve a rain stick from an aborigine who gets struck by lightning and diminished to dust when made to do a rain dance himself. Through all of the shenanigans involved in simply retrieving the rain stick, the player has near witnessed an entire, hilarious Saturday-morning cartoon segment within a single scene and in a matter of several clicks.
Unfortunately, the lack of any actual narrative ultimately makes the succession of countless animated sequences end up feeling rather rigid to play through. Because Fire lacks any true character or story development as well as absolutely no dialogue whatsoever, the player winds up stumbling Ungh through an endless series of absolutely random, Looney Toons-style sequences where Ungh mishaps his way into achieving the objective, usually unintentionally. Needless to say, watching the same joke ten times around without any serious developments gets a little redundant.
Fortunately, Fire is fairly short, so it doesn’t become tediously demanding or drawn-out. On the other hand, the game's short length merely adds to the sense of unfulfilled expectations. Ultimately, Fire is little more than a casual game, which is disappointing considering its greater potential as a more full-fledged adventure. Without any sort of story or engaging twists or turns, Fire is more for clever puzzle-design fans who don't mind a lack of story. While the color and animation and its original compelling tone is sure to win over most point-and-click fanatics, the repetitive gameplay without any rewarding narrative content leaves Fire feeling more prehistoric than innovative.
+ Highly engaging whimsical, childlike tone
+ Gorgeous colorful cartoon design
+ Fun, hilarious puzzle-design involving many environmental interactions and lots of animation
- Repetitive gameplay
- Very short
- Very slim narrative content (no dialogue, minimal story)