Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue is here, and it’s a game I’ve been hotly anticipating since its announcement and after the playable demo on Steam. Alas, having anticipation for a title means high expectations. As much as I’d like to think I’m well-balanced, I had high hopes for this.
There’s more of the same in Dejima’s title, but it takes some time to get to the stage of enjoying it. As a rogue-like, players will experience a lot of deaths – more so than any of the Souls-like of late. This was so frequent that it felt like that was the point of the game. But it’s not.
Instead, you’re the titular Firegirl of Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue, the daughter of a famous firefighter, in cahoots with the mayor. Like most cities, the budgets have been cut. It’s Firegirl’s job to put out the fires, rescue the civilians, and raise the department’s profile by building a fanbase as if this were some profitable public service.
Our hero is represented by 2D pixel art, and the scenarios blend this and crisp 3D visuals, with some fantastic particle effects. The fire caricatures are great, and the announcer shouting each pick-up and rescue made it feel like an old-school arcade experience. As mentioned before, it’s a bit like Octopath Traveler with its style.
As for Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue gameplay, Firegirl is armed with an axe to melee through doors and debris and a hose that moonlights as a jetpack to reach higher levels and descend, pending you use the shoulder buttons or equivalent to peer down to where you’re going, else you might inadvertently clip an enemy and go flying.
The first item that extinguishes the early fun of Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue flames is the knockback. When a building is likely to collapse, a burst of flame will appear from whence you came, which you can’t put out. If you’re unfortunate enough to hit it, it can draw you back and burn you until you’d resemble the contents of a Doritos bag.
This happened… a dozen times, and when it happens, it’s time to write off the stage as it’s impossible to escape. The burning sensation will continue if jumping over flames and into the path of an enemy as it’ll knock her back or if attempting to clear a gap without gaining enough height. This happened far too many times, and irrespective of how much is in the tank, Firegirl will tank and hit the abyss below, instantly dying.
The positive spin on all these deaths will be the trickle of cash earned. Whether the stage is a success or not, Town Hall will award some money (with deductions from the hospital for any deaths). If the mission is a success, Firegirl’s fanbase will bolster the funds available, but be warned that it’ll feel like fighting Father Gascoigne in Bloodborne with custard.
After frequent failures, there’ll be enough in the kitty to buy some upgrades, and this is where Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue excels. There’s an abundance of volunteers that want to join the cause and will offer their services for a one-off fee. Yeah, volunteers. These NPCs offer health bonuses and upgrades to the fire truck, which adds 30 seconds to a stage, improves water capacity and pressure, and more.
Passives can be applied to her suit, represented by badges. Said perks make a difference to gameplay, and once you’re at that level, Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue is excellent, but it’s a massive grind until then. Regardless of whether you save two out of three people, put out all the fires, locate the rescue cats and even wipe your boots upon exit, you’ll get nothing from your fans as the mission would be deemed a failure as you didn’t save everyone.
A fan of the gaming grind, I’m prepared to put my time into Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue, but the upgrades take time. They certainly make it worthwhile when you get them, but are you willing to put in the effort and suffer so many failures with no reward? It’s easy to die in this game, and without seeing any significant gain until much later might put off quite a few players at the first few hurdles. If you can stick with it, the rewards are cool and closer to my expectations, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with how this turned out.