Fire – Preview

Title   Fire
Developer  Daedalic Entertainment
Publisher  Daedalic Entertainment
Platform  PC, Mac
Genre  Point-and-Click Adventure
Release Date  TBC 2014
Official Site

As much as some factions of humanity would disagree, we certainly owe a great deal to evolution. Without it, every movie tie-in would still be struggling to adapt itself into a side-scrolling platformer, pixel graphics would be a tedious norm instead of a retro throwback, and we wouldn’t have had that glorious moment where EA executives showing off Battlefield 4 had to say ‘levolution’ with a straight face and find a way to sleep at night. Yet, without the ability to evolve we’d still be sitting around in caves trying our darnedest to start a fire in order to make it through the night without freezing to death.

In Daedalic’s upcoming Fire you take on the role of Ungh who, in one of the simplest game plots ever, has discovered that his fire has gone out, prompting him to try and find a way to re-light it again. Much like the Daedalic-published Journey of a Roach and Gomo, Fire doesn’t actually feature any text or dialogue, instead forcing the player to rely on their own wits and what they can see in-game in order to progress. It’s an approach that Daedalic consider ‘more casual’ than their usual fare, but one that they hope will open up the game to a bigger audience than just genre veterans.

In what feels like an extension of that ideal, the graphics are very cartoony without being overly simplistic, allowing the player to easily discern what is generally part of the environment and what can be interacted with without just waving the cursor everywhere until a hotspot shows up. Keeping in line with the visual aesthetic are the animations, which, while not being overly simplistic to the point of looking cheap, certainly make the action feel like a Saturday morning cartoon from the nineties and give off the impression that the focus is perhaps on a younger audience.

Meanwhile, the humour seems firmly based on the destruction that Ungh causes in his attempts to restart his fire, and even in a short preview, he’d already burst a whole through a bat, had another creature become enveloped by a tree, and caused the resident rain-dancer to end up as a disintegrated pile of ashes. It’s cartoonishly callous rather than full-on dark humour, and it’s well-suited to the action in a way that may raise a smile, but doesn’t send you into raucous fits of laughter. Neither will the puzzles tax you too much. If you’re well-versed in point-and-clicks, then you’ll probably find yourself breezing through the action fairly quickly. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering that the puzzles feel well-paced and designed to keep you moving from one location to another in your quest to start a fire, but you’re not likely to feel genuinely challenged by anything. That being said, the puzzles aren’t always your typical fare, and neither is the game as simplistic as you’d think as a result.

For one, not every puzzle requires you to just blindly click away until it’s done; now some problems will need you to use your mouse in a more active manner, as was demonstrated when one solution involved scratching away at an object with the cursor, rather than using an item on it. Meanwhile, there’s no inventory system at play either, so if the player wants Ungh to pick up an item, then he’ll drop whatever he’s currently carrying in order to do so. This would potentially be an issue if you had to travel great distances in order to re-acquire something you’d left behind, but that’s not a problem thanks to the fact that most of the puzzles and their solutions are never more than a screen away. In fact, a fair few items can be found in the same location as their corresponding puzzle, vastly cutting down on the number of steps you need to take before the latest obstacle in your path is cleared.

Additionally, the player also has the ability to instantly turn night to day with a single click, which also opens up puzzle-solving possibilities somewhat. It wasn’t too clear if this would be a continuous mechanic or one just contained at the start of the game, but several moments required players to swap between light and dark in order to move forward, particularly those that involved animals. Some would be more active during the day while some were nocturnal, meaning that if Ungh wanted to start the fire, then he’d have to carefully manipulate the creatures of the world around him.

Although some may be put off by its simplicity, cartoon graphics or its attempt to appeal to a more mainstream audience than just point-and-click aficionados, anyone who dismisses Fire would be foolish to do so. It may not be a great leap forward, but it’s nonetheless an intriguing evolution of the genre, foregoing complex puzzles and refusing to become an on-rails narrative-driven experience where you’re given a choice to make every now and then. Instead, it’s a step that shows how to make the genre more appealing to a younger audience, or those who’ve always been on the sidelines and want something more carefree than mind-taxing. It won’t be as significant as the spark that ignites the fire, but it’ll be a great way to stoke the flames and keep the embers burning a great while longer.

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