Fire Tonight tells of a story of two young pups in love. Maya and Deven live in a city that is about to catch fire. Stuck on opposite ends of the city, Maya sets out to reach Deven to finish their heart to heart conversation together. It sounds like the premise for a dramatic disaster movie. It’s actually a narrative based puzzle game that has a lot of ideas packed into its short life span. Don’t expect many disaster heroics though – this is a tribute to synth wave music and neon vibes.
Behind the purple and pink neon colours everywhere hides some great puzzle mechanics as the narrative switches between the two characters. Each of Maya’s levels are fully rotatable city blocks. Fire will have broken out and you’ll need to get across to an exit to progress the game. Rotating the city shows you opportunities to move around, collect keys, unlock gates and doors and progress. Over time this extends to sneaking pass police officers and moving dumpsters to make platforms to climb. It never gets difficult but I appreciate that each level offered a slightly different take on the puzzle.
Key to this is Maya’s ability to put on her headphones. When she does this, the music lets some of the flames die down and she can cross through them. As its 1990 though, its running on very short battery supply so to recharge it you’ll need to fish new batteries out of the bin.
Deven meanwhile gets the short straw of the game. He spends the game stuck mostly in his flat and his levels are more point n click based. The problem is that you just click everything that’s highlighted and then move on – his levels are the narrative background to build up the romance but offer little gameplay substance. The fun there is rewinding cassettes and playing a fire basic hurdles game on his new console. Its fun to see nostalgic retro items but that alone cannot carry his levels.
The main issue I have with Fire Tonight is its length. I completed it, without rushing, in 43 minutes. There are only two puzzles that require any type of thinking and they can be solved with trial and error if you really don’t understand them. Every mechanic introduced is also made redundant by the lack of peril. Batteries endless replenish so the Walkman mechanic has no guts to it. Puzzles elsewhere always devolve to find the key, open the door except for the last level where its push the button, open the door. I was genuinely shocked when the game ended, it felt like everything was just getting interesting.
Whilst the story, artwork, soundtrack and nostalgia all work, I’d only recommend this to people who want a short, simple game that is as much about using puzzles as a metaphor for romance than it is about enjoying a game. Whilst its cheap, I’d have hoped for probably double the length of content and some proper use of all the great mechanics the game spent time bringing in, only to discard immediately. I appreciate Fire Tonight was lean because it avoids padding but it does so to such a degree that no game mechanic is ever utilised in a meaningful and detailed way. A missed opportunity.
Review copy provided by publisher.
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