If I am being honest one genre that gaming has yet to truly nail is firefighting, as I have played a good few over the years like Real Heroes: Firefighter, Firefighting Simulator – The Squad, Embr and Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash. There are usually more burnouts and backdrafts than home runs, but that may all change thanks to… of all things… a game jam entry. Nuclear Blaze by Sébastien Benard or better known as one man studio Deepnight Games (he was the lead dev on Dead Cells) and French studio Red Art Games, is a firefighting title with a difference as it delivers a retro pixel inspired platform puzzler with a touch of mystery about it.
This 2D side-scroller puts you in the boots of a nameless firefighter air-dropped into a burning forest. You soon stumble upon a nearby mysterious military facility where the fire has spread and you guessed it… you’ve got to get into the base and extinguish the flames within. As you journey deeper into the facility you start to discover that things aren’t quite as they seem and there is more afoot here than meets the eye. Though Nuclear Blaze’s tale does feel a little rushed, as the game is a brief 2 to 3 hour blast and it feels like a story built for a bit of a slow burn.
Gameplay in Nuclear Blaze is a mix of platforming, puzzling all with a few Metroidvania tones thrown in the mix… oh and lots and lots of fighting fires and finding upgrades to make you even more capable to do so. You start out with a standard hose and gritted teeth but you’ll soon be able to dodge various obstacles; such as burning debris and exploding walls, carry more water in your tanks, as well as aim your hose in a number of directions and even make a cool water umbrella to defend yourself from backdrafts. As you move through the levels the more the game adds extra obstacles to overcome, or aid you; like sprinkler systems, gas vents to close and power boxes to power down to clear the path. It never feels like its throwing too much at you too quickly, but you soon will be facing a number of challenges at once to clear the level. When not pathfinding or firefighting you can explore the facility for hidden rooms and secrets, plus what good is a fireman if he’s not saving cats… well you find more than a few moggies trapped that need saved here… oddly.
To its credit the game has an extremely customizable difficulty curve from Hold My Beer mode – that ups the challenge, as well as adding in harder rooms to Kid mode – that rounds off the corners and makes death almost impossible, meaning everyone can enjoy this one and dial it into their tastes. Visually the game is a pixelated affair with some cracking pixel art on show and some cool fire effects and the soundtrack knows what it’s doing and when to kick in. Nuclear Blaze may have started out as a 48hr game jam entry by Sébastien aiming to create a game that his 3yr old firefighter mad son could play, but what he has crafted is a brilliant wee title what captures danger and excitement of firefighting in a retro style and is one of the best examples in the genre.
An Xbox review code for Nuclear Blaze was provided by Deepnight Games’ PR team, and it’s available now on Xbox, PC, Switch and PlayStation for around £10.