Review – Blue Fire
Blue Fire is the kind of game that initially catches your eye because it reminds you so much of another title you really enjoy. In this case, the inspirations from The Legend of Zelda are immediately clear. The developers themselves, ROBI Studios, don’t even shy away from admitting the heavy inspiration from the early Nintendo adventure and platforming titles. The toughest part about making a game that encapsulates a certain period of time is making sure it has its own identity as well. Too often indie titles will come out as straight ripoffs that bring nothing new to the table. Luckily, Blue Fire finds its own identity as well as slamming you with plenty of nostalgia from the late 90’s – early 2000’s action adventure and platforming era.
You play as an unnamed warrior who awakens inside of a test tube. Looking around the chamber it is clear that you’re not the first warrior created. Hundreds of discarded corpses are scattered in the chamber with the same robes as the ones you’re wearing. You awaken in Penumbra, a massive kingdom floating in the sky that houses the resting place of the gods. Its been sometime since Penumbra was a bright and lively place, now ravaged and taken over by the shadows. The mysteries of who you are and what you’re doing here are instantly instilled and will be unraveled as you continue to play.
The story of Blue Fire is very reminiscent of LoZ with the main character awakening and set on a massive quest to rescue a queen. Through the journey you’ll run into plenty of omniscient beings, gods, corruption, and playfully fun side characters. Even the towns and temples have a very similar structure with the visual elements and even the soundtracks. You’ll have the Forrest Temple, Water Temple, Fire Temple etc., all of which have a main item that you’ll acquire to help on your journey as well as a main corrupted monster. As I said, there are definitely massive similarities, but there is plenty here that makes it feel new.
While LoZ temples mostly relied on item based or pressure plate type puzzles, Blue Fire also incorporates platforming challenges. The platforming reminds me a lot of A Hat in Time with how it controls and the general scope of the 3D platforming obstacles. Hell, there is even a “Smug” emote in the game as a direct nod to A Hat in Time. The platforming is solid, responsive, and at times really challenging. The main temple platforming challenges are never unfair, but you’ll rage a few times on the Void obstacles.
Void Gates are scattered around Penumbra by other warriors before you. They will test your platforming skills to the fullest and generally offer the most challenging platforming obstacles. As you progress through the game you will unlock new skills so some Void Gates you may need to return to later. Within the Voids you will collect Void Fragments which you can spend on a merchant to increase the amount of souls you can equip. Also, completing the Voids themselves will provide you with an additional heart.
I guess this would be a good time to get into the basics of the gameplay items and what you’ll be collecting. In Blue Fire there is quite a bit to the collectable items. You have your main currency, Ore, which is used to unlock save point shrines and most regular items at merchants. Shadow Fragments are collected from defeating enemies and used to increase your Mana pool at the shrines. Large Ore like sapphires and rubies can be sold at merchants for large portions of normal Ore.
Besides consumable items you’ll collect player and side character items which cannot be sold. Player items are usually in the form of additional moves like a double jump, wall run, or sword spin. However, you will collect a large variety of swords and tunics as you complete missions, side missions, or just purchase them. Swords will come with a damage modifier, but tunics are purely there for cosmetic reasons. Previously I mentioned the way to increase your soul slots before, allowing you to equip more than one soul. Souls are found or purchased throughout Blue Fire and offer modifications to the gameplay. Various effects are: no fall damage, run faster, increase sword spin height, increase Ore pick up, steal enemy health, and many more.
Throughout Blue Fire you’ll run into a plethora of side characters that range from silly, stern, and somber. Each have their own story and personality, and even family members. Some will require you to find and collect items, others will challenge you to a various trial. At one point you’ll bump into a stammering creature trying to rob a house, next you’ll be helping out a young boy find his mother. I always enjoyed running into the side characters and helping them out.
I’m constantly impressed how this game continues to pull me in to continue the quest. I feel that magic and mystery that I felt from games like LoZ. Whether it’s the idea of what dungeon is next or what silly character will I run into, I felt that draw back. Unfortunately, not everything is perfect. There are some annoyances and oddities that seem like they come from bugs and not design or gameplay.
First off, I had three fatal error dashboard crashes. Second, a strange glitch that would happen after far falls to the ground where I would keep getting fall damage when I tried to jump. Those were the main two I would encounter, others were more one-off glitches. At one point I was able to simply walk through a locked gate without needing to find the switch first. I fell through the map. I got stuck on invisible walls. Hit detection sometimes wouldn’t register. Unfortunately these little things added up to enough frustrations where it did impact my overall enjoyment. Luckily these are bugs that may be fixed at launch or fixed soon, but my time felt like an unpolished indie game. Which is a shame since I enjoy literally everything else about it.
Visually, Blue Fire is a bit of a mixed bag and possibly my least enjoyed aspect. The character designs and visual elements reminded me a lot of Wind Waker with its simplistic texture details and poppy colors. However, there are times where they try to add in textures and it comes out very muddy. I love the various character and level designs and their own unique traits and personalities, this is all portrayed very well. Unfortunately, enemy designs leave a lot desired. There isn’t much of an enemy variety besides a lot of reskinning to match that specific temple aesthetic. Despite my computer’s specs, there also is a really small draw distance for a lot of objects. Luckily main objects that need to be collected are given full visibility, but environmental objects pop in and out a lot.
The soundtrack is amazing, and I’m going to draw that LoZ comparison here again, but like before, it’s not a bad thing. I love the light a playful tunes of the forest areas and when talking to silly characters. The wide range of instruments used to bring a relaxed, eerie, or dangerous feeling when appropriate is well done. The tunes are created by Ariel Contreras-Esquivel who has done quite a few indie titles, but his work in this particular title is great. There really isn’t any voice acting outside of some grunts and guffaws, but various sound effects are well done. The crunching of grass below your feet, the clang of the weapons and such are all clean.
If you made it this far or like to jump to the bottom for the score points, don’t let the score itself fool you. I absolutely loved Blue Fire and think it is an amazing indie title worth your time. From its clear inspirations from the greats and its way of incorporating those action, adventure, RPG, and platforming elements into one game is fantastic. However, it does suffer that unpolished feeling of an indie. Luckily most of my issues stemmed from bugs that can be fixed and not from gameplay design or choices. Blue Fire could really become your next nostalgia fix brought into current times.
Visuals are a bit of a mixed bag. Great character and level designs with a Wind Waker type art design. However, texture work is poor and enemy design is lacking.
A fantastic mix of the top action adventure and platforming games of the late 90’s – early 2000’s era. Combat isn’t spectacular, but the platforming and general gameplay is a delight.
The soundtrack is amazing and brings those Legend of Zelda vibes of with the instrumental tunes that range from playful, eerie, to epic boss fight. General sound design is also well done.
Despite quite a handful of bugs, Blue Fire offers a wonderful experience that tugs at those nostalgia feels of old action adventure platformer games, but offers its own ideas.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Blue Fire is available now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4, and PC.
Reviewed on PC with an i7-9700k, RTX 2070, 16gb RAM.
A copy of Blue Fire was provided by the publisher.