STAFF REVIEW of Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue DX (Xbox One)

Monday, July 18, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue DX Box art Developed by Dejima Games and published by Thunderful Games, Firegirl: Hack ‘n Splash Rescue DX is finally here for console gamers to play and enjoy after a PC only release last December. With a bunch of improvements, this ‘definitive’ edition of Firegirl, denoted by the DX, is now here and feels right at home with a controller in hand.

You are Firegirl, a young woman just starting her career, following in her father’s footsteps. As a firefighter game I wasn’t really expecting much of a narrative, but there is an interesting enough story here that plays out over the few hours of gameplay as you use your firehose and axe to save survivors in burning buildings, trains and forests.

Fires are mysteriously breaking out all across the city, so the Mayor and Fire Chief are going everything they can to help get it all under control, which is where you come in. These aren’t just normal fires though, as they seem as though they are some sort of monsters that have been created or started purposely, as they all have faces and are trying to prevent you from doing your job. As if it wasn’t weird enough to have flames with faces, you’ll also be fighting against bats and birds created from fire as well as some other monstrosities along the way.

Why have fires suddenly started appearing across the city non-stop and what are these Fire Tomb books you keep coming across that the FBI seems so interested in? Looks like there’s a mystery for you to solve as well as putting out the flames. It’s a good thing Firegirl knows how to do her job well, not only utilizing the hose to put out fires but to be able to use it like a jetpack as well to traverse the fire engulfed buildings.

What I was first drawn to in Firegirl, and most likely you as well, is its unique and well done visual aesthetics. A mixture of pixel art, environments and a 2D sidescroller, it really ‘pop’s for lack of better term. Firegirl herself stands out amongst the background and foreground with her pixel design and bright colors and a lot of work was done with the fire to make it blend a cartoony style yet somewhat realistic.

Somewhat a roguelike, every level you play is procedurally generated, so each time you’re in a burning building trying to save the survivors it will be different each time. Being a 2D platformer at its core, you generally can’t see that far in front or below you, adding for some tension, never sure what’s beyond the door you’re about to break down with your axe or below you when you’re about to drop down.

Levels are quite short, starting you with three minutes on the clock as you’re tasked with finding the survivors and escaping before it’s too late. Oddly enough you aren’t forced to fight any fires if you don’t want to. You will have to if you want to get passed certain areas without getting damaged, but I found it odd that this wasn’t tracked in any way. With how the levels are randomly made, it’s not much of a hassle to get through even if you don’t get good luck with a good building layout. Sometimes you’ll find the exit quite early, so do you spend more time in the building searching for survivors for a bigger payout but risk possibly dying when you lose all your hearts, or take what you can get?

While there’s a little backtracking at times, certain doors will engulf with flames once you pass through, forcing you to move forward and finding another way around. You never know how long the other pathways will be or where the survivors are, so it’s always a gamble since there’s no map for you to reference.

The first hour or so will be exploring burning apartment buildings with many floors, sometimes even multiple buildings, but later on Firegirl will also be searching for survivors on a moving subway train, within a forest and even a high class hotel-like building. Regardless of the level type, every time you play the stage is completely randomized. The forest levels are much more vertically designed, the train stages are challenging because if you take too much time fighting fire enemies the detached parts of the train might get away too far to cross the gap. The hotel levels can be multiple floors high but have large open rooms, complete with water fountains that are used as a refill for your water meter but also as a springboard to reach heights way above. The Fire Chief will give you a hint when you’re near a survivor, but that could be in any room above or below, so it’s sometimes a bit misleading.

Each mission has a set amount of survivors you’re on the hunt for before you exit, usually two or three, though you can leave the level early once you find the exit if you want, you simply won’t get the maximum amount of cash by doing so for your expensive upgrades. There are even bonus pets you can find to add extra money and fans if you search every possible room.

Fighting fires means you need your trusty hose and backpack full of water, so you’ll need to keep an eye on your water gauge. Simply spraying non-stop will have you run out of water quite quickly, so once an enemy has been put out you'll want to conserve your water. You’ll also need to use your hose as a jetpack, akin to Super Mario Sunshine, to cross large gaps to prevent yourself from taking fall damage. Using your hose takes a little getting used to, as when you go to spray, Firegirl plants her feet and can’t move, and for some reason it also always defaults to spraying at a 45 degree angle which you adjust with the thumbstick in any direction you want, factoring in the arc of your water.

As you explore you might find broken toilets or water jugs that can refill your water gauge back to full. Not spraying for a while will also refill your tank but that takes time, something you don’t have a lot of in short two to three minute levels. Thankfully every enemy you do put out with your hose adds a second or two to your clock, so it’s a balance of exploration to find survivors within time but also taking the time to defeat fire enemies to add more time to explore.

To smash through doors and piles of collapsed wood you’ll need to use your trusty axe. This takes a moment and I was hoping there would be some other mechanic or use for it, but there’s not. Holding Right Trigger will cause Firegirl to plant her feet and start spraying her hose in the direction you aim. Using her hose as a jetpack takes some practice, but eventually you’ll be able to cross gaps without any issue, especially when going from rooftop to rooftop in certain apartment levels.

You earn cash for completing levels with the amount based on if you died or not and how many survivors saved. Find all of the survivors and you’ll earn huge bonuses, though you at least earn some cash regardless of the outcome. Once you saved them they can be hired at your fire hall, offering different bonuses and upgrades when you spend more cash. In the beginning I was only earning $2000 for finishing a level (without all survivors), and now I get well over $6000 regardless of the outcome, so it takes some time to invest in the different upgrades, but is well worth it in the long run.

The first hour will be quite tough as you get used to the controls and don’t have much of a water reservoir in your backpack or much pressure for your hose. As you buy the upgrades it will become much more manageable, making each run easier. Purchase medkits, more hearts, hose upgrades, fan bonuses and more, there’s plenty to grind as you fight your way through the story and uncover where all these fires are originating from.

Firegirl’s visual aesthetics are simple yet impressive. While I have gotten hit and died a few times simply because I couldn’t see an enemy behind something in the foreground, the layers give it a retro-modern look that I quite enjoyed. The music doesn’t vary much but it is catchy, never feeling like I needed to mute it or put my own playlist on in the background instead.

Priced at just over $20 CAD, there’s certainly some value here, and although it is fun especially once you start purchasing all of the upgrades, it does get quite repetitive, even with the procedurally generated levels. Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue DX might not set the world on fire but it is an adorable take on firefighting.

**Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue DX was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 7.1 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 6.5 / 10


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