STAFF REVIEW of Nuclear Blaze (Xbox One)

Thursday, May 18, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

Nuclear Blaze Box art With an endless list of indie games that release, it’s sometimes hard to get noticed, that is unless it comes from Dead Cells’ lead designer, Sébastien Bénard. Nuclear Blaze initially looks like quite a basic firefighting game but actually has an interesting story and fun gameplay to it, along with a great 2D aesthetic.

A massive fire has broken out, and you being a firefighter, are sent to put out the blaze. This one is a bad one though, so you need to be air dropped in to stop it. Everything starts off as normal, putting out the flames and looking for survivors, but you soon realize this isn’t just a normal building fire. You quickly end up in an underground facility and start to realize something isn’t right here. The further underground you go, you find yourself cut off from your team above ground, but you continue on to save anyone you can possibly find.

This secret facility makes you weary once you start to notice radioactive symbols and warnings on the walls. You start to find notes that make mention of some sort of experiment, but everything is quite vague at first. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting much of a storyline but it was interesting just enough to keep me hooked until the end to find out what happened. Given that Nuclear Blaze is such a short experience, clocking in at about two hours or so, I won’t spoil anything, my only real complaint is that I wanted more, as I thought I was done maybe the first Chapter by the time the credits rolled.

First you’ll need to choose what mode you want to play. While there’s a normal mode you’ll likely start out, there’s also a Kid Mode and Hold My Beer Mode. Kid Mode is just that, designed to be played and enjoyed by very young children. This is very simplistic, having the firefighter unable to be damaged, automatically jumps and aims at the flames, complete with plenty of helicopters and trucks, because what kid doesn’t like firetrucks and helicopters? This was initially designed for the developer’s child to enjoy, but decided to keep it in, which is a fantastic idea for those with very young children that still want to play.

Hold My Beer Mode is actually unlocked after your first playthrough, but that won’t take long. This is somewhat like a remixed version of the campaign, adding new hidden areas, new enemies and more. Essentially it’s New Game+ that adds a little more challenge and options, warranting a second playthrough after the credits roll for the first time.

Before you begin your firefighting career though, be sure to check out the options as you’re able to finely tune the experience just how you like. Want to have unlimited health? How about faster water pressure? There’s no Easy, Normal, or Hard difficulty options, but you’re given just enough toggles that you can completely customize your experience however you like. The best part is that it doesn’t disable any achievements either.

Primarily a 2D platforming game, you also need to manage your water meter and spray in different directions to put out all the flames. Luckily you have a portable backpack and hose that can refill at specific spots within the underground base. Developers Deepnight Games did a great job at making the flames feel alive, as it can spread and move (unless you disable it from doing so in the options), making for a lot of chaos in the later sections. Miss one little spot and the fire can quickly reignite and spread. You’ll need to look for valves to shut off, electricity panels to switch and sprinklers to turn on if you want to be successful.

A platforming game needs solid and smooth controls or it simply won’t be fun to play. Thankfully Dead Cells was fantastic, so I expected no less here. You’ll be running, jumping and rolling through dangers, and it all just works and feels great to do so. In the beginning you’ll only be able to spray your water hose horizontally, though you’ll quickly get a few upgrades that allow you to shower the flames at any angle and even cover yourself with water like an umbrella when opening a door and getting a massive backdraft.

As you make your way through room by room, some doors will be locked by specific colored key cards, so you’ll need to explore to find them. Other doors won’t open until every single flame is extinguished as a lockdown procedure, so get used to having to put out every single flame you see. You may even find some spots that are electrified, and if you spray them you’re going to get a nasty shock, so you’ll need to find a control panel to turn that off first. Delay too long and the fire spreads, so there’s always an urgency.

The rooms have a subtle red-ish glow when there are still fires somewhere nearby, and once clear it will glow a satisfying blue. It’s a subtle detail but works really well. What would a firefighter be if they didn’t rescue cats as well? Seems as though a few of the facility workers had cats, which can only be found in secrets areas, so be sure to explore every corner if you want to try and find them all. It’s cute seeing them following you in the area until you reach a vent that they can automatically escape from. There’s even something special if you can find them all which I won’t spoil.

The pixel art is done exceptionally well and it’s all animated quite well also. Your character moves smoothly and you can easily distinguish each object, door, ladder and fire. There’s a lot of smaller details and I really enjoyed its simple aesthetic. While the music isn’t nearly as memorable, it is satisfactory and fits the tone of putting fires out in a deep underground facility.

While I expected a simple firefighting game with Nuclear Blaze, it is that, but has a decent story that kept me wanting to find out what happened until the very end. Sure it may be quite short, but there’s at least enough reason to play through twice as you try and find all of its secrets and rescue cats. What’s better than saving some felines in an underground nuclear base while putting out flames and uncovering a dark secret?

**Nuclear Blaze was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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