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Every so often, you come across a game that looks, feels, and sounds like something so retro that you almost want to believe it is truly from an older era. Something about FIREWORK hits that button for me, and as a lover of the NES/SNES era of gaming, this one instantly caught my attention and sucked me right in.
But not all that glitters is gold, so is FIREWORK a game to celebrate? Or does this facility need to burn to the ground simply to put it out of its misery? What better way to find out than to extensively review this Defective One (That’s a pun that will make sense in a minute.)!
The game starts off with Yan telling these sentient spheres a story about a runaway sphere that disobeyed the rules, left their support, and… he does not even get to finish the story when an alarm is going off. All the spheres are saddened, because they love Yan and his stories and they hate to see him go, but duty calls.
You take control of Yan and investigate the situation, only to find four spheres out of their support slots. Yan panics, returns three of them to their supports, but the final one screams of freedom and feeling good only to destroy itself. You see a reluctant look on Yan’s face as he says, “Not again.”
Then another alarm blasts, and Yan is forced to go deep, deep down the facility. He is torn, since he is tasked with protecting the spheres (Entertain. Keep Them Safe. Keep Them Happy.), but he has to find out what is happening. After a short descend, Yan is met by a massive flame and a group of fire-bending villains that refer to you as The Defective One. They begin burning everything in the facility, and our adventure officially begins.
FIREWORK is a fun story laced in mystery. The setting and characters are equal parts interesting and fun, so progressing through the game never felt like a chore specifically because the story is a driving force. Yan, his purpose, the spheres, and the villains all carry an air of intrigue, and this really separates FIREWORK from other action platformers like it.
Unfortunately, there are some grammatical issues that pop up here and there in the text boxes, like forgetting to capitalize names, a lack of punctuating run-on sentences, and two points where words were misspelled. This hurts, since the game is so story-driven, which means the player will be paying more attention to the text being displayed. Hopefully this can all be patched in the near future.
Gameplay is very similar to titles like Mega Man X and Cave Story in that you are shooting a beam of sorts that is effective against the flames and enemies ahead, and platforming is key. Movement is a bit slow, but it is remedied by a wonderful dash system that assists in moving around. Controls are exactly what they need to be as tight jumps and difficult boss fights rely on directional precision.
Combat is a mixed bag, though. The majority of enemies are sentient forms of fire, and they tend to throw more fire around to spread the flames. Most of the time, it is not too much of a problem, but in certain points of the game where they mix tough combat with difficult platforming, avoiding or getting around these flames can be a real pain. Thankfully, the checkpoint system is quite forgiving, so trial-and-error is not a bad approach if you need to try a few methods.
Boss fights in FIRWORK are a lot of fun and feel like a great combination of Mega Man robots and Metroid mini-bosses. At the beginning of the game, you are introduced to four bad guys that serve as the main bosses, and after defeating them, you will receive powerups that reflect their special ability. Sadly, though, mini-bosses do not reward you with anything except safe passage to the next area. Since the powerups you receive from the main bosses are a bit underwhelming, it may have been better to include more powerups for defeating mini-bosses, even if they are obsolete.
I absolutely love the visual direction for the game! Simple yet gorgeous pixel art that really does a fantastic job making the fire stand out in a very appropriate way. The lighting effects, although a more modern technological feat, do a great job of grabbing your attention without compromising the bit-style graphics. The bosses, especially, are so well designed, and the only complaint I have for them is that I would have enjoyed seeing their models on screen more than I did.
The music in FIREWORK, however, leaves little to be excited about. It is not a bad soundtrack, but it does feel quite generic when compared to the areas of the game that excel. The sound effects, though, especially the fires, are incredible and really help to immerse players in the dire situation at the facility.
It is a weirdly entertaining game that does most of its stuff right. What we have here is an original story that genuinely keeps the attention of its players, mysterious and stand out characters, and a solid action platformer.
An initial playthrough may not last you very long, but the inclusion of three different endings depending on how much you complete pushes for more replay. Finding all of the missing spheres is a serious challenge and will give veteran platformer fans a run for their money. And finally, the inclusion of a local co-op mode gives FIREWORK more life when you and a friend can sit and enjoy the experience together.
This is a game that may go under a lot of people’s radars, but it is definitely a work horse and offers a lot of bang for your buck. If you are a fan of the classic style of action platforming, this is definitely one to keep an eye on. If not at its full price, then absolutely at any discount price in the future. You will not regret it.
FIREWORK Review provided by NintendoLink
Review also available on OpenCritic
Publisher: Fantastico Studio
Developer: Ivan Zanotti
Release Date: September 11, 2020
Price: $14.99, £13.49, €14.99
Game Size: 394 MB
Mysterious and interesting story
Great boss fights
Platforming challenges are loads of fun!
Local co-op is a blast
Occasional grammatical errors
Bland and forgettable soundtrack
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.