Blue Fire from Graffiti Games and ROBI Studios is an ambitious title, that’s for sure. This game is equal parts The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Dark Souls, and Celeste. It has the scale and adventuring of a Zelda, the brutal combat of a Souls game, and the extremely difficult platforming of a game with celestial caliber.
This is one of those games that sounds so good on paper, but it also makes you wonder, “How can you marry three extremely different game styles together and do it well?” Blue Fire is ambitious and a damn good game, but it is not without fault. Let’s jump and dash right into it and see if this is a game worthy of your shiny orbs.
Initially, you find yourself inside of a glass chamber, and the game begins when you break yourself out. Blue Fire does very little at the beginning to tell you what is going on, and it is an interesting approach, as it allows you to wonder and try to figure things out on your own.
Thankfully, as you enter new areas and meet other characters, the world and kingdom of Penumbra really open up, and its story becomes more and more captivating with each passing conversation.
The god of gods has become corrupted by the Shadow, and it is taking the life away from the land and everything within it. Monsters and evil substances plague each area, and it is up to you, the Warrior of Fire, Umbra, to restore the lands, help save the other gods, and bring an end to the Shadow that has corrupted what was once a beautiful area.
The story of Blue Fire is quite engaging and offers a lot of lore for the new and aspiring title. I particularly enjoyed the slow burn approach to storytelling and how certain details come in later to fill in gaps at appropriate times. It is a style not often used in video game, but it works especially well here and allows for the game to tell a fascinating story at its own pace and keeps the player interested.
As far as gameplay goes, however, this is a complicated one. Blue Fire is an adventure game with a large world with multiple areas where you will traverse in and out of for various reasons; think similarly to a Zelda game or even a metroidvania. It is also a tough-as-nails action game that feels like it wants to be Souls-like. Finally, and this is the kicker, Blue Fire is a 3D platformer with Celeste-level precision, which can be quite intimidating for casual players, because you will find out very early that death via pitfall will be your demise time and time again.
To put it plainly, this game is difficult, and I mean really difficult.
Platforming is no joke, and you find this out very early in the game when you are only able to perform a simple jump and dash. One of the first challenges you will face is a Void Entrance that takes you to an area outside the normal world, a forgotten realm, and these Voids will test your platforming skills like nothing else in the game. The reward for completing these voids is a heart container, which is definitely essential for a game like this, but you will learn quickly which Voids to avoid from their difficulty rating listed before you even enter.
Voids have ratings from 1-5, but those difficulty markers are dependent on where you are in the game. Some times a level 1 or 2 is impossible, because you have not unlocked the double-jump yet. Voids that are 4 or 5, no matter the time of encounter, will beat you up to the point of ripping your hair out. I even experienced a couple Voids where the lighting was so bright that I could barely see the platforms I needed to land on, which caused me to quit the challenges immediately.
That does not mean that the Voids are not fun! Quite the contrary, I found them to be some of the best areas of the game, very similarly to the Shrines in Breath of the Wild. It is only unfortunate that there are a couple Voids in Blue Fire that push you to your limit.
As far as combat goes, Blue Fire starts off relatively slow but then gets incredibly harder as you progress, and no amount of progressive power-ups or health upgrades prepare you for the difficulty that lies ahead. The damage received from enemies moving from one area to the next is exponential. A great example of this is going from the first dungeon to the second dungeon. In the first, enemies do pretty minimal damage and difficulty is fair, but in the second dungeon, similar enemies do double the damage and Sentries will snipe you from a decent distance.
In the Firefall River is another example of unfair combat and platforming. There is a large centipede-like enemy that pops out of random holes and shoots an incredibly fast fireball at you, which considering the precise platforming that is required in the section, adding this to the equation just feels like punishment.
But like the Void situation, these harsh circumstances are the exception, as combat for the most part is a lot of fun, particularly the boss fights in the dungeons. Umbra is equipped with dual swords that are constantly being upgraded, and ground and aerial attacks are at his disposal to take out the various monsters throughout the game. Items like the Fire Charm, giving you the power to cast fireballs, and Whirlwind Hook, a spinning attack that lifts Umbra into the air, make your arsenal so much more dangerous and help to alleviate the threat plaguing Penumbra.
Adventuring is one of the highlights of the game, in my opinion, and it is largely thanks to the platforming. Throughout Blue Fire, you will be entering new areas that require you to do some extensive jumping and dashing, and there are so many little hidden things to reward you for exploring. There are hidden NPCs that offer items and give gifts, Emote Statues that sell you special taunts for 200 orbs, Emote pads that require particular emotes that reward you with some special treasures (Like special swords, tunics, and delicious foods), and other hidden treasures that grant you Sapphire, Ruby, and Emerald Ores that can be sold for great value.
And getting lots of orbs is important, because there are a couple progressive points in the game that require massive amounts of orbs. Not only that, but Fire Shrines (AKA save points, and another similar aspect to Dark Souls) inflate in price with each new area, easily costing you thousands of orbs at a time.
As you obtain progressive power-ups, the world of Penumbra opens up even more, but one of the cooler things are the spirits you will find hidden around. Once you meet the Spirit Hunter early in the game, he tasks you with finding spirits. These spirits can be equipped as a bonus of sorts for Umbra at any Fire Shrine, and you can even pay the Spirit Hunter to add more spirit slots to your arsenal, allowing you to equip an insane amount of bonuses at once.
But the emotes are my favorites. Each time I found an Emote Statue, I got giddy and immediately checked if I had enough orbs to buy the emote from the statue. Some of the emotes are significantly more entertaining than others, but I love the fact that they aren’t simply an aesthetic, they are also useful for a couple things in the game, including the aforementioned Emote pad treasures.
Blue Fire and the world of Penumbra is a wonderful package and stage. Sure, it has its problems, but this is a brand that I can easily see a series forming in the future. The combination of its ambitious parts has its hiccups, but I feel that everything works together well for this first entry and the sky is ultimately the limit.
The game is quite massive and will take you many, many hours to clear, even moreso if you plan to do everything. The platforming is solid, despite a couple poor design issues in certain areas, and the combat is super-fun as long as there are no enemies sniping you from miles away. Adventuring is great, the dungeons are a joy to explore, and the bosses are big and challenging in a fair way, and the game simply looks and sounds amazing!
But best of all? You can close yourself inside of treasure chests and hide. GOTY!
Great story, characters, and world-building
Excellent 3D platforming
Beautiful art style
Exploration is a joy
You can hide in treasure chests
Some bizarre design choices that make certain challenges unbearable
Crashed a couple times on Switch
Some unfair combat here and there
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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.