Released on Feb. 4, “Blue Fire” is a 3D action platformer with inspiration clearly taken from the more well-known “Dark Souls,” “Hollow Knight” or “Breath of the Wild.” Set in the floating castle of Penumbra, you play as Umbra, a soulless warrior whose goal is to stop the invasion of the Shadows by killing the Corrupted Queen.
The release was rocky — crashes pushed some frustrated players away but developer ROBI studios quickly fixed most of the issues. They now continue to work closely with the community, as most small productions do. While some annoying bugs may still be present, they do not get in the way of the gameplay or reduce immersion.
Within “Blue Fire,” there are two vital mechanics at work: movement and combat. The most polished and well-thought-out of these was the movement. The ability to double jump, wall run and dash gives a tight parkour experience that allows you to traverse the map effortlessly. There are also platforming-only challenges called “voids,” which offer a diverse and skill-testing experience, similar to the B-side cassettes in “Celeste.” Each void stretches the movement “Blue Fire” to its limits — they showcase the game at its best by asking players to conquer seemingly impossible tasks.
One of the most interesting ways the team at ROBI Studios helped make this movement accessible and fluid is through the Spirits system, which works in tandem with combat and movement. Spirits are the runes, charms or unique upgrades for Umbra, collected via purchase, through the completion of side quests or discovering them throughout the world. The combination of Spirits and options for movement customizes the experience each user has, allowing every player to approach each challenge however they see fit. For example, one of the hardest voids had a moving platform in which you had to avoid obstacles while staying with the platform; I was able to skip whole portions of the level using the double dash and higher jump spirits.
Brawling with enemies, however, is a different story. The game may feel like an homage to “Dark Souls,” but the combat is not nearly as graceful, relying on stagnant, button-mashing moves against the same few standard enemies. It plays out similarly to the target lock, hack and slash combat style: lock onto a target and then dance around them until you find an opening.
Enemies also tend to also be extremely similar, both in design and attack pattern. Each unique area, for example, has around three or four enemies, usually consisting of a melee combatant with a sword or spear, a floating enemy that shoots energy bolts at you and smaller blob-shaped minions who will jump at you. I was able to beat a majority of the bosses on the first try, along with some of the Lords, which are supposed to be some of the hardest in the game.
The story is your basic save-the-world-from-darkness trope, hitting well-worn beats in a predictable fashion; but the secondary characters and side quests vastly improve the overall experience. For example, one quest requires you to push someone to their death, and then as a reward, you get their spirit to equip. Another quest requires you to find a young boy’s lost mother. You end up finding her necklace, and upon returning, you find the boy missing and a spirit there instead, allowing you to jump higher. These fun character interactions are what keeps the game interesting throughout the entire play.
While I thoroughly enjoyed my experience, I felt the game would benefit from being a little bit longer. It took around eight hours to beat the game — 15 to get all the achievements. The price tag of $19.99 is a little steep for such a limited amount. I can only hope this game finds more commercial success and receives some extra downloadable content in the future to make up for it.
Overall, “Blue Fire” is a great first game from a nascent company that really cares about its community and fans. While it may not be up to the quality of the games that inspired it, “Blue Fire” was a fun time and I would recommend it to anyone who loves games of the action-platformer genre. I really hope ROBI Studios and Graffiti Games continue to work on this game, and when I return to it in the future, I expect great things.
Daily Arts Contributor Maxwell Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org