Tuesday 19 November 2019

The Firemen (SNES review)

Developer: Human Entertainment
Publisher: Human Entertainment
Released: 1995

The Firemen is a top-down action game that was only released in Europe and Japan.

A high-tech factory carrying the explosive chemical MDL has caught fire and it's up to you and your team to save the trapped workers and put out the spreading blaze. Control wise, the Y button fires a straight spray of water, B fires downwards, while X uses one of your limited extinguishing bombs that destroys flames in the surrounding area. The action could easily have become repetitive, but it does a great job of keeping you engaged by throwing in cut-scenes to tie the story together. It also slowly introduces new fire patterns and environmental hazards, forcing you to strategise and multitask. The level design is top-notch too due to its varied scenery and interesting floor layouts, and the responsive controls give you fluid 360° motion of your hose, reminding me of Simon Belmont's whip in Super Castlevania IV (1991, SNES). I also like how each stage seamlessly transitions into the next one (fully immersing you in the epic mission at hand) and the timer is fair, adding extra intensity to each stage. Your CPU teammate is usually helpful, but is annoyingly vacant when it comes to boss fights! These bosses are expertly designed with cool patterns and huge sprites in narrow quarters that make you use every trick in your arsenal! The game is short with only six stages, but it does have some replayability if you take on the extra challenge of clearing 100% of the fire in each one. This is surprisingly addictive, in large part thanks to the emotive story that hooks you into wanting to protect the trapped workers. However, the game's obvious and glaring omission is the lack of a two-player co-op mode.

The Firemen is a terrific title with great controls, interesting level design, a compelling story and gameplay that could almost be described as a shoot-em-up in disguise. While it is a shame that there's no multiplayer option, what's here is still highly enjoyable and there's plenty of variety throughout to keep you invested.

Random trivia: A prototype of the cancelled U.S. Super Nintendo version is available online and includes a few script differences.

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