Introducing: Blue Fire Switch Review
Greetings adventurer! So you wish to hear a tale of daring swords, darkened kingdoms and courageous heroes! Well, it just so happens that I have such a tale. So pull up a stool, pour yourself a mead and let me tell you the story of Robi Studio’s offering, Blue Fire.
The world of Prenumbra needs a hero! Luckily it has one in the form of you, the pint-sized protagonist, Umbra. You awaken from some form of suspended animation and have little information to go on as you are quickly led through a tutorial section. The world has clearly had some form of corruption taken place and you are left to sift through the ruins, piece together the story and save Prenumbra!
Enter the world of Prenumbra
Gameplay involves a mixture of so many different mechanics that mash together a multiverse of franchises. The main game itself is an explorative over-world consisting of puzzle elements designed to use Umbra’s skills to progress. There is a great deal of back tracking through the areas you have previously discovered, similar to a whole range of “Metroidvania” titles.
Progress is maintained using shrines, which act as checkpoints similar to bloodsouls games. This created a frustrating experience for me personally. While I have played and enjoyed aspects of these games, this has always been something I’ve found annoying. Indeed, with Blue Fire, I also encountered this issue. Gaining huge leaps in progress only to lose it all because of a poorly executed move often makes me want to stop playing a game. But for you dear reader, I soldiered on!
Temples, Dungeons, Shrines and Voids
The game has a number of themed areas for you to traverse and each contains a well thought out series of platforming puzzles, increasing in difficulty as you progress. This is clearly drawing inspiration from the dungeon designs used in a number of Legend of Zelda titles. Whilst not a bad thing at all, it won’t be the last time a connection is made to Nintendo’s hero of time!
Diving straight into reference number two then is the void. At various points throughout, Umbra can encounter entrances to void challenges. It wasn’t until around halfway through my first one that I realised, “I’m just collecting sacred tears.” Possibly one of the worst mechanics from Skyward Sword (motion controls aside). The only real difference is rather than searching for the macguffins, they form a trail to help you traverse the puzzle platform. Once the goal has been reached, the challenge is completed.
Pint-Sized Hero Packs a Punch
Combat is something that is used sparingly in Blue Fire. Mainly due to the scarcity of enemies. The combat controls are simple to pick up, but that quickly gives way to mastering some interesting combinations of the dash and shield actions. There is also the ability to “Z-target” your opponent to ensure that your blade lands true. The only real complaint is that the combat is possibly too easy at times, with enemies being predictable and a bit dull.
Aiding your basic attack are the skills you develop through your progression in-game. Whether these are skills you collect during your quests. Or upgrades you uncover. The more you acquire, the easier you find completing tasks. Weapon and spirit upgrades can be tailored to the obstacle you are facing and the use of fire essence ensures that health loss can be treated until you find your next shrine.
Artistically, the game is gorgeous. The cartoonish graphics harks back to games such as Windwaker, with a dash of Hollow Knight in 3D. The problem is that these aesthetics are sometimes spoiled with visual glitches. There were times Umbra clipped into the space under a seat, or platforms appeared to be there but disappeared when panning around with the camera.
The art assets in-game are supported with a combination of nice cosmetic choices and great developmental ideas. While playing, there is the ability to gain cosmetic cloak options which add a nice twist to Umbra’s wardrobe. But also as you progress and collect different blades to use against your enemies, selecting these changes the design on Umbra’s back.
The music gives both the right aura for the worlds being explored but is also used as a storytelling piece. With characters not having voice actors but the music and sound effects timed to give them their own personalities. The soundtrack provides an ample background for the world of Prenumbra.
Umbra – A Mascot in the Making
The game has some great features. Aside from well designed, if raw at times, level design. The world’s characters each have their own personalities and help to add depth to an already well-designed world. On top of that is Umbra himself. With an adorable combination of hair and eyes, it is clear that mascot potential arises. In fact, the developers encourage this with the possibility of purchasing your own plush of the pint-sized ninja.
Accompanying Umbra’s adorable appearance, are the emote options you are exposed to early on. Shrines placed throughout the world allow you to purchase these emotes, performing these at specific times gives you access to additional rewards from chests.
The Game has its own Shadows to Battle
The first thing that hit me playing Blue Fire was the lack of a map. This is no oversight apparently as traversing the world, you are blind to the paths that avail you. While this is great in encouraging exploration, it made the sections where I had to backtrack a bit tedious. Particularly if I went away from the game for anything longer than a few hours.
Camera angles were something that, had I not recently been playing Super MARIO 3D Allstars, I would have been more critical of. The game’s platforming being as precise as it is, having to think about moving camera angles added a layer of difficulty that did not need to be there.
There are a few technical issues with porting to the switch that, if they can be improved upon, would be a huge improvement. The frame rate struggles at times, particularly in areas where the game is “busier”. This with a few of the graphical glitches mentioned earlier take the focus away from the platforming and adventuring at times.
So, did Blue Fire give me… Umbrage?
Blue Fire is a good game with, as usual for me, a few caveats. The platforming is sharper than my earlier witty repast. Which fans of earlier games will love, but fans of more modern games will find frustrating to the point of putting the controller down and walking away. The difficulty settings focus more on combat than the platforming and this is definitely a game where dying matters.
The story is intriguing, but very little is given away until necessary and the side quests provide a lot of opportunity for a lengthy and enjoyable tale. This, along with the beautifully crafted worlds laid before us give the player plenty of playthrough. With a completion time of around 13 hours, this is considerably longer for completionists. There is an element of replay value, but for most this wouldn’t be the case.
- Beautiful world and characters
- Well designed levels
- Rewarding challenges for those who persevere
- Backtracking at times detracts from the exploration
- Lack of in game maps makes exploration frustrating
- Some minor technical issues can remove you from the moment