It’s always nice to be surprised by a game.
I’ve known about Wildfire for a couple of years now but I just never got around to giving it a go for some reason. Even after taking home an award PAX Aus’ Indie Showcase for “excellence in art” it just felt like something that wasn’t my cup of tea. Now, after playing the most recent Alpha build, I have nothing but regret because playing Wildfire has turned out to be one of the most fun and enjoyable experiences I’ve had playing a video game in recent memory.
As the game’s protagonist you begin the game searching for a meteorite that hasn’t crashed into Earth not too far from your village. Reaching it only moments before warriors from an unknown tribe arrive you touch the stone and through it gain the power to control fire. Hiding from the enemy you return to your village to find it empty and ablaze, without a soul in sight. And thus begins your quest; find your fellow villagers, return them all safely and if possible, do so without being detected.
The game is a series of a self contained 2D platformed areas that include elements to stealthily manoeuvre behind to avoid detection as well as sections that are combustable such as grass, vines and wood. Completing a stage can be as simple as getting through it without detection, others are more complicated and you’ll need to rescue one of your fellow villagers. There’s even a unique version of an escort style mission guiding a group of your friends to safety. There’s no one way to complete the levels either. Yes they can occasionally be blundered through with blind luck and speed but more often than not you’ll spend time making use of the game’s panning feature to explore the map and meticulously plan out and ultimately stuff up your attempt before you try again.
Each stage has additional and optional objectives that can be completed too. These come in a few different varieties, the standard stealth “complete without detection” along with the more tough “complete without restarting” as well as some more unique such as “don’t touch any water”. You’ll also find every stage to have a speedrun time allotted to it, which if you manage to complete the stage faster than awards you yet another optional objective complete. The game is definitely built for replay-ability and will have you wanting to revisit stages to tick off more and more boxes.
Beneath all of that is a robust skill tree system that allows you to grow and extend your powers that you advance through the collection of “brooch” strewn about the world. For instance the fire ability you’re given at the beginning of the game can be upgraded very early on to function as a smoke bomb and then for the fire you throw to bounce off of stone, each skill advancement adding to the possibilities of solving a stage in a different way.
Visually the game is gorgeous. If you’re a pixel art fan then jump in the Wildfire train because it’s as good as it gets, it won an award for it after all. There are some animations that look to be a little clipped or perhaps still in the “to-do” basket but being an Alpha it feels remarkably complete and any quibbles I have are extremely minor.
Complimented with a a beautiful score Wildfire whisked me away. I enjoyed every minute of it and completely lost myself in its puzzle, platformer, stealthy world. I can’t recommend you give it a go enough.
For those of you not particularly interested in watching me play through an hour’s worth, the video follows the same format as other “Raj plays…” with an intro, gameplay and my final thoughts. You can of course skip directly to those should you wish, coming in at the 73 minute mark.
Wildfire is due for release this year and will be available on PC via Steam; however should you wish to get your hands on the Alpha version straight away you can do so for A$20 over here.