Since buying a Nintendo Switch early last year, I will admit I have not offered it a fair chance to woo me the way it has so many others. In the late 90s and the early turn of the millennium, I was brought up solely on PlayStation, and as my interests matured, discarding the unnecessary, childish fanboy-ism, I welcomed Xbox and company as well. However, aside from my coveted memories of Pokémon on the Gameboy and the Nintendo DS, I never fully embraced Nintendo’s first-person videogames the same way I did series’ like Ratchet & Clank or Crash Bandicoot (which had prior always been associated with Sony), cringing at the sight of the prodigious plumber and his colorful comrades. Experiencing Blue Fire won’t do anything at all to change that, but, on the bright side, at least I played it on the Nintendo Switch and it vaguely looks like Link’s Awakening.
Developed by ROBI Studios and published by Graffiti Games, I did not know a lot about Blue Fire prior to purchasing my copy off Nintendo’s eShop for twenty bucks. What I did know, I saw from the trailers and small tidbits and testimonials I had come across, dubbing it a cross between Legend of Zelda and Hollow Knight. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed Hollow Knight, which, I feel, borrowed elements of the Souls-like subgenre, and did something new and unique with them, amounting to one of the best Metroidvania side-scrollers on the market.
Unlike Hollow Knight, Blue Fire is not a side-scroller, but, in-fact, a 3D experience, blending elements of platforming and action role-playing, for an experience that feels very ambitious for the ROBI Studios newcomers. I appreciate that, and I respect that. As I talked about at some lengths with Right Nice Games, the developers of Skylar & Plux, developing a 3D platformer is one more dimension, a million new variables to take into account. A lot of new things can go wrong, and it is something even big-budget studios sometimes have a lot of trouble with.
Blue Fire’s visuals influences are wore on their sleeve, in fact, with the added costume-design choices provided, one can further cement the Link comparisons by donning a green tunic. Although elements were familiar to the mere genre itself, playing with my wife, she repeatedly compared certain puzzle design choices to Mario 64, amongst others.
The graphics are certainly budgeted, but they are charming and feel inspired, comprising a small-world filled with colorful, goofy characters and the small interactions you have with them.
I had a lot of affection for Blue Fire’s basic interface – the platforming is challenging, particularly in the special mystical temple areas, which allowed a frustrating, albeit memorable experience. The “Souls” experience system is well deployed, and, especially for a indie game developer, the 3D presentation is a surface level success. Perhaps a little floaty with our protagonist, but, otherwise, solid overall. I enjoyed the small array of special abilities and powerups used in your progression, and, frankly put, Blue Fire has charm to spare.
Unfortunately, the setbacks for Blue Fire greatly outweigh everything in its favor. One refrain my wife and I repeatedly found ourselves making was that we had never loved such a flawed videogame so much. But, by the end of it, our attitude became – we had never tried to love such a flawed videogame so much.
Blue Fire is brimming with glitches, most of which can be plainly seen in the platforming. There’re instances where the camera-angle spazzes out, and other times when the platforms beneath your feet fall in like illusory walls. Some exchanged between enemies are problematic in-general, with characters firing at you, and sending you flying off into the sunset. Couple that in with a camera-angle that is, often functioning, but other times easily overwhelmed and sent in a tizzy.
In a smaller, sillier example, I can recall traversing a level and magically going through a large-gate, and being able to skip a small portion of the game (I didn’t, of course). But, in a more damning example, after being defeated in a boss battle, it was discovered our “potions” or “flasks, or whatever you want to call them, no longer replenished. This meant that, thereafter, we had to progress through the videogame without health, amounting to what was, in truth, a game-breaking glitch. Furthermore, I had playthroughs of Blue Fire where I was unable to progress more than fifteen minutes at a time without the game crashing and kicking me out.
What’s good for newcomers is, rest assured, Blue Fire will most likely be patched in someway. The small nuances I discovered will likely be left by the wayside, forgotten and, probably, forgiven. For the most part, I don’t have a lot of sour grapes about that. Even when it is a product I paid for, I try to have empathy and offer consideration with what I write. I can forgive an indie developer like Blue Fires’ more than than I can a Triple-AAA developer like Cyberpunk 2077’s for the occasional blunder. Empathy does have limits, however.
Although Blue Fire will likely come together and improve upon itself, I did not signup to be a beta tester, and I feel consumers have a right to a more finished product. The same way I can forgive the occasional typo or formatting error from a smalltime writer’s novel, or bad effects in a low-budget indie flick, I can forgive a lot in the videogame realm. However, for Blue Fire, I think it might have one too many tallies in the wrong column at the moment. Maybe I will check it out again in a couple months and see how things have improved.
In the end, Blue Fire has a lot of promise and potential, and, even now, there is fun to be had. The sheer amount of glitches, software crashes, and nuances currently plaguing it, however, cast a black cloud over a lot of that promise and potential. I definitely think ROBI Studios caught my attention with Blue Fire’s entertainment-value and playability, but the other factors mean that that attention comes with an asterisk.