Game: Nuclear Blaze
Genre: Action, Platformer
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam (Windows & Linux) PS4 and Xbox)
Developer|Publisher: Deepnight Games | Red Art Games
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US Everyone
Price: US $14.99 | UK £13.49 | EU € 14,99
Release Date: April 28th, 2023
Review code provided with many thanks to Red Art Games.
Fire in the Video Game
Nuclear Blaze is a 2D action platformer where you play a little firefighter on a mission to extinguish the biggest fire of his career. I was instantly attracted to the game as it comes from the creator of Dead Cells, a title that I put a horrific amount of gameplay hours into on Switch and later PC, so many my wife was considering having me sent away to some Dead Cells addiction centre. Nuclear Blaze is nothing like Dead Cells, which will please the roguelike haters out there. This, instead, presents a more simple platform experience that’s exploding with originality and charm. This game is on fire in a very good way.
The Mystery of Site 16
Something hot has gone down at Site 16, time to call in the fire department to put out an enormous blaze that has erupted from the facility. As one of the team, you are dropped into the blazing inferno, starting off with your fellow firefighter, but before you know it you’re all alone in the facility itself. The facility is home to a laboratory which hides an unexpected secret that slowly unravels as you make your way through the game. As you make your way further through the lab, the radio chatter from your team slowly becomes audible, creating a sense of isolation. You’ll also find hidden notes giving you faint clues to the secrets hidden within. It’s not enough to cause the horror vibes, but it’s a design that really had me glued to the game, eager to press on and discover what I would discover. The overall tone is family-friendly, so consider this a safe game to have on with kids about.
The game is brought to life with a detailed pixel art style that feels familiar. But thanks to the game’s fire effects which flow off the level surfaces, there’s a unique flame to its design. The soundtrack feels retro in its feel, like something from the GameBoy era, but it suits the mysterious tone. The game’s performance was excellent in TV and handheld modes.
Hose it Down
Nuclear Blaze feels a lot like a traditional 2D platformer. The main enemy of this game is fire. You will encounter other adversaries, but I won’t spoil that here. All you need to know is most things can be defeated with your handy power hose. Levels will be covered in glowing layers of flame. To process through locked areas, you must extinguish all the fires in an area. On the base difficulty, this is not as simple as it seems. Fire will rage, sometimes falling from the ceiling and exploding out of doors. Even after hosing it, if you’re not fast, it will spread around the level, adding a sense of urgency to the situation. It is not all bad; you can activate sprinkler systems to make areas permanently safe. The facility has a shocking amount of water points to keep your hose topped up.
If nothing else, this weird place thought hard about fire safety. A single hit and the fire firefighter falls; he doesn’t die just says ‘ouch’, a touch I really liked. Checkpoints are pretty generous and not too far away. Figuring out the best route is quite rewarding. Most important is the game never relies on the same troupes. Levels are well varied, with new features added at a fast pace. It does mean the overall game is quite short, but it feels fulfilling to the degree I would happily replay it again. The levels are small and contained, but if you choose to explore, you can rescue some hidden cats. Finding them all will reward you at the end of the game.
You begin as just a standard firefighter with basics such as only shooting your hose straight and jumping. As you progress, you unlock many more abilities like dodge rolling, aiming your hose more precisely and dousing yourself in water. I had a small niggle with this ability, as you need to aim down and fire to activate it. When opening a door that welcomes you with a ball of fire, it is sometimes hit or miss if this ability activates. Mapping it to one button would have made it more comfortable.
After completing the main game, which took me around 6 hours, you unlock ‘Hold My Beer’ mode. This essentially reworks the main game. Unlocking your abilities much earlier but changing the various aspects of the level design like adding more fire, more hostiles and other surprises. It’s a much tougher experience but a welcome one. Should the difficulty be a bit much in either mode, the game allows you to tweak various difficulty settings, including hose power and hits you can take before failing. You can tailor the game to what’s comfortable for you without any penalty to the overall experience.
Another charming mode is Kid mode. A series of levels where you just put out some fires while collecting cats. You can’t fail in these levels unless you just quit. The developer reveals this was simply designed for their 3-year-old. As a parent, this warmed me to the experience further. My boy is far too young for video games, but hopefully, I will be able to revisit this one with him in the future.
Conclusion: Sets Your Heart Ablaze
I really liked Nuclear Blaze. On its surface, it seems like a pretty standard platformer. But this is a game that doesn’t waste the player’s time. There was never a moment where I felt bored or felt the mechanics had outstayed their welcome. The game’s pace feels spot-on, keeping levels tight to the point and adding new abilities at the right spot. Even the difficulty is just the right challenge to keep you hooked without becoming overly frustrating. This was a game I didn’t want to put down. It set my heart ablaze, and I could not recommend it enough for all audiences.
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up