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Fire Fighter (Atari 2600) artwork

Fire Fighter (Atari 2600) review

"Come on, Come on! / Will I ever learn?"

Fire Fighter (Atari 2600) image

I've played dozens of Atari 2600 games over the last thirty years and fresh discoveries rarely surprise me anymore. The platform hosts an innumerable supply of score-attackers, each with a predictable set of rules and in-game variations. Each title also always includes a climb in difficulty with each subsequent stage and so many levels that it's all but guaranteed you'll perish before reaching the kill screen. Finally, Atari games pride themselves on intuitive design. For instance, if you see a ship at the bottom of the screen and creatures floating above that vessel, you can bet the game will play similarly to Space Invaders. Since everyone in human history has played that game, and even some late Neanderthals, getting into a fixed shooter like Demon Attack or Phoenix should be not task at all.

Of course, every standard has to have its rebels. Atari 2600 featured games like Dragonstomper--an actual RPG with a save function, and quite possibly the first console roleplayer--and the first-person bomb diffusing adventure London Blitz. Needless to say, these games were pleasant surprises, even if they weren't great. Now and then, though, I run afoul of an unpleasant surprise. To wit, Fire Fighter..

If you were hoping for a fast-paced score-attack title where you quench flames and rescue screaming citizens, then you brace for disappointment. Fire Fighter may not seem it at first, but the game is quite repulsive. You control a lone fireman attempting to rescue a frightened pedestrian from a burning building. Since this person is in full panic mode, he doesn't hold still. He'll appear in one window, freak out, disappear, reappear on another floor, vanish, materialize on the floor he came from, and continue this process until you've pulled your hair out. Thankfully, he remains on one level for a decent enough length of time for you to pull him through a window and to safety most of the time.

Meanwhile, burgeoning fires work to claim the tower before you can rescue the apparent PCP-head who can break through floors with his fists. Although the deck seems stacked against you, your strategy should be obvious: extinguish the inferno first, aim your ladder at the floor upon which Mr. Flailing Arms currently lies, and save the dude. The only problem is figuring out how to control Fire Fighter. Firing water at the flames is no biggie, and quashing the conflagration is beyond simple. Hell, I didn't trust the game once I put out the heat. I thought it was going to lure me into false sense of security and then ignite the whole damn structure and roast my objective alive. Thankfully, that never occurred.

The tricky part is aiming the ladder and extending it. If you don't have the instruction manual, then be prepared to toy around with Atari 2600's primitive control layout until you've discovered how to make these events transpire. You'd think that the control scheme shouldn't be hard to figure out, what with there only being one button on the controller. However, the truth is I had a hell of a time learning how to operate the stupid ladder. Once you've got it, though, all you have to do is climb to Mr. Wiggly and stand next to his floor's exterior. It's at that point he sobers up and darts towards you, allowing you to rescue him.

Fire Fighter (Atari 2600) image

Congratulations, you've just beaten Fire Fighter.


No, you didn't advance to "the next level." You beat the whole game. Fire Fighter consists of one brief stage that's over in minutes, even with the aforementioned control scheme woes. From there, you can try out other variations with shorter buildings that are "more difficult." The thought process behind this states that with fewer floors, it's more likely for the frazzled man to wind up barbecue. I tested this out and attempted the "most challenging" configuration and completed the game more quickly than I did in my first playthrough. Nothing besides the height of the immolated complex changes.

It's expected that Atari 2600 games lack content because they existed at a time when video games didn't provide much more than simple material fit for occupying a few minutes with friends. However, a product like Fire Fighter somehow managed to make a dearth of features a key complaint in an era when said features were already comparatively slim. I can't think of many Atari 2600 titles I've played where this is an issue.

Other than Dragster, of course...

Fire Fighter may have mostly capable mechanics, but the game is so minimal that it's utterly worthless. I would put it up there with Chase the Chuckwagon and Girls They Want to Have Fun in terms of how mind-numbingly shallow it is. I mean, did it not occur to the developer to shoot for multiple stages, perhaps with several people to save instead of just one? How about a building that burns more quickly? Alternate obstacles and perils?

I would implore you to avoid this game at all costs, but the truth is you stand only lose a few minutes of your life. Just the same, those are a few minutes that could be spent playing a quality product or even a more engaging Atari 2600 cartridge.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (January 05, 2016)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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