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The Firemen (SNES) artwork

The Firemen (SNES) review

"Now I Have A Fire Hose Ho Ho Ho"

Die Hard has received numerous video game adaptations over the years. Some are good and some are bad, but who knew the best would be Human Entertainmentís The Firemen.

The Firemen opens with Pete and Daniel being called to the Microtech building on Christmas Day to battle a building fire that is consuming the high rise in the middle of New York City. Theyíre informed the company was developing a highly explosive new chemical called MDL that if ignited will destroy the building and a large chunk of the city along with it. Itís up to them to put out the fire before that happens.

While The Firemen is not based on Die Hard, itís hard to miss the similarities between the two. If you just replace the terrorists with a fire, they have pretty much the same plot. What makes The Firemen really endearing, however, is it frames our two heroes as just a couple of guys doing their job. They arenít attractive or well-built, but rather just a couple of everymen. Itís refreshing to see a game celebrate real-life heroes and present them in a realistic manner.

As its premise indicates, The Firemen is all about putting out fires. While putting out the fire is the primary objective, itís soon apparent that Pete and Daniel canít do it alone. The goal, then, is to reach the roof and destroy a water tank that will extinguish the rest of the flames. On the way to the roof, however, are seven floors of fire-filled rooms that you must extinguish with Peteís back-mounted fire hose. The hose can either fire a jetstream straight ahead or towards the ground. The former is used to put out large flames that can damage Pete while the latter is used to eliminate smaller flames that donít do any damage, but rather block movement. Later levels will really put your ability to switch between these two modes to the test as larger flames will create ground fire that can box you into an inferno.

Thankfully, Pete doesnít have to take on the fire alone. Daniel, an AI controlled partner, is along for the entire ride and his presence makes a potentially frustrating game a very fun one. Not only is Pete invincible and thus able to take a lot of hits for you; he also rushes in to take out a lot of the larger flames with his axe. The AI is really good about focusing on the most dangerous flames and pointing out which flames to tackle in each room first.

Speaking of the fire, The Firemen might be the first game Iíve seen where the flames have personality. The game starts with small stationary flames, but soon introduces fire that moves across the level, spawns smaller flames that seek out Pete or even create small explosions. All of this culminates in six boss fights that take place throughout the building. They begin rather simply with just a large flame that moves around a room to the end boss being almost like a bullet hell shooter boss that spews flames while attempting to box you in with ground fire. The bosses are excellently designed as they only push you to your limit without stepping over the line into unfair or frustrating territory.

The levels themselves are a reflection of real building fire conditions with falling beams blocking passages, opening doors creating backdraft and floors on higher levels falling through due to structural damage. I was really impressed by how far the game went to really sell the idea of navigating a burning building and how many of the dangers that come with fire usually isnít the fire itself.

For a later SNES title, I found The Firemen to be a very visually attractive game. While you could argue that the game looks a little too cartoony, I personally found the small squat character sprites to be very charming, and the faces that appear on the intercom during conversations are well realized. The fire itself is animated very well as it moves realistically across burnable surfaces. The game is also visually varied as each stage presents a different part of the building from a boiler room to office spaces so as never to get stale.

The Firemen is an easy recommendation not only because of its endearing characters and fun gameplay, but also because itís relatively short clocking in at under an hour. While that may seem like a detriment, the game does score you on each stage for the percentage of fire put out so it can be fun to play multiple times to go for 100 percent extinguishment. Unfortunately, the only English language version of The Firemen available is a pricey PAL cart, but itís worth a play if you can get your hands on it.


Phazonmasher's avatar
Community review by Phazonmasher (June 20, 2017)

Zach Walton likes JRPGs, visual novels, horror games and anything that gives him an excuse to drink.

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