"Well, my nine-or-10-year-old mind had an absolutely FANTASTIC time wandering aimlessly through this maze and struggling through one action sequence after another, only to grab a couple of items, put them in another room and.....see nothing happen. I vaguely recall getting a clue once. That moment was so exciting, it shocked my body into puberty. And then I realized I'd lost my official Fireworld comic book, so that clue couldn't have been more worthless to me."
Growing up, if there was an Atari 2600 game that completely went over my head, it was Swordquest: Fireworld. Maybe part of it was my fault, as I tried to play that game long before I had a clue it was the second game of a proposed four-game series (of which only three were actually released with me only playing the first two). But most of it was Atari's for basically creating an intriguing adventure plot and giving players a half-hearted puzzle game where trial-and-error was more important than puzzle-solving ability.
Fireworld, like the other games in the series, came packaged with a comic book detailing the quest of twins whose parents were slain by an evil king due to a prophesy made by his evil wizard lackey. Out for justice, the kids had to go to the four elemental worlds to get artifacts necessary to put the villains out of commission. Really epic stuff. Too bad none of that could get into the game. Instead, we got a combination of the aforementioned poorly-designed puzzles and some worse-designed action sequences.
Basically, what you'd do is travel through a labyrinth of near-identical rooms and get taken to these action sequences where you'd be forced to partake in such scintillating exercises as catching falling demons in a box, dodging other demons or killing snakes. Do good enough for a long enough period of time and you'd get access to a treasure room with one or more items (or none). Here's where the puzzle solving comes into play. Your job is to pick up these items (of which you can hold six of the 16 present in the game at any time) and place them in the proper rooms. Doing so would get you a clue directing you to a particular panel in the comic book which would have a hidden word.
So, what was the purpose of all of this? Well, the Swordquest games were basically a contest held by Atari where people could send in each game's hidden words in order to be eligible for an expensive prize. According to that NEVER-INACCURATE bastion of knowledge, Wikipedia, if I'd been smart or lucky enough to do good at this game, I could have won a jewel-encrusted "Chalice of Light" valued at $25,000 back in the early 1980s. I could really use the cash I'd get for that thing nowadays. Sucks to be me.....
So, since I didn't have what it took to win the "Chalice of Light", what did I get out of Fireworld? Well, my nine-or-10-year-old mind had an absolutely FANTASTIC time wandering aimlessly through this maze and struggling through one action sequence after another, only to grab a couple of items, put them in another room and.....see nothing happen. I vaguely recall getting a clue once. That moment was so exciting, it shocked my body into puberty. And then I realized I'd lost my official Fireworld comic book, so that clue couldn't have been more worthless to me. Around that time, I realized I didn't like this game one bit and that was the end of that chapter of my life.
Fireworld was essentially just like the other Swordquest games in that it was just too ambitious for its system. If you read the comic book, you'll get this epic tale of deception and revenge that's enough to inspire any pre-teen or teenage boy to dreams of greatness. And then, you put down the book and get to clumsily plod through a handful of dull, frustrating action sequences to move items from one room to another over and over again until you get it right. Quite the letdown, if you ask me.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (August 07, 2008)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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