Blue Fire released on February 4th, 2021 by the Argentinian game developer Robi Studios and published by Graffiti Games always stuck out to me among the bigger budget games releasing around the same time. With the 3D platformer genre drying up in the last decade in exchange for third-person open-world adventure games, shooters or even indie Metroidvanias taking up a lot of the market. Despite this, I and many others have a large amount of nostalgia for the 3D platformer genre, with Mario, Sonic and Banjo Kazooie being iconic examples of such. Ever since A Hat in Time was released in 2017, I have been waiting to see another indie 3D platformer come along and try its hand at capturing the magic in the simplicity of platforming. Blue Fire is a very curious case when looked upon through that lens. The game has been released on Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Google Stadia and the version which I will be reviewing, the Nintendo Switch.
Story and Tone
The story and tone of Blue Fire are much darker than those examples listed above. The game is set inside a floating gothic castle and keeps to a very dark colour pallet for its tone. The kingdom of Penumbra has fallen to a dark force and it’s up to the player to attempt to free the kingdom by going deeper into the castle and finding out more about the history of the land.
The tone, whilst kept mostly dark, does have a good amount of levity through NPCs and secrets to find within the world itself. An example of such NPC is Orip, whom the player meets early on and who helps you progress through the game by fixing an elevator – a job which he seems overly enthusiastic to do, screaming about his love of elevators. The game also allows the player to gain a secret skin through a tricky platforming sequence which adds a lot of humour to the gameplay (hint: it makes your character much healthier, and edible).
The story and tone are not the most unique seen in gaming, especially indie games. A good portion of the game’s tone and method of storytelling holds similarities to games such as Hollow Knight and Ashen: exploring a corrupted, broken environment to slowly find more about the world and what has corrupted it. The story is kept mostly in the background within the game, allowing the gameplay take centre stage.
A mixture of combat and platforming is the best summation of the gameplay for Blue Fire. While the former is very bare-bones, the latter is very well executed. The combat mostly boils down to slashing with a sword by pressing one button, and eventually using an unlockable projectile that spends magic energy. These two elements alone make the combat simple but relatively effective, and eventually, a spin attack is added – which is used more for platforming than actual combat, due to the lift it gives you when using it. The combat works for what it is, but it feels like there could be so much more to it. The platforming on the other hand works very well. All the moves you’d expect from modern platformers are here: double-jumps, dashes, air-dashes, wall running and more. There is a definite looseness to these controls which works well with the environments called ‘voids’ which are where most of the platforming takes place.
The inspirations for this game are very apparent in two aspects: the voids, and the spirits system. The voids are separate realms made exclusively for platforming, similar to the ‘Floodless’ levels in Super Mario Sunshine or the ‘Time Rifts’ in A Hat in Time. These sections work excellently by providing more of a challenge for the player with spike walls, moving platforms and several other elements that allow for a good amount of variety in the platforming. The void stages also feature 30 collectible orbs each and add to the players health, which is a big incentive to complete them. The spirits system on the other hand allows for a great deal of customisation, serving as enhancements to the player’s abilities, such as an extra jump, increased dash distance, etc. This system is very similar to the charm system in Hollow Knight and works just as well.
Music and Audio
It’s difficult to place my feelings on the game’s soundtrack. Whenever the OST kicks in for boss fights or hub areas, it’s melancholy and appropriate. Nothing truly stands out, but it’s very fitting and enjoyable nonetheless. The biggest issue is a lot of the game does not have a soundtrack when it feels like it should, the main example of such being the void challenges, which feature no music at all. The fact that the more difficult of these challenges involve replaying the same sections over and over again without any music is perhaps one of the game’s weakest points.
Graphics and Visuals
The graphical style of Blue Fire shows a lot of promise, if being a little bit rough around the edges. The style stays consistent throughout and manages to keep up a gothic style while still allowing for a diverse colour pallet. The green of Stoneheart City, the red and brown of Firefall River and Steam House, and the monochrome nature of Fire Keep all show a good deal of variety. Blue Fire is hardly the most gorgeous game ever made but, for one made by a small studio, the visuals make the game more than worthwhile, and is something that could only improve with potential sequels from the developers.
Blue Fire is an intensely enjoyable game that has charm and passion put into it in spades. It certainly has a need for more polish, the version I’m using even capping off at 96.40% completion despite having done everything in the game (this will likely be patched as it has been on PC platforms). Despite these issues, I feel the game is certainly a worthwhile play and should last you somewhere between 10-18 hours depending on how much you would like to complete. I’d have high hopes if Graffiti Games and Robi Studios ever decided to make a sequel, having this game as a foundation from which they could easily create another great indie classic and a mini-revival of the 3D platformer genre which I and many others sorely miss.
Blue Fire is available digitally on most platforms for around £17.99, and for lovers of sleeper indie hits, I would highly recommend you give it a try.
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Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Robi Studios
Publisher: Graffiti Games