On the surface 2021 for the Nintendo Switch appears to have kicked things off with a somewhat muted bang. While Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury has certainly been a welcome chance to revisit one of the plumber’s underappreciated adventures, noteworthy titles outside that come with a bit of a wait attached (Monster Hunter Rise and New Pokémon Snap not coming for another month or two for example). Leave it to the Nintendo eShop then to fill those gaps nicely with titles like Blue Fire, a delightfully devilish 3D platformer adventure game with plenty to offer.
In Blue Fire, you play as Umbra, a hooded warrior with the agility of a parkour specialist and the combat skills to back it up. Umbra awakens in the Penumbra, a ravaged kingdom corrupted by the Black Shadow leaving it to you to help a number of gods and defeat the darkness infecting the land. There’s an air of mystery throughout Blue Fire’s world and the tale being woven here and it’s this very aspect that kept me far more intrigued by it all than I thought I would be.
Rather than diving deep into the pool of a single genre, Blue Fire tries to dip in and out of several offering precision 3D platforming moments aplenty all encompassed in an adventure-style journey. Think of it like a mixture of Super Meat Boy, Hollow Knight, Prince of Persia, hell there are even elements of Dark Souls to be found in here too. In fact, Blue Fire quite clearly wear’s its influences on its sleeve, but manages to strike a great balance between them from it’s strikingly moody world to the highly satisfying platforming to the way the game teases areas you’ll no doubt return back to again later when the time is right.
Umbra’s movements are very snappy but never imprecise, your repertoire starting out with a simple jump, dash and slash attack (more on the latter in a moment). As you progress though you’ll soon upgrade your move set with the likes of double jumps, wall runs and other abilities to help you through the increasingly difficult playground of platforming obstacles. And boy do things get difficult, though never in a frustrating way and that feels largely down to how well Umbra feels to control. Sure, I found myself falling down a bottomless pit plenty but much likes games like Super Meat Boy, those failures simply pushed me to try harder. Getting around has its rewards too with various upgrades or even new costumes rarely too spaced apart and often encouraging you to try every route, break every vase and generally experiment with the environment.
Perhaps my favourite moments when playing Blue Fire were during sections known as Voids. These you’ll find scattered about Penumbra each one offering an enclosed platforming challenge where combat and exploration is removed from the equation. Instead, this is all about your ability to utilise your ever-growing abilities, chain moves together and traverse nightmarish platforming playgrounds. They’re hard as nails but easily a highlight of Blue Fire.
When you’re not leaping around or navigating the many corridors and large rooms of Penumbra, you’ll be partaking in combat and this is perhaps where Blue Fire stumbles. While that isn’t to say it’s bad, things can start to feel a little too simple and slashy as you lock onto enemies and dance about waiting for a chance to dive in and slice away. Compared to the excellent platforming and intriguing exploration, the combat doesn’t really feel as though it’s on the same level of satisfaction. Still, since the game never relies too heavily on the combat side of things, you never grow to truly hate it.
At first the game can feel a little daunting, your health low, enemies hard hitting and getting a sense of where you’re going or what you’re trying to accomplish rather foggy. As you best Voids, increase your health and start to unlock more abilities though, the game feels less punishing, the pieces of Blue Fire falling into place and its hooks well and truly in you.
Visually the game had me wondering if this might be what a Hollow Knight sequel might look like in a 3D world. It shares a lot in terms of atmosphere and design and just as I was a fan with that game so too, I find myself drawn in to the look of Blue Fire also. Unfortunately, I did run into a number of instances where the game would stutter and while far from game breaking, they can be a nuisance especially during combat or traversing sections that need super accurate movements. Disappointing sure, but it never managed to dampen my time with the game.
Blue Fire does a grand job combining fun 3D platforming with a Metroidvania-esque adventure whilst injecting other elements we’ve seen in a number of other franchises before it. While it might not stick the landed with everything it tries – the combat for one – the amount it does get right is enough to make venturing through Penumbra worth your time.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Graffiti Games