Developer: Deepnight Games | Publisher: Deepnight Games | Release Date: 2021 | Genre: Action / Adventure / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam
When a massive fire breaks out in the middle of nowhere, brave firefighters are quickly dispatched to the scene to bring things under control. As one of these firefighters, you are airdropped into the middle of the blaze and tasked with looking for survivors. However, the last thing you expect is to stumble across an unknown military facility, which by all accounts does not exist. Nevertheless, you have a job to do, and there might be survivors inside the facility. But, unfortunately, as you venture deeper into the mysterious complex, it quickly becomes apparent that it was used for clandestine purposes, and something worse than fire could be waiting for you in its depths.
Nuclear Blaze is the creation of Deepnight Games, aka Sébastien Bénard, who most indie fans will know from his work on Dead Cells while at Motion Twin. According to Sébastien, this unique game actually started as a game jam entry for Ludum Dare, where it received a lot of positive feedback. Although the entire firefighter theme was due to Sébastien trying to create a game that his three-year-old son could enjoy, it quickly transformed into something else.
With Nuclear Blaze, Sébastien has crafted a 2D firefighting game where your only “weapon” is your hose. Using this hose, players must extinguish all the fires in their vicinity, but care must be taken as their brave little firefighter can only carry a limited supply of water with him on his back. Fortunately, players can replenish this supply from the reserve tanks scattered throughout the facility, but if you run out before reaching one, you will have a bigger struggle on your hands.
Although Nuclear Blaze is a 2D platformer, it is not a Metroidvania title, and your progress through the military facility is relatively linear. Some upgrades can be found along the way, including the ability to aim your hose upwards and a dodge that can help you escape falling debris or other hazards. However, you won’t have to search very hard to find these and other upgrades. Each section of the base is also a self-contained level, so there’s no need for backtracking. Nuclear Blaze doesn’t introduce any enemies until right at the end of the game, so most of your time will be spent extinguishing fires. Usually, doing so is as easy as aiming your hose at them, but sometimes a bit of puzzle-solving is required too. For example, you might find fires burning near electricity or gas pipes that will resist your efforts to douse them. Instead, switches have to be located to shut them down, or valves found and rotated to turn them off. Sometimes there are also locked doors that need keycards or doors that can only be opened by finding and stepping on the corresponding buttons. Generally, you only have to put out all the fires in a level before you can continue to the next.
Extinguishing the fires is very satisfying, but they will continue to spread if not contained. So, while you are running around looking for a valve to turn on the sprinklers in an area, you might find everything on fire again when you return. You’ll also need to take care while going about your duties as burning debris can literally fall from the roof, and some doors hide huge backdrafts. It only takes one hit for your firefighter to lose their life on the default settings, but fortunately, the game is generous with its checkpoints. Thanks to your dodge roll and ability to use your hose as a shield, it is possible to escape unscathed from most situations, provided you are quick enough. However, players who prefer a more casual experience will appreciate the ability to tweak everything from the amount of armor you have to the power of your hose and how much water you can carry. If this wasn’t enough, the game even has a dedicated “kid mode” with easy levels, invincibility, infinite water, and auto-aiming.
When it comes to visuals, Nuclear Blaze does not disappoint with its beautiful pixel art. To enhance the retro look of the graphics, the game also features screen distortion like old CRT monitors had, vignetting, and scanlines. Of course, all of these can be disabled for players who want to enjoy the pixel art without the retro aesthetic. Nuclear Blaze makes good use of light and colors to give the levels a dark and ominous feel, and the glow of the fires, in particular, looks great. The audio hits all the right marks, too, with some nice synthesizer and guitar tunes complementing the feeling of loneliness and danger down in the depths of the military facility.
Although we really enjoyed Nuclear Blaze, it was a bit unexpected to see the credits just after the two-hour mark. Playing on the default difficulty settings meant there were a few tricky sections that required multiple attempts, but for the most part, we had no trouble completing the game. Apart from the fires, only one type of enemy appears in the game and only one final boss. The boss battle is actually quite enjoyable, and a few more along the same lines would have made the game even better. Thankfully, there is some replay value in the form of cats that need to be rescued and some “lore” to find. We don’t want to reveal too much of the latter as it puts a unique twist on the game and definitely motived us to go back and get all the achievements.
Overall, Nuclear Blaze is a great game that remains enjoyable from start to finish. It is a little shorter than we would have liked, but the budget-friendly price and optional cat rescuing definitely help. The kid mode is also a neat addition for younger gamers. Although Nuclear Blaze is a much more concise experience, it lives up to the standards set by Sébastien at Motion Twin, and we look forward to seeing what’s next from Deepnight Games.
- OS: Windows 7 and up
- Processor: 1 Ghz and up
- Memory: 2 GB RAM
- Graphics: Any decent GPU
- Storage: 200 MB available space