Why do something new, when it can be done well? Blue fire jumps from shoulder to shoulder across various game giants, but does it so smoothly and acrobatically that the lack of innovation ends up not being important.
Let’s play the point-to-point game for a bit. Blue Fire initially has the impression that it is several 3D Legend of Zelda dungeons knit together to form a game world. It straddles the same lines of being cutesy and character, but also underground and menacing. You can lock enemies down with the shoulder buttons, and you hack and dodge like a hidden link, all with the camera slightly above and behind you, as if carried by a floating Navi.
But while combat is clearly an element of Blue Fire, that’s not the goal. Sprawling dungeons are a series of platforms that are incredibly out of reach, waiting for you to unlock new abilities or have the courage to park on various stepping stones and ledges to get there. It’s an open world where you’re channeled and locked down initially, but flourishes towards the end of the game, similar to a Metroidvania. It’s more like the Prince of Persia reboot, if you were cursed for living in a chibi body, or Hollow Knight reinvented as a 3D world.
But then you die and other influences from the game appear. In the early stages of the game, death will kick you right off the bat, and you’ll have to run through the same areas, jumps, and enemies to get back to your ghostly corpse and collect your tokens and drops. It’s a Like souls game, and it forces you to become adept rather than relying on checkpoints or lives. You can buy new checkpoints, but they share a currency with character upgrades, so you make some tough decisions about whether to buy a safety net or some awesome new ability.
There are voids to explore, which unfold like A hat in time Rifts: separate levels dedicated to skills such as wall running or aerial rushes. They give tokens for upgrades and a health boost at the end, and they’re some of the best times in Blue Fire. Being wimps, we were happy that death meant a restart of the void, rather than a return to the start of the game, and they were both extremely difficult but achievable at the same time, with a huge payoff.
The latest game comparison isn’t what we expected. In the end, when we were loaded with ridiculously over-the-top, overpowering improvements called “spirits,” the world was no longer a challenge for us. We were able to walk through areas that would have taken fifteen minutes to explore previously. Blue Fire started to feel like Repression, as we jumped through the arenas in one bound and remembered how painful they were on day one.
Of all these influences, the most resonant is Hollow Knight. Blue Fire is tonal similar, taking a traditionally family kind of playing and pouring tar all over it. Blue Fire is a lonely and brutal game, strewn with corpses and full of spiky shadows that want to disembowel you. While Hollow Knight was in 2D, the leveling systems, thorny difficulty, intricate bosses, and platforming make Blue Fire and Hollow Knight siblings.
Our Blue Fire fun graph would have been interesting. Our first hour was a bit of a mess. While playing on Xbox Series X | S, strange graphics issues (ironically resembling a blue light, rising up from the bottom of the screen) kept flashing on the screen and the game was shutting down in platform sections . Diving into the Discord community, this was a widespread and known issue, so we had to retreat to our old Xbox One to get around them. If you own an X | S series, these issues were still there for us, but would randomly ease or get worse on reboot. Playing around with the graphics settings may mitigate it, but we got bored and switched to One. You might want to wait for an inbound patch before playing Blue Fire.
Blue Fire was also a bit hostile in the opening sections. There wasn’t much of a capacity gap between us and our enemies, as a shield is on a short stamina bar, and being hit sent us like we were Wile E. Coyote on a rocket. Dying sent us to the start and the enemies reappeared, so we were faced with the same challenges with the same tools, so our only option was to get good. Much of the world was inaccessible without abilities, and – while everything looks and feels good – there was nothing we would have qualified as satisfactory. We also walked into the cold, not knowing that Blue Fire was Souls-like, which was off-putting.
But after some improvements, the health of the voids improves, Blue Fire has become a joy. The midsection is when Blue Fire is at its peak. Moving on to sewers and forestry sections with our first substantial upgrades, Blue Fire does it all. Ninety-nine percent of the time a platform failure is your fault with only the ledge grip being slightly inconsistent. Combat is smooth and intuitive, as you begin to launch battles through the air, juggling and rushing through enemies. And exploring the nooks and crannies of Blue Fire’s world is the best of the bunch, as they’re teeming with secrets, emotes, voids, and more.
It is in these latter sections that Blue Fire stumbles. Rather than offering new areas or biomes, the final third of the game forces you to revisit the opening sections of the game. This is mostly a shame because we have become used to a boss meaning a whole new level and biome. There was real greatness in roaming an area, conquering it and then defeating your boss, and the prospect of five bosses – and five separate lands – was exciting. Seeing the roles turn and three bosses suddenly and quickly offered and then defeated was a disappointment.
But for nine hours we were in the area. Blue Fire, once you’ve reached the point where your skills (whether through upgrades or your own abilities) begin to exceed the challenges on offer, can make you feel like a platform colossus. You roam environments, taking down enemies in a storm of dodge and blade. At best, it’s a piece of the game’s gold.
Blue Fire is a magpie with an impeccable taste. It’s taken some of the best bits from some fantastic games, and it’s hard to play without being brought back to the days of Hollow Knight, Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and Souls-type games. But while it may be familiar, it has panache at its fingertips, and all of those platforming, combat, and Metroidvania elements come together to form something smooth and enjoyable. It doesn’t quite maintain the momentum until the end, and there are some significant visual bugs on the X | S series, but Blue Fire burns brightly for the first two-thirds of its run.
You can buy Blue Fire for £ 16.74 from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X | S. It should be noted that there are significant graphics issues present when playing on the X | S series, so it might be worthwhile to wait for a fix before jumping into Blue Fire.
Why do something new, when it can be done well? Blue Fire jumps from shoulder to shoulder across various game giants, but does so so smoothly and acrobatically that the lack of innovation ends up not being important. Let’s play the point-to-point game for a bit. Blue Fire initially gives the impression that it is several Legend of Zelda 3D dungeons knitted together to form a game world. It straddles the same lines of being cutesy and characterful, but also underground and menacing. You can lock enemies with the shoulder buttons, and you hack and dodge like a masked Link, all with the camera…
Blue light examination
Blue light examination
- A dark and dull game world that invites exploration
- Smooth platform and combat
- Upgrades make you ridiculously overpowered
- Fantastic empty sections that test your rig
- May feel too familiar
- The last third is a drop in quality and content
- Thank you very much for the free copy of the game go to – Graffiti Games
- Formats – Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Switch, PC, Stadia
- Version reviewed – Xbox One
- Release date – July 9, 2021
- Introductory price from – £ 16.74