Developer: Robi Studios
Publisher: Grafitti Games
Genre: Adventure, RPG, Action, Platformer
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Also available on PC)
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 04/02/2021
A code was provided for review purposes.
After seeing footage of the precise platforming of Blue Fire, the debut title from Robi Studios, I was instantly drawn towards the haunting world of Penumbra. Full of puzzles, platforming and action, is the Nintendo Switch version of this 3D Platformer worth playing?
A Link To The Past
I began my time in Penumbra by awaking from a deep slumber. Instructed by Von, the only surviving fireguard, I was tasked with claiming the “Secret Power of the Guards”. With an introductory pan through a red goo-infested stone corridor, I was instantly reminded of the Blight Infestation (that’s the purple goo) in Breath of the Wild. In fact, very much of Blue Fire shows a strong influence from Zelda. With its dark fantasy world, visually I was reminded of Ocarina of Time.
Castle gardens and stone tiles have an instant familiarity with the twenty-year-old Zelda title but the additional particle effects and lighting bloom brings this classic style up to modern standards. Overall, the dark fantasy environments and storytelling works well enough and definitely uses a tried-and-tested approach. Whilst not pushing any boundaries, I enjoyed viewing the world of Penumbra. Unfortunately, navigating this world wasn’t quite as fun.
Quickly into the game, the linear shafts, corridors and sewers open up into vaster, more open areas. While the scale of these areas is visually impressive and full of detail from top to bottom, I very quickly lost track of my surroundings and longed for a map. Unfortunately, Blue Fire tasks the player with remembering how to get from location to location so I spent a lot of time backtracking. That being said, I did discover fast travel whilst interacting with the stone shrines scattered across the world and Graffiti Games were kind enough to send me an official PDF guide (you can download this from their site here) but I feel that more help from within the game would greatly improve the experience.
Enter The Void
During the times when I knew where to go, traversal in Blue Fire was a treat. My favourite part of the game are the Voids. Leaving the open world, these sections behave like a linear platformer. Without enemies and a traditional “arrive at point B by starting at point A” design approach, I loved sliding, wall running and bouncing over moving platforms whilst simultaneously avoiding deadly spikes. These Voids are positioned all around the world of Penumbra and by reaching the end of them, I was awarded an extra heart to aid me in combat encounters.
Speaking of which, combat – whilst not revolutionary – works well enough with a simple parry and attack system. Staying alert, I found melee and (most) boss encounters beatable. However, when encountering attacks from enemies at a long-range – even when jumping and dodging away – an enemy’s bolt of light suddenly hit my poor character Umbra. This caused them to ragdoll down the side of mountains and buildings before the dreaded “game over” screen appeared.
Cruelty of Checkpoints
At the time of writing, I’ve spent fifteen hours in Blue Fire with the final third of my playtime spent on my (unsuccessful) attempts to beat two bosses. I’m all for a challenging game but I found the boss encounters overly frustrating. The game is equipped with a healing button but this process made my character stop attacking, stand on the floor and freeze for a few seconds before the healing animation completed. As such, I found myself swiped into fiery death-bringing lava when my health was at a critically low point. Upon respawning from death, I arrived at my last-visited checkpoint shrine. With no manual or boss-area saving, instead of getting straight into the action, I was forced to relive the pre-boss platforming section over and over again. The design and attack cycles of the bosses were very well made which made these shortcomings even more disappointing.
As I was unable to finish the game, it seems unfair to award a final score to Blue Fire. Though full of fun writing, a detailed world and excellent platforming, the sparse checkpoint system and unguided exploration dampened my enjoyment. Blue Fire is the debut title from Robi Studios and many areas show a lot of promise so I look forward to seeing what this indie team creates next.
You can purchase Blue Fire for £17.99 on the Nintendo eShop
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.