Few things are more important to a 3D action platformer than having movement that’s both fun and responsive, and Blue Fire takes that fact to heart. Its assortment of agile abilities not only look great in action, but also offer the kind of precise control needed to overcome its demanding enemies and obstacles alike. While there’s a bit too much reliance on retreading familiar ground by the end, its array of treacherous yet addicting challenge rooms had me happily running, jumping, and dashing through them again and again.
At first glance, Blue Fire bears resemblance to what Hollow Knight might be reimagined in a 3D space. It’s got plenty of familiar ideas: quickly dashing between platforms in an all-but-abandoned kingdom full of dark monsters, piecing together your mysterious tiny warrior’s purpose in the world, and striking at foes while bouncing off their head with repeated aerial slashes. The few scattered survivors that aren’t trying to kill you will often have small tasks to undertake instead – quests that are actually tracked in your log, which is something I’ve always wished for in games with sprawling worlds like this one. You can even find and equip Spirits (Blue Fire’s take on Hollow Knight’s Charms) to modify and enhance your abilities to a near-ridiculous degree.
And yet, developer Robi Studios has built Blue Fire’s platforming mechanics in a way that feels tailored for 3D space, with a level of control that nearly always left me with no one to blame but myself whenever I met my demise. Your character’s quick mid-air dashes can be lengthened or stopped short at will, and lock-on targeting allows you to dash towards or away from foes at any angle. The inclusion of a small stamina bar for wall-running and jumping is a godsend when learning the limits of your parkour abilities, as most all surfaces are applicable – including weaving around pillars to jump at different angles. You’re only able to utilize one dash and double jump (unless you equip the right Spirits) each time you take to the air, which turns every platforming segment into a series of calculated decisions. Every area, every challenge room, and every boss fight makes clever use of its terrain (or lack thereof), pushing you to experiment with your platforming powers and figure out how to best come out on top. Certain encounters can line spikes along the walls to stop you from parkour past enemies, or limit your time on the ground with deadly shockwaves and hazards to make sure you’re constantly in motion to find relative safety.
Float Like a Sword-Wielding Butterfly
When you aren’t dodging spike traps or pits full of corrupted ooze, you’ll be strafing and zipping around shadowy creatures looking to tear you to pieces. With short combo attacks both on ground and in the air, your character can slice and dice with dual swords that can be swapped out for upgrades as you explore – but don’t expect to be able to take many hits in return. You’re only able to block attacks with the help of a shield spell that drains fairly fast – and also shares a mana pool with a quick and lightweight ranged fireball spell, so the best defense usually turns out to be moving quickly to avoid getting hit altogether.
Fighting these enemies also let me incorporate movement abilities in interesting ways. I could dash circles around sword swiping foes, or refill my midair dash and jumps by striking them from the sky, turning my diminutive fighter into a very agile and angry hornet. Fights never become crushingly difficult, but Blue Fire’s protagonist is remarkably squishy – so much so that even using a shield spell to guard melee attacks would knock me backward several feet, frequently sending me skidding off the narrow platforms I was fighting on. The impact of these attacks resulted in a comedic Looney Tunes moment of frantically dashing back into the fight before gravity kicked in. This might not have even worked were it not for the satisfying ability to do targeted dashes, allowing me to zoom straight up to floating adversaries otherwise out of reach and resulting in some very entertaining killstreaks.
Blue Fire builds slowly at first, as the foreboding tight corridors of the mysterious floating castle you start in open up into larger halls, varied environments, and bottomless pits aplenty. Initially I wasn’t really digging the fact that I had to pay just to unlock checkpoints where I could save and respawn, using one of a few different types of currencies gathered from tearing apart enemies and scattered debris. That currency is shared with upgrade unlocks, and at times it felt like I had to forego buying new attire, Spirits, or upgrades out of fear that I’d find myself exploring a new area only to die and lose my progress a few feet away from a checkpoint I was too poor to activate.
A few areas are locked away until you reach specific parts of the story, but most are instead gated behind enticing ledges, bridges, and platforms left just out of reach until you obtain the right movement abilities – be that an extra jump or a series of wallruns. By the end of my 12 hour adventure, I was practically able to fly across early areas that once had me carefully plotting every single jump. Once I found some very hidden equippable Spirits that enhanced my character with increased dashing length (on top of a second consecutive dash), a third jump, and more, it almost felt like cheating as I strafed circles around opponents and cleared rooms without ever touching the ground.Seeing these areas in a new light helped soften the blow of Blue Fire’s reliance on backtracking.
Temple of No Time
Early on, your pint-sized hero is occasionally asked to assist the gods – under assault in their own temples – in entertaining little mini-dungeons full of puzzle rooms, keys in chests, and locked doors leading to new abilities and corrupted bosses. While the Hollow Knight influence is clear elsewhere, these areas reminded me more of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker than anything else. One challenging yet fun room had me using my newly minted double jump to perform a treacherous climb up a series of moving and disappearing platforms to reach the top before a timer shut the door, and one wrong move would send me hurtling back to the start, but I was pleased to find I could quickly course correct with a dash or wall-run to salvage my progress.
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This deity-saving setup led me to believe I’d be helping out each of Blue Fire’s five gods in order to beat back the Shadow corrupting the castle, but to my dismay things quickly switched gears after only two temples. Once equipped with wall-running and double jumping, Blue Fire abruptly drops the dungeon idea in favor of seeking out three boss “shadow lords” directly. Instead of facing new contained challenges, this had me mostly returning to earlier regions to press previously inactive buttons or collecting orbs to unlock boss doors – even with upgraded movement tech refreshing these locations, it felt like an unexpectedly quick sprint to the finish. This pivot might have worked better if the first half of Blue Fire’s adventure lasted a bit longer, but I was happy to see at least one of the boss lieutenants had me searching through an unexplored region. And even in old locations, all the bosses proved to be a fun exercise in quickly dodging new types of attacks and putting my sustained aerial combat ability to the test.
Besides, as entertaining as Blue Fire’s enemies are, the optional challenge rooms called Voids steal the spotlight. Similar to Super Mario Sunshine’s secret levels or A Hat in Time’s Rifts, Voids test your platforming skills in the best possible way. From quickly hopping across tiny temporary platforms to wall-running and bouncing off blocks to dodge an array of killer buzzsaws and spikes, each Void presents a new trial to overcome – and makes you feel like a platforming paragon for beating them. Several Voids will have you running across more walls than the prince of Persia himself, and they generously increase your stamina to compensate for the amount of time you’ll spend before ever touching solid ground.
Completing Voids will boost your maximum health, and even if you don’t manage to make it to the end of one, collecting tokens along the way will let you unlock more Spirit slots – which means more chances to boost your parkour abilities to overcome that one seemingly impossible part of the gauntlet. Even after completing the story, I immediately dove back in to finish every last Void, especially to complete one I had been banging my head against for half an hour the first time I attempted it, as these things can be an excellent optional opportunity to push the limits of Blue Fire’s platforming mechanics.