While sorting through my ridiculous Steam backlog, I found myself wandering as far back as 2021 for games I have long intended to look at for Buried Treasure. Between the many misses I played, I took a look at firefighting platformer Nuclear Blaze, entirely unaware it was developed by Sébastien Benard, former lead developer on Dead Cells. And it’s a huge amount of fun.
This is a game about being a firefighter, who stumbles his way into a secret military base that’s so very on fire. Instead of a gun you have a hose, and instead of enemies (for the most part) you have flames. Yet it plays so much like a 2D action platformer, packed with challenges and burning ceilings.
Much of the game is about trying to control the spread of fire in any given location, using your own limited water supply (topped up at tanks), and solving puzzles to switch on sprinkler systems. There’s also a whole side-story about rescuing cats from secret locations, and even a subplot about enormous wasps. Along the way, you gain new abilities that make exploration and firefighting both more fun, but always with forward progression: this is no metroidvania. Nor indeed is it a roguelite.
It’s a reasonably short game, perhaps two or three hours, but you don’t want to only play it once. On a second play-through from the same save, it’s a wildly different experience, with new locations, different challenges, and a whole bunch of other extras to find. The whole game completed twice, I was then able to jump back to specific levels to find any cats I’d missed, opening up yet another ending to the game. It’s a lot of value for money!
Nuclear Blaze handles fire in such an interesting way, having it spread relatively realistically, complete with backdraft if the conditions are correct when you bust open a door. You really have to give consideration when working out a way to remove all the fire from a large level at the same time, based not just on systems, but also on real-life physics.
I do wonder if this very brilliant game was passed over, or indeed underrated by the few reviews it received, because it’s not Dead Cells. For me, that’s its best feature! I desperately wish I were a fan of Dead Cells, but the game is astronomically too difficult for me, and despite repeated attempts, I’ve never managed to get anywhere with it. Here, Benard has taken a dramatically different approach, not only creating a straight, linear platformer, but with a wealth of difficulty options that allow you to tailor the game exactly to your desire.
The options let you tweak all sorts of features, like how much water you have in your tank, the speed with which fire spreads (or even stopping it spread at all), the amount of damage you take, and so on. These changes move a meter that shows you the level of challenge you’ve chosen (with the full bar only available on a second play-through). I found the game the most fun at the highest available difficulty, but for the final (and only) boss fight, where making the incongruous sequence as easy as it could be so it was over as quickly as possible. On top of all this, there’s a “Kid Mode”, which changes the level design and challenges to make the game open to children as young as 3! That’s amazing.
I’m bemused this got so little attention two years ago, especially given its pedigree, but then I missed it too so I’m just as to blame. But this is well worth grabbing! It’s tremendous fun, is a dramatically different game the second time you play it (in a way that really shows off Benard’s talent), and looks and sounds wonderful. Oh, and I’ve just discovered it’s coming to PlayStation and Switch next month!