I’m going to try not to wax nostalgic about the good ol’ days like I usually do when I’m reviewing a game that uses retro-inspired pixel graphics. But it’s not going to be easy, considering Wildfire from Sneaky Bastard Studio managed to remind me of my three favorite video game’s from my very first console, the original Nintendo. And how a developer managed to create a game that somehow took me back to my love of 8-bit Metal Gear, Dragon Warrior, and Bionic Comando is absolutely crazy. And the fact that it isn’t some kind of ayahuasca induced fever dream may be the craziest thing of all! This might make sense later, or it might not, but let’s move on before this gets weirder.
Wildfire is set in a fantasy world where the magic has all but died out. You play as a young woman who spotted a meteor crashing from the sky while out collecting a chicken for her village’s festival. The problem is the oppressing local forces of the Arch Duchess spotted it too. Our hero arrives at the meteor just ahead of the bad guys, and as Stan Lee has taught us, all crashed meteors give us superpowers. The powers, in this case, are elemental in nature which is especially terrifying for the villainous and superstitious regime of the Arch Duchess. This is the kind of group that screams ‘witch‘ whenever they see something they don’t understand. And their torches are never far away. Right on cue, when these guys see what our hero can do, they burn down her village and kidnap her people. So now it is up to you to harness all of the powers of the elements to sneak through each level, using the environment to your advantage as you try to rescue your fellow townsfolk and bring this oppressive regime to justice.
When I first saw the artwork and the screens for Wildfire, I was expecting a medieval world like the Dragon Warrior and Zelda games of my youth. What I got instead is a side-scrolling stealth action game closer to Metal Gear than The Legend of Zelda. You have no guns of course, but you can wield fire and water like a bipolar pyromaniac. As you level up, you’ll get the power to grab and throw fire, freeze water, or even rise to new heights by traveling in water bubbles. That’s not as weird as it sounds… okay, maybe it is.
If you meet certain criteria and manage to fill the shrines that you find in each level with either fire or water, you can upgrade that corresponding power at the end of the level. These levels are surprisingly short but can be played in a multitude of ways, which is part of the fun. The levels practically beg to be replayed as they have a ton of secondary objectives that will increase your score. Each level has a main objective like rescue at least 2 of your townsfolk or simply make it out alive, but the optional objectives are where the points are. These change for each level and range from burning 90 percent of the foliage on the screen, to not killing any bad guys, or not being seen at all. There is plenty more, including beating the level in under a certain amount of time. To that point, I think Wildfire will be a hit with the speedrunners out there.
That does not apply to me. I played as stealthy as I could and usually only killed on accident. The evil forces in the game really don’t like fire, and I shouldn’t be held liable if they fall off a cliff because they were scared witless by a little grass fire. Okay, maybe it wasn’t so little.
The levels are old-school beautiful, with grass that you can hide in, vines you can climb, cliffs you can hang from and shimmy across and almost all of it is flammable. I remember a particular scene where the ocean waves are breaking against this giant mountain and thinking about how this would have sent my ten-year-old imagination racing. I wish I could have played it then, but I’m glad I get to play it now. I did, however, get to play it briefly with my son via the couch co-op feature. So if you have a gaming buddy at home, this is another great reason to pick this one up.
The pace of the game is super fast and kept me playing longer than I expected every time I booted it up. After you finish each level, you’re taken to a map of this fantasy world that shows your current progression and where you still need to go. It’s like the medieval version of the plane flying across the map scenes in an Indiana Jones movie. The game isn’t overly long, but I had a lot of fun sneaking my way through this fantastic world. I’m surprised that a 2-D side-scrolling setting works as a stealth action game, but give Sneaky Bastards credit, because it absolutely does. Plus it turns out it is fun to play with fire.
Wildfire PS5, PS4 Review
Overall - Very Good - 7.5/10
Wildfire is a joy to look at and even better to play. The clever use of the environment and the many unique elemental powers makes sneaking through this beautiful world a total blast. Whether you want to go like medieval Snake like I did or wreak total havoc with your powers, the choice is yours. And the fact that you have a choice in a 2-D sidescroller is kind of amazing. If you like retro-looking games or games that do things a little different, then you should pick this up, because it does them both.
- This 2-D stealth side-scroller works because of the many and fun ways you can affect the environment
- Your element powers are fun to wield
- The pixel graphics are beautiful if you’re as into that like me
- Massive replayability and co-op
- The game isn’t overly difficult
- Some late levels grew tedious and repetitive
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 code on PS5.