By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on February 9, 2021
The ancient and forgotten world of Penumbra is in a very sorry state, ladies and gentlemen. The old gods have fallen silent and things are falling apart at an alarming rate. Now, usually in these sort of situations, a truly mighty hero rises just at the right time and sets off on an epic quest to save the world and what's left of its inhabitants...
Luckily, this is also the case in Blue Fire, an action-platform game developed by Argentina-based indie developer Robi Studios and published by Graffiti Games. The hero in question, however, might not actually look very mighty. Quite on the contrary, actually, he looks a bit scrawny (he actually reminded me a bit of the hero in Hollow Knight). Nevertheless, this is the hero that has awakened to save us all, so let's not look a gift horse in the mouth, shall we? And pretty soon after meeting our him for the first time, it seems there is more to this tiny protagonist than we initially thought. What he lacks in height, he more than makes up for in courage. Our hero sets off to restore some semblance of happiness and joy to the grim world of Penumbra. To do so, he must fight vile enemies and overcome truly challenging platform challenges.
The latter of the two will make up the majority of the game. You will be running, jumping, dashing, double dashing, twirling and wall-running your way through countless challenging platforming sections, the toughest of which are locked away in so-called Voids. These arena-like challenges are a level within a level and challenge you as a player to overcome the most intricate and, at times, ludicrously challenging platforming sections I have seen in quite a while. One little slip-up in a void means starting the entire damn thing all over again. Yes, dear readers; while the game itself has certain checkpoints, these Voids don't have a single one. You either finish them or start over. So, why should you finish them? Well, if you manage to do so, you will earn an additional heart for your health bar, which comes in really handy in this danger-fraught world, where the enemies aren't the only thing that damages you.
The main objective is quite straightforward; there are five temples in which the five old gods are trapped by an evil entity. It is your job to clear the corruption that infests said temples and overcome all the dangers Penumbra can throw at you. When you have done so, you will free the god that was trapped in that temple and you're all set to tackle the next one. During your adventure, however, you will come across a number of survivors that also have side quests for you to complete. Doing so will earn you valuable items that will help you on your quest. Now, seeing as how you just woke up, you aren't strong enough to brave every danger out there, and that's why the gods have seen fit to leave all sorts of helpful items across the realm, one of which are spirits.
When collecting a spirit, it will be placed in your inventory. Each of these spectral helpers will grant you an additional passive power and can be equipped by placing it in a spirit slot. When you start out on this adventure, you will only have two spirit slots, but you can always unlock more slots by spending ore, which serves as the in-game currency. Same goes for Fire Essence. This helpful element will allow you to replenish your health when you're running low. For this, you'll need a fire essence container which, at the start of your quest, can hold two Fire Essence orbs. Upgrading this container will mean you'll be able to carry around more Fire Essence, enabling you to replenish your health more often before needing to gather new Fire Essence. Another thing that is good to upgrade is your purse, which holds the ore you've collected. The more ore you can carry, the more stuff you can buy at various merchants around the world.
As is to be expected, you'll run into doors along the way. Some of these doors can be simply opened by the press of a button, while others require a key to open. You'll find keys and other helpful items hidden in chests that are scattered across the world, so keep an eye out for them and be sure to open every chest you can get your tiny hands on. Keys come in two varieties: the run-of-the-mill normal key and the Holy key, which is a lot more rare and is needed to unlock some chests or locked doors. These doors or chests usually lead to a more special item or an area that holds certain rewards when completed.
There's one thing that had me a bit stumped when I started playing the game. Before playing, it was my understanding that Blue Fire was to be a single player only game. When I started playing, this was proven to be true, so you can probably understand my confusion when I came across a magical statue that offered me a brand new emote... for the right price, that is. Wait... what? Why in the ever-loving hells would I need an emote in a single player game? Should I wave at enemies before smashing them to pieces? This makes no sense! Well, it does actually make sense, seeing as how you can find greyish-blue panels on your travels, each depicting a certain emote. When performing the correct emote on the correct panel, you'll get a reward, and not a trivial one at that.
If there is one thing that still puzzles me about Blue Fire, it has to be the fact that the game tries to be a lot of things at once, without actually excelling in anything else but providing a truly awesome platforming experience. The fighting, which could have been excellent, falls a bit flat. The enemies you come across on your travels aren't that hard to defeat and they almost feel like an afterthought and more of a slight nuisance that a real threat. I personally think that the game wouldn't have suffered one bit by removing the enemies and replacing them by some additional mechanical or, if you're so inclined, magical death-traps. Also, the basic story is there, but some more depth to it would have been nice. It's not that these things are bad, but they just feel a bit on the light side when compared to the platforming elements.
All in all, Blue Fire is a really, REALLY fun platform game, featuring a grim but beautifully crafted world and some excellent platforming mechanics. And while one must recognize that Blue Fire isn't a game everybody will love, it has a lot of heart, just like its small protagonist. So if you're into challenging action / platforming games, please do yourself a favor; get out your best running shoes and dash, jump, glide, twirl and slash your way through this challenging adventure. Get out there and vanquish the shadowy forces that threaten the old gods of Penumbra!