You can throw a stone at any digital gaming marketplace and find a dozen indie games that play with expectations or tell fascinating stories of love and loss. Fire Tonight attempts to spin a death-defying tale of two hipster 20-somethings who spend an evening escaping a fire engulfing their small college town. While this sounds charming in theory, it misses the mark on a lot of what makes indie games special.
Fire Tonight centers around two main characters, Maya and Devon. Still at the infancy of their relationship, these two gab on the phone until Maya’s phone is abruptly disconnected by a blown transformer outside her apartment. Thus begins the fire that is the impetus for her adventure to reunite with Devon across town. If the land line situation wasn’t a dead giveaway, Fire Tonight is set in the ’90s and revels in its nostalgic references. More than a wink and a nod, it’s more like a dump truck full of Tamagotchis and Walkmen. Nostalgia can be a powerful influence when used to enhance a story, but here it feels more like the main source of humor and loses its luster quickly even with a short run time.
Making your way to Devon requires navigating Maya through simple mazes around her neighborhood. Maya must navigate multiple threats that loom including walls of flames, police officers, and even a series of canals. It’s very simplistic gameplay with occasional keys needed to progress or the need to use your Walkman and turn up the tunes to calm some fiery obstructions in your path. This mechanic has a slight annoying wrinkle, and eats up batteries to use, so any time you’d like to use it, you have to dig in the trash for replacements. It feels like an unnecessary hindrance used to inflate run times as opposed to enhancing the puzzle mechanics (or lack thereof.)
Between these Maya levels, you get interludes where you are in Devon’s apartment, tasked with clicking and interacting with them for flavor text. Again, this seems like a perfect opportunity to inject flavor and characterization, but it actually feels more like 90’s pandering with a big helping of “remember this?” Devon does respond with a little bit of personal info to each item but it rarely feels like anything substantial. These interludes felt like they dragged longer than they needed to, and in one specific instance I couldn’t trigger the next level at all until I restarted the game itself entirely. You can’t just skip forward to the next level, and are forced to click and interact with everything the game deems necessary before the prompt appears.
Unfortunately, Devon and Maya’s story doesn’t do anything particularly interesting. Fire Tonight’s mechanics are slow, simple and tedious with personality left on the table. There were plenty of opportunities to make the characters feel alive but in the end it feels like t exchanged identity for pure pandering nostalgia. The art and style of the game are cute, but it doesn’t do enough to save it from what feels like a padded out lackluster game that spends more time wanting you to remember the 90’s than actually experience them through its characters.
A Steam Key was provided to us for the purposes of this review.