Review: Fire Panic (DSiWare)

There will be panic when you buy this game!

A simple, fast-paced, arcady DSiWare game that costs only 200 DSi Points. What could possibly go wrong? Quite a few things, actually.

There couldn't possibly be any less to Fire Panic's objective. Fires are breaking out all over the city, so the mayor has given you the task of sending out two fire trucks to try and extinguish every one of them. People in this city don't seem to learn their lessons, though, because new fires break out constantly — you can't go seem to go more than two seconds without a new one popping up somewhere else, frequently in a building that's already had one before.

The game is played entirely with the touchscreen. You've got a map of the city, along with two fire departments that each has one fire truck at its disposal. When fires break out, your goal is to draw lines from one of the trucks to the fire. If it is within a small, square radius of the blaze, it will then automatically begin putting out the fire, which takes about a second. The trucks can hold a large amount of water so you can stay out and about for a while, but remember to go back to the department for a refill eventually.

Just like firemen stereotypes, however, fires aren't the only things you're sent out for: citizens can also request assistance with a small number of other things, like a beehive in their backyard or a cat stuck in a tree. Paying a visit to these people is not necessary, but it does grant you temporary score multipliers, so if you're not too occupied (so basically, never) you could try going past these.

On top of all of these problems, the city might also occassionally get hit by a tornado or an attack from aliens. Tornados will increase the size of any flames they pass rather quickly, while aliens simply like to start fires on currently safe buildings. If you see either of these enter the screen be prepared to take action immediately!

Things start out nice and simple with a few minor fires here and there, but it very quickly picks up the pace. After only a few minutes you'll find it almost impossible to keep up with, and fires will be popping up left and right without end. Even if you're amazing at keeping track of multiple things happening simultaneously, it will prove to be extremely difficult to survive past this point for long, as if a single building burns down completely, you lose.

With a game this simple it also would've been nice to at least have a handful of different levels to select, but a measly two are on offer. The first stage keeps things relatively simple with streets that are all connected in some logical way, allowing for easy, fast travel from one location to another. The second stage, however, has a number of dead ends; this means taking massive detours in order to reach one little fire that could've been reached much more quickly with a direct path. In order to make up for this, the second stage gets you more points, but good luck taking advantage of that for long!

The graphics are an entirely 2D affair, and while nothing too fancy can be expected from a 200 DSi Point game they still manage to look fairly charming. The music is very upbeat and Game Boy-like, and actually sounds pretty good.

Conclusion

Fire Panic could've been above par, but the difficulty curve is just far too unbalanced. Had there been an option to tweak the pace at which the game's speed increases (or in fact any options at all, as there are none), or simply a difficulty select, it could've been quite a decent buy for a lot of people, but as it is, only those who have lightning fast reaction speeds and can keep track of every single inch of their DSi's bottom screen at all times need to apply. Sadly, that's probably not too many people.