Ask anybody to name some firefighting games and you'll be lucky if they name one. Despite the games about the profession generally being quite good, there's not many of them, and they're not very widely known either. The Ignition Factor is one of only two on the SNES, the other one being the more well-known The Firemen, which, funnily enough, was originally released in Europe but not North America, the reverse of this one.
While The Firemen is a bit more of a fast-paced arcade-y game, The Ignition Factor more closely resembles real-life firefighting. As a lone firefighter, you must enter a variety of structures like offices, factories and mines, each of which has been completely lit up with raging fire. Naturally, there's people trapped in each of them, and your main objective is to rescue them. You don't necessarily need to rescue all of them, however, as each level has a minimum rescue requirement. However, it is quite possible for certain people to die, either due to the flames or because you accidentally messed up their rescue, so there is some leeway if you do something wrong.
Each level also has a time limit, so you can't just casually stroll around. Clearing out all the fire takes way too long, so it's best to be effective: clear a path to your destination and quickly continue the rescue effort. You can take several items with you on each mission that can also help, or are in some cases required. While your regular fire extinguisher will put out standard red flames, you'll have to take a blue or green extinguisher along if you want to extinguish the chemical or electric flames found in some levels.
It's not the end of the world if you don't take the special extinguishers along, as each level has some fellow firefighters standing around who allow you to switch around items if you happen to need something you don't have. You can always have one fire extinguisher and one other item equipped, as well as carry five extra items to switch at any time. You should really try not to take more than two extras though, as three or more will make you unable to run, and carrying as much as possible will even slow down your regular walking speed.
In every level you can find some special items, either from rescued people or lying around in unmarked places. These won't do anything for you, but if you complete the level with them you'll get some bonus points. If you have a certain amount of points after clearing the game's eight and final level, you'll get a special bonus level, so if you want to see everything the game has to offer, you'd better find as much as you can!
Of course, there are also a number of ways to fail your mission. Running out of air in areas with smoke and running into flames and holes too many times will result in a death, which will cost you one of your very limited continues. Naturally, failing to escape within the time limit or not even rescuing enough people will do the same.
It might not seem like The Ignition Factor is a very long game with its eight stages, but they can all take deceptively long to clear. The first two levels already have a time limit of eight and ten minutes respectively, and even without hunting for secret items you're likely to only escape one or two minutes within the limit.
The game is pretty simple graphics-wise, but there is a certain charm to the art style. There's not much music to speak of, it mostly consisting of short jingles when you receive radio messages — instead, the developers opted to have more ambient sound, which means you'll constantly hear the slow burning of the flames in the background, with additional sound effects depending on what location you're in. For example, in a mine you'll hear a slight echo.
It's not as action-packed as the minor cult classic The Firemen, but The Ignition Factor relishes in being what is likely to be the only fairly realistic firefighting game that will ever hit Virtual Console. It might have a bit of an unorthodox gameplay style, but you'll be sucked in before you know it, trying to clear each of the game's standard eight stages and trying to unlock the bonus level.