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Firewatch, a debut showing from developer Campo Santo and publisher Panic, had me hooked right from the start. It’s innovative storytelling and amazing visuals had me sitting through the entire play through enthralled.
Firewatch takes place in the Wyoming wilderness in 1989. It follows the Story of volunteer fire lookout, Henry, after the Yellowstone fires of 1988. The game plays out in the Shoshone National Forest, and takes us on a full throttle emotional mystery before the final credits roll.
Henry’s story is a sorted one. The game begins by taking the player through 1975 – 1988 with a text style flash back of Henry meeting the love of his life. The topics of pets, children, and work during this section parallel most every adult relationship to this day. The player does get a few options that will affect the outcome of this section. Not to spoil the game for anyone, things don’t work out best for Henry. The section ends with his first day as a national forest fire watch ranger.
Once you finally start your job, the majority of the game’s dialogue is played out over frequent radio conversations with Delilah, your reporting supervisor and main contact. Almost every object in the game has an option to trigger a short dialogue with Delilah. The way you interact and reply to her sets up the ongoing relationship you build. I personally played the humor roll, and she never missed a beat when exchanging playful banter.
As the game plays out we soon realize being a typical fire lookout isn’t going to be in the cards for us this summer. A mystery of missing persons, past park employees, and government projects starts to unfold. The story really is one of the best I’ve personally played so far this year. And I know, its barely February, but this game will most likely be in the top of the year for me. It has been a long time since a game has been able to capture my interest and make me ask “What can happen next?”
The sound design in the game was top notch. I feel that they really captured what it would feel like to be a lone person in the open wilderness. The voice acting was also very well done. Henry was voiced by Rich Sommer (MadMen) and Delilah was voiced by Cissy Jones (Life is Strange). They played so well off each other that you really started to feel a part of their building relationship.
Having only played through once I find myself wanting to play again with a different attitude and style to see what other outcomes I can change. As with most games in this genre, I’d be very heartbroken to find that some of what I thought were major choices didn’t really matter for the end result.
Firewatch is a great game that I think all gamers should play through at least once. With the story clocking in at just under 5 hours, I say the $19.99 price tag is well worth your time and money. Just prepare to be pulled through an emotional roller coaster within the first ten minutes.
Firewatch 5 out of 5
+Henry and Delilah
Amazing Princess Sarah might not be the game that will turn a lot of heads, but it is an enjoyable, nostalgic romp through familiar past haunts. Amazing Princess Sarah doesn’t try and break the mold when it comes to fresh new ideas, and that’s where it shines and becomes muddy at the same time.
The game follows our protagonist, Sarah, as her father, king of Kaleiya, is seduced and kidnapped by the evil demon queen Lilith. Sarah slices and throws her way through Lilith’s forces on a journey to rescue her father.
The game is a reversal on the days of “Damsel in Distress” needing help from a “Shining Knight” to do her dirty work. Sarah is a bad-ass in her own rite and doesn’t need help from any misogynistic hero to free her father, although I wish they would have played into that factor of the game a bit more. There are so many good jokes and stereotypes to make and break here, but they didn’t really even scratch the surface. Most of this stems from the game having no text to accompany any of the games visuals. We are told the story very briefly in the opening cut scene, but that’s about it for actual story telling. Sarah’s mad, kill enemies, rescue dad.
The sound track for this game brings back the fuzzy feeling of those long all-nighters in your umpteenth play through of Metroid. The old Chiptune sound will always hold a dear place in my heart. That being said, Amazing Princess Sarah could have had a better variety of music to go along with my demon slaughtering. Learning the boss fight mechanics sometimes took multiple tries, and all bosses having the same theme made it hard to really enjoy all of the tracks the game had to offer.
Actual gameplay mechanics were a breeze. You have your standards; Jump, Slice, and Throw. At First, this didn’t seem like enough variety to keep my entertained, but after a bit of time into the first level I realized that each enemy you killed had a unique ability when picked up and thrown. After learning that piece of the puzzle, the game did become a bit less monotonous. There was a combo meter for enemies that you killed in quick succession, which gave an overall multiplier to your experience. The experience was used to level Sarah up and give her a larger health pool.
On the subject of health, the only ways to recover it are to die or break torches as you run through a level. This mechanic did have me going back for torches to boost my health and sometimes ended in me hurting myself worse. Save points became the saving grace for this. The only penalty for dying is to return to the last save statue. Sometimes dying was the better option.
Collision detection on some of the boss fights needed a bit more polish. Standing in a spot you thought would be save, had you seconds later being crushed by a foot that was clearly not anywhere near you, or you would be standing in a spot that was clearly an enemies leg and be as safe as a lamb.
On a replay stand point, I failed to see much need to replay. The game didn’t seem to have any collectables or secret areas that I could find. Aside from a speed play through scenario, I don’t think I’d ever complete it again, even though the game was enjoyable.
Amazing Princess Sarah is an enjoyable trip to a time forgotten for the old school gamer. It’s a game not without its flaws, but still enjoyable enough to merit the small price tag. If you like the “Metroid-Vania” style platformer you should pick this title up. If you’re the new age “graphics junky” maybe wait and pick it up next time you catch it on sale.