In recent months, Humble has been publishing many titles that take heavy inspiration from retro games, and this is not to their detriment either. Games like Ikenfell have done nothing but strong things with the style, and I’ve been looking forward to see what comes next. Enter Wildfire, a stealth-platformer with interactive environments that challenge the player to use the elements to their advantage. While it might seem like a strange mishmash of concepts, Wildfire is exceptionally fun, and generally easy to get the hang of. With solid controls and a wide variety of solutions using magic, Wildfire is a great pick-up and play game for anyone wanting to feel a bit magical.
On starting the game and proceeding through the prologue, the first thing that caught my attention was the music. Wildfire has a surprisingly good score, and at every story beat the music only helped push the sensation of calm or dread even further. Whether you’re sneaking around through the grass or about to be burned at the stake, the soundtrack flows phenomenally, and fits the environments near perfectly. To touch on the environments, the early game forest levels can start to feel same-y after a bit. This is almost immediately rectified, however, as the level design improves dramatically as you get more powers. Wildfire is not afraid to use verticality in their level designs, and this is a perfect fit for the type of stealth platformer it is. Hiding on ledges to avoid enemies, tossing spells upwards in order to clear a path, gliding by picking up unsuspecting birds, plotting out a route while waiting on the patrols to move so you’re not spotted. All these mechanics fit together incredibly well in Wildfire, and the variety in level design as well as bonus objectives compliment these mechanics exceptionally.
Wildfire’s main draw is the magic system you can use in tandem with the normal stealth gameplay. This is where the game really shines, though where it also has some of its downfalls. To introduce you to the game, you do some very basic platforming and are conditioned about the jump distance, which is extended a bit if you’re able to latch onto a platform. This, as well as the general stealth mechanics like hiding in tall grass and making noise if you run, very simple stuff. Once you get the fire power, the game changes dramatically. While you still need to stealth around because you’re very far off from killing anyone, you’re able to start manipulating the environment to your advantage, but at the cost of not being able to backtrack to the same places. Patches of grass you were once able to hide in can be set aflame, but will not grow back to allow you to stealth through them again. The fire will panic the guards and allow you to speed past them without issue, but they’ll soon return to their posts. Playing around with the fire has been one of the most fun parts of the entire game, especially if one of the bonus conditions is to set most of the level on fire.
There are other powers and augments to these powers to discover as well, and skilling all these up is based mostly on a puzzle system. Being able to offer an element to a statue will give you a skill point, but if the element is consumable you’ll only be able to offer it for the skill point. This is where the game really shines, allowing the player to complete levels in multiple ways like a puzzle. You can set the cover ablaze, but you’d better be looking to speed through the level afterwards. You can stealth through, but you won’t be able to hold spells for later if you’d need them since you need to crouch in the grass. Small dynamics like this make the game much more enjoyable, and feed into replay value just to try different approaches.
Wildfire has been nothing but enjoyable to play through, but my main gripe has to be the frame rate. If you’re playing purely stealth you probably won’t see this issue, but if you set a few things on fire the frame rate absolutely tanks, and it stays low until the objects are finished burning. This has gotten me killed more than once near the end of a level unfortunately, and this being an issue with the spreading fire makes it a little less fun to be a firebug in the long run. Outside of this, Wildfire has a charming aesthetic and a style of gameplay that makes it perfect for pick-up and put-down play. Some stealth games can make you feel trapped and at the mercy of the enemies around you, but Wildfire and its many solutions make it a fun stealth game that can feel as rewarding as solving a puzzle at times.
Score: 7 out of 10
Reviewed on Xbox One