Nuclear Blaze is a 2D fire-fighting puzzle-platformer that is notable for being the new project from Sébastien Bénard, the lead designer behind the critically-acclaimed Dead Cells and the game has an interesting history. In its earliest form, Nuclear Blaze was coded in just two days as part of a ‘game jam’ event but Sebastien felt there was enough promise there to turn it into a legit indie release.
Initially, there’s not much of story to worry about. You play a firefighter who is dropped into a forest fire but then stumbles upon a military base. There you’ll need to figure out how to survive and suppress the ongoing fire while getting snippets of the story from survivors and written notes.
The way this plays out is that you need to get through each of the game’s twenty levels by getting to all the bits that are on fire and putting them out. Handy water refill stations are dotted around which means managing your water isn’t much of an issue early on but complicating factors such as leaking gas pipes, locked doors, more aggressive types of fire and electrical malfunctions will eventually make the game more of a challenge.
The water mechanics are pretty decent and along the way you’ll earn new moves that will let you direct the hose upwards (surely a firefighter would know how to do that but it’s fine) or use it to shield yourself when experiencing an otherwise fatal backdraft when opening a door.
Fire is, obviously, the main danger and it spreads quickly if unchecked. Even fires that have been partially put out will erupt back to their full glory if you leave any part of it unextinguished so you’ll need to be thorough. That said, early progress is super easy but later on you’ll end up with trickier sections where you’ll be facing multiple dangers and even time limits. These bits are the most interesting part of the game though.
Things can get pretty tricky but Nuclear Blaze was built with the idea that Sebastian’s kids should be able to play it and so it comes with some very generous difficulty modifiers that are accessible pretty much on the fly (they do require a restart of that level but the levels are short so that’s no problem). You can modify the speed that fires spread, the amount of water you carry, additional armour (which acts as lives) making it possible to go from a trivial level of challenge to a very significant one. Of course, it’s best to play on the default settings.
The game itself is nicely playable. The platforming and movement feel on point, as you’d expect, and the levels present as nice, short puzzles. There’s only twenty of them, so you’ll get to the end of the game in a couple of hours but it’s worth replaying on ‘Hold My Beer’ mode which activates the military base’s defenses and also adds a few extra upgrades to your firefighter. Once you’ve done that, you might want to go back and rescue any cats that you missed the first time around. Thankfully a handy level select screen helps you figure out which ones you’ve missed and lets you go back to those levels.
The presentation is strictly retro with pixel art visuals but the overall design is well-considered and the way the fire reacts with the environment does mean that Nuclear Blaze can create a dangerous, claustrophobic feel. You do feel as though the fire is real and very dangerous. It might be a dated design choice but it doesn’t look cheap and after Dead Cells, we’re happy to trust Sebastian whenever he decides to go 2D.
Overall, this is a fun, playable and interesting game. We’re glad it’s not as savagely hard as Dead Cells. Sometimes you just want something a little different that you can plough through at your own pace with a little story to discover and a few fun puzzles to figure out. It might not live as long in the memory as the author’s more famous work but it’s an easy game to recommend.
+ Well designed levels
+ The firefighting gameplay works really well
+ Excellent range of difficulty settings
- Pixel visuals might be dated for some