Fire Tonight is a narrative puzzle game from developer Reptoid Games and publisher Way Down Deep about Maya and Devin, a couple struggling to reunite while a fire rages across the city. You alternate between guiding Maya past flaming buildings and police barricades as she makes her way to Devin’s apartment and sitting with Devin while he reflects on the many mementos of their relationship that adorn his living space. It’s a promising setup with a slick neon aesthetic to fits its 90s setting. However, simplistic gameplay and underdeveloped characters hamstrung by an approximately one-hour runtime make Fire Tonight feel like an unfinished concept.
This Empty Love
The core of Fire Tonight should be Maya and Devin’s relationship. The problem is this core is empty. An opening cutscene shows the pair reminiscing over the phone. They clearly like each other and have seen good times together: rollerskating dates, cuddling up in the cold, seeing concerts together. But this scene is over almost as soon as it begins, and there’s no insight into what makes these two so dear to each other. What are their dreams? What have they gone through together? What challenges lie ahead? With no answers, I had no reason to care about their struggle to reunite.
Devin’s vignettes, where you click on various objects in his apartment and listen to him wax nostalgic, are meant to fill in the gaps. Unfortunately, his reminiscings are never more than surface level. He comments on a mixtape that Maya left him, but you can’t listen to it. He mentions they went to a few concerts together this year. He wonders about her safety while watching the fire on the news. It’s a constant stream of telling rather than showing, and telling only the most mundane details before moving on to the next topic at that. Some of his comments are even throwaways, like talking about his love of breakfast cereals. Devin is a nice enough guy who goes on dates with his girlfriend and seems a bit worried about her given the situation. But for all the chatter and mementos, there’s zero emotional depth here.
Through the Fire and the Flames
With such an underwhelming story and characters, Fire Tonight is left to lean on gameplay. Sadly, there’s nothing deep or novel here to hold your attention either. Maya explores the city in the style of a basic point-and-click adventure. You push blocks, climb ladders, operate switches, and open doors and gates with keys that Maya finds lying around in random and inexplicable places. The signature mechanic is Maya’s headphones. While she has them equipped, she can move through some flames. The batteries quickly run down though, at which point she’ll need to scrounge for new ones. One level switches things up by having Maya dodge cars while rollerskating through traffic, but there’s minimal challenge and the level is all of 50 seconds long.
While Fire Tonight is functional, even the basics feel awkward. You can rotate the camera freely, but it can be hard to get Maya into tight spaces using the mouse. Worse, interactable objects can’t always be discerned from afar you need to be standing almost exactly next to them to check. My other issue is that there’s little connection between things you do as Maya and the story. Short, simple narrative games like ABZÛ that work do so because gameplay actions feel directly connected to the narrative experience. Running in and out of generic buildings and picking up random keys off rooftops never made me invested in the city or Maya and Devin’s relationship.
Shorter Isn’t Sweeter
I think most of Fire Tonight’s problems ultimately come down to its length. It took me 44 minutes to finish the game. I have no problem with short games, and if Fire Tonight had entranced me for everyone one of those 44 minutes, I’d be willing to say it’s worth the $5.99 entry fee. Instead, I waited the entire game for something—anything—to grab my attention, and it never happened. Every mechanic is stripped down because there’s no time to build on the basics. Maybe it’s possible, if incredibly difficult, to build a compelling relationship between two realized characters with 20 minutes of dialogue and memories, but Fire Tonight didn’t even come close. I was left feeling like I played a demo meant to show proof-of-concept for the characters and mechanics. Except in Fire Tonight’s case, that’s the whole game.
Neon Nineties Nights
The one thing about Fire Tonight that impressed me was the cutscenes. In fact, it was a pleasant surprise to see the opening phone conversation between Maya and Devin was fully animated. The characters look stylish and remind me of the late 90s cartoons I watched growing up. The menus and in-game graphics boast a slick neon color palette that vibes with the synthpop soundtrack. However, so many of the assets are so frequently reused that things manage to become repetitive even 20 minutes in. The same goes for the music. It has the right feel, but it all kind of sounds the same, and I’d lost interest well before the credits rolled.
Besides its stylish cutscenes and bold color palette, Fire Tonight has little to offer. The gameplay is simplistic while the characters and story have no chance to develop over the game’s paltry one-hour runtime. Even at the budget price of $5.99, I don’t think Fire Tonight is worth it.
FIRE TONIGHT IS NOT RECOMMENDED
Many thanks go to Way Down Deep for a PC review code for this title.
Support High-Quality And Detailed Coverage
Want to support the cost of us bringing you these articles or just buy us a coffee for a job well done? Click the Ko-fi button below. You can even find some digital goodies in our shop~!
A veteran of Oregon Trail and Battletoads, Wes has been playing and talking about games for as long as he can remember. He’s down to try almost anything, and he especially enjoys games with gripping narrative experiences.