In the short list of heroic professions, you would think that firefighters would rank up there with police officers and army soldiers. Yet that doesn't seem to be the case, at least not when it comes to video games. For whatever reason, firefighters are all but ignored by the game industry, opting instead for ninjas, pirates and space marines. But as painfully obvious as it sounds, there's a lot of potential in fighting virtual fires.
The Firemen goes a long way to prove my point. Released in 1994 for the Super NES, this action game comes to us from the developers of Street Cop and Fire Pro Wrestling. It stars Pete and Danny, two good-natured firefighters on a mission to put out one giant fire at the Metrotech building on Christmas Day. Together they work to save survivors, fight off bosses and make their way through six stories of hot, hot action.
Although there are two firefighters, players only have control of one. Pete is equipped with an unlimited water supply and the wisdom that only comes with age. Danny is his young helper, an inexperienced firefighter who is eager to learn from the best. The two spend large amounts of time slowly talking about all sorts of trivial matters. And to make matters worse, the firefighting is interrupted by slow-moving conversations with Max, Walter, Winona and other people in radio contact.
When they're not waxing poetic about the dire events unraveling all around, Pete and Danny are hard at work navigating the labyrinthine layout of the Metrotech building. This plays out a lot like an overhead shooter, almost like a fire-themed version of Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Different types of fire enemies come at you in waves, forcing players to learn their patterns and put them out using a powerful hose.
For a veteran firefighter, Pete doesn't know many moves. He's able to fire his hose forward, but never diagonally. His other attack involves aiming the hose at the floor, not exactly a high level technique. But these two attacks, along with a water grenade, are enough to get the job done and defeat the fire monsters.
There's a story here, believe it or not. Instead of being set in present day, this Super NES game predicts what the world will be like in twenty years. It goes out of its way to explain that "civilization has progressed little in the last twenty years," which makes me wonder why they bothered to add the science fiction element in the first place.
The game is visually appealing, even if it's not on par with Ignition Factor. You'll see a lot of the same enemies repeated throughout the six short levels, though the environments are more varied. My real problem has little to do with the cartoony style or repetitive enemies, but rather the sluggish controls and lack of diagonal shooting. It's also not sure why this game doesn't allow two-player support, especially considering there's a second person on screen at all times.
The Firemen isn't a bad game, but it's hardly the firefighting simulator we've been waiting for. Even though it's not especially long and the story won't blow you away, this 16-bit action game has a certain charm I can't quite put my finger on. With so much potential, I'm eager to play the 32-bit sequel. As a Super NES game, The Firemen is worth playing ... but only after you've finished Ignition Factor.