Fire Escape (2014 7FPS game) review…

Wolfenstein Graphics mar Portalesque Gameplay… After the Break…

Fire Escape (2014 7FPS game) review…

Can you create a game in 7 days? A first-person game?

I can change the oil in my car within 7 days. Wash and wax the car, too. Vacuum it out. Vacuum the entire house. Mow the lawn. Sweep the driveway.

I can’t promise that I could complete a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle within 7 days but I could at least complete the border pieces (if it’s a typical rectangular puzzle).

I could clean up my bedroom fairly nice within 7 days (I wrote “fairly nice,” not “spotless” – Let’s be realistic), even dust a lot of it, too.

Rake up a lot of the yard within 7 days? Yup.

There are a lot of things that I can do with 7 days worth of time. Create a computer game out of “whole cloth,” so to speak, I can not. Not even close.

In 2014, a group of computer game developers challenged themselves to create a first-person styled computer game within 7 days. One week. From nothing to finished product.

If I was lucky, I could probably learn how to create a box in the 3d modeller program “Blender” within 7 days. Create the crappiest, cruddiest one-room level in Quake 1 in 7 days.

FIRE ESCAPE is a game created for the 7FPS competition by Alexander Taylor (alias “Tayl1r”), a professional computer game designer who, based upon his body of work, can do more in 7 days than I could probably do with 8 months and a whole lot of help. It was built upon the Unity3d engine and can be played through the browser or downloaded separately.

The game, FIRE ESCAPE, is rather deceptively titled; While there is a red lava substance in the game that is a natural obstacle, it is not central to the game and does not look like fire. Also, “escape” is fairly generic; After all, isn’t the point of all games to ‘complete’ it (and “escape” the challenge)? FIRE ESCAPE makes you think of those iron stairs and platforms outside of cheap apartment buildings that people may use in case a fire obstructs the interior of the building and that is most definitely not what this game is all about.

In FIRE ESCAPE, you play an anonymous person with the ability of teleportation. This ability is limited by shooting a blue ball of energy at an object. When the ball strikes an object, you are instantly teleported to where the ball struck the object. When a ball is fired, you can “watch” the ball from both your vantage point and the vantage point of the ball itself, giving you some brief insight into areas that you may not have explored yet (and areas where you can further teleport).

You teleport in order to collect glowing yellow diamonds. The more diamonds that you collect, the more doors that you are able to open. The doors have a number on them, corresponding to the requirement of how many diamonds you need in order for the door to open. It doesn’t ‘cost’ the player to open a door; You get to keep the diamonds but need that number of diamonds.

The game has a very simple, Wolfenstein 3D style of graphics that betrays the otherwise fairly sophisticated and difficult level of gameplay. Someone taking a screenshot of the game might easily be fooled into thinking that the game was made back in the early 1990s while using a simple raycasting engine. I half-expected an angry German Shepherd & a brown Nazi soldier to greet me when I was able to open my very first door in the game. There are no sounds in the game and you could write more of a plot on your pinky fingernail than what is presented in-game (aka “none”).

Nevertheless, the game is quite appealing from a gameplay perspective. All of the typical emergent gameplay mechanics are here: Windows act like solid objects but you can see through them into areas that your teleportation ball can’t access; Red tiles block you from teleporting if you strike them. Regeneration pads dot the landscape so that if you perish, you will not lose all of your diamonds or progress; Just those that you received before finding the next regeneration pad. There is no save/load function so it’s a typical “all or nothing” excursion into the game which doesn’t encourage ‘growing into the game; Either you enjoy it or you will get frustrated quickly and throw your proverbial hands up into the proverbial air at it.

Despite the graphics, the game does deliver some thrills although the difficulty ramps up fairly quick. The first two diamonds are fairly easy but then the learning curve dips steeply and you are forced to rely upon some very fast twitch reflexes if you want a lot of the other ones. For instance, early on, you must navigate below a barrier but above lava to get to two diamonds sitting on the other side of a window and a third diamond that you must “climb” up a hallway to get. And that’s before you need to use some other windows to teleport towards so that you can quickly turn around and teleport to someplace that you can teleport towards. Tricky and intimidating stuff if you don’t have the reflexes for it.

I was surprised when I met with an early “exit” from the game despite seeming to get all of the diamonds up to that point but there are quite a few diamonds that can only be retrieved by being very twitchy and precise. I’m sure that some expert player can accomplish these miraculous feats of dexterity but, without a proper save/load system, I’m not about to take 5 hours out of my life to see if I can join that exclusive club.

All in all, this was a wonderful little effort. It does have it’s flaws; The lack of any in-game story, the Wolfenstein-era graphics & the lack of a save/load system undermine what are otherwise very solid and enjoyable gameplay mechanics. It’s different enough from the first-person puzzler “Portal” to not be smeared as being a shameless clone and yet those who enjoy “Portal” will most likely enjoy this effort as well. If I had to choose one area to concentrate on, I would definitely put in a dedicated save/load system so that someone could concentrate on the very difficult diamonds to get that require the kind of twitchy acrobatic maneuvers that only a 15-year old whose addicted to caffineinated everything could probably accomplish (everyone else need not apply).

FIRE ESCAPE isn’t for everyone but everyone ought to at least take a look at it for a few minutes, especially those who enjoy “Portal” and other first-person puzzlers.

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