At its core Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue DX is a 2D roguelite twin-stick shooter/platformer. The 'roguelite' part means if you fail, you lose some but not all progress, and you 'shoot' water, not bullets. Firegirl's 2 and-a-bit D graphics at first sight look like they are of the Amiga era, a brave mixture of pixel art and subtle 3D move at a slick frame rate and are full of character—so they're very easy on the eye.
Once the backstory is explained the first fire you have to put out is in rookie Firegirl's Fire House, but you'll also be fighting blazes in burning buildings, trains, forest fires and Neketomi Plaza, which looks more like The Towering Inferno than the building from Die Hard, but we won't complain as it's the most graphically pleasing level in the game.
There are people and animals to save on every level, some may be easy to find, others may be tucked away in difficult to reach locations and require a careful search in order to find them. Because the game is roguelite, the levels are also procedurally generated, so you can’t “learn” a level and know exactly what to expect, which keeps the game fresh and interesting. There are different types of flames that behave and even sound different, some are actually quite endearing while others are a complete pain in the arse. There are only a few tunes but they're catchy, appropriate and drive the action along well.
The previously mentioned roguelite aspect comes in when you reach the point in a level when you may exit. You may not have saved the required number of survivors yet or may be critically low on health–do you exit and survive or go back in and try and save everyone? It's a fine balancing act that becomes easier as you upgrade Firegirl's abilities.
Abilities & upgrades can be bought from the supply store across the street. A faster axe and tougher protective gear help, but the various other buffs supplied by people you save and can later recruit to the Firehouse are the real game changers. These include things like upgrading the fire truck so you get more time, more water, more hose pressure (so you can squirt water longer, further and jump higher), employing a doctor to reduce medical bills and add first aid kits, a "negotiator" to cut costs, a fund raiser to improve your fanbase and their financial contributions, a chef to improve your number of health hearts, and a dog to indicate any forgotten survivors. They all cost a lot of money but encourage you onward and noticeably make the game easier. As you progress fulfilling certain requirements (all handily described in the display case in the Chief's office) will also earn you medals, and displaying these on your uniform will add some very useful additional buffs.
The game mechanics are simple but beautifully implemented. You move Firegirl with the left stick and aim her hose with the right stick. You jump by pressing 'A' and squirt water with the right trigger. You have limited water but can find replenishments within the levels. If you jump and aim the hose down you can hover up in the air like you have a jetpack, extinguishing fires below and even blast higher to sort-of fly, or just subtly extend Firegirl's jump distance.
The game plays like a dream, and the only things I'd complain about are occasional camera issues when walls or floors in the foreground obscure your view, but they're never too bad and you can usually move slightly to clear the view. A bit more intelligence programmed into the way the camera follows Firegirl would have solved this. I also had some trouble trying to douse flames below me which got annoying. The solution is often hovering over the top of these flames, which is precarious but usually effective–as long as you have plenty of water.
I also managed to start or quit a mission unintentionally a few times because I tried to jump near the start/exit prompt. This could have been cured with a simple "Hold 'A' to start/exit" mechanic.
Make no mistake, these last few gripes felt a bit like criticising just for the sake of it, because Firegirl: Hack 'n Splash Rescue DX (we think the DX stands for Director’s Cut) is a gem. At only £14.99 it's an absolute steal, and even if this isn't your "usual" type of game I'd encourage you to splash out and biuy it.