Game Reviews Games

A couple of short game reviews: Fire Tonight & Golf Club: Wasteland

As I try to finish up with some longer projects and, due to some other circumstances, I ended up playing a couple of short games that I have a few thoughts on that add up to a full article.
Up first is Fire Tonight, which is a game that caught my attention during the last Wholesome Direct event; I liked the concept and the visual style shown was pretty cool, so I added it to my wishlist. When it came out, I was surprised to see it being the price of 5 euros so I immediately bought it and installed it; about 40 minutes later I rolled credits, got most achievements, and was done with it. Some will see the stats and not feel the game is worth it, but I would disagree. There is so much to like about Fire Tonight, including the presentation, story and gameplay ideas; in fact, the only thing I didn’t like was that there is so much more to explore with those ideas and that presentation, I felt like the runtime was nowhere near enough to bring out the full potential of those features. Fire Tonight is about Maya and Devin, two young lovers separated by a city on fire; Maya decides to cross the city to get to Devin, while he has to wait on her. From Maya’s perspective, the gameplay is a cool mix of stealthy exploration and puzzles that are always different; sometimes it is navigating around policemen, navigating structures, and some other cool ideas like rising/lowering water levels. These are not original ideas, but they are so quick and varied that I didn’t really care; they were bite-sized puzzles that I got through in minutes while listening to an awesome song. From Devin’s perspective, the player can interact with a ton of stuff in his apartment to learn the story behind them and how the couple met and fell in love; again bite-sized interactions with cool songs and fun stories. I just wish there were a few more roads for Maya to cross with a few more puzzles and another room in Devin’s apartment to explore; I’m not disappointed by the game or the price, I’m just left wanting more because there wasn’t enough to begin with. It feels like I asked for a bit of juice and someone gave me a shot’s worth of it for an appropriate amount of money; I got my money’s worth sure, but that’s not enough and I was hoping for more.
Golf Club: Wasteland (GCW), from a certain point of view, is the complete opposite of Fire Tonight; with a good release discount, I paid 1 euro more and got 4 hours’ worth of game. I would go as far as to say that in terms of great presentation and music, fairly simplistic gameplay, and narrative experimentation, these two games are very similar; however, despite both being about the same price with GCW having more content, it does fall into the trap of messing up the pacing and allowing some parts to become frustrating. GCW is about a human astronaut from Mars, coming back to a wasteland Earth to complete a mini-golf experience. To put it simply, GCW is a game about looking at great yet sad locations, playing not great golf, and listening to a great soundtrack alongside some interesting stories, while getting an effective overarching story that fills in the details. The problem is that, despite the fact that golfing is not particularly important, it is the only activity you partake in; its not the focus of the game, but if it’s actively annoying to use then it becomes problematic. Although the levels do remain fairly straightforward, the game’s late stages do become more complicated and using those golfing mechanics was more than frustrating at times. Its not appallingly bad, its mostly that the issues pop up from early on and only get worse when it matters the most; its easy to hit the par count early on, but when you have a swing left and you can’t control the power, the exact direction, and having the unpredictability of the wonky physics, its really easy to fail and be left frustrated. It’s a shame, because the rest of the game is wonderful; the design of Earth is brilliant and, with better golfing mechanics, the levels would be quite fun; the soundtrack and whole concept of listening to a specific station where callers deliver some poetic insights in-between the music is fantastic (once done, check out the new Odyssey mode for a nice surprise!); the narrative work is brilliant, despite the story seeming like something you’ve seen before – which it is, but really well done and with smart ideas like name dropping poets and direct quotes for people to engage with some themes on that level. There are some smaller annoyances, like challenge difficulty only unlocking after the first 3 levels and before that the par requirements are not shown, which were important since they unlock diary entries and those are some of the most interesting story in the game, or not being able to replay stages unless you finish your first playthrough and restart (it makes narrative sense).
Overall, I enjoyed both games despite some flaws. They are both surprising, frustrating, and delightful in their own ways and can be a great way to spent 40 minutes or 4 hours alongside coffee and pets.

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