Fireburst is built on risk and reward – set your car on fire to boost and destroy opponents, but hold that boost for too long and you go up in flames yourself. Water cools your car down, allowing for more sustained boosts, but fire barrels threaten to raise your car’s temperature at every turn.
It’s an interesting concept, and reminds me a bit of the Nintendo 64’s Star Wars Episode I: Racer, but unfortunately the concept here doesn’t lend itself to much fun.
Neither does the game in general.
Fireburst suffers from a variety of issues that make it more chore than fun to play. Handling is difficult and sluggish, with cars feeling extremely heavy and unresponsive. Several times my car felt like it was drifting to one side or the other despite my finger not even being on the left thumbstick. The camera also has a tendency to wander rather than staying directly behind your bumper, which can be maddening when courses are comprised of sharp turns that, exacerbated by the poor handling, need to be reacted to quickly.
Adding to the difficulty, the car physics are pretty wonky, and several times I found my car driving up an obstacle or bouncing at an unpredictable angle when clipping an object. With the time trial races being decided by seconds, it only takes one of these little freakouts to cost you the race.
The characters themselves skew more obnoxious than charming and spout repetitive taunts throughout each race. If you’ve ever wanted to hear a Japanese school girl shout one-liners in a horrible Asian accent, now is your chance. Unfortunately, I had a lot of time to hear that, because the soundtrack might be the worst of any game I’ve ever played, and I turned it down after about 30 minutes of gameplay, unable to take any more.
Each character has their own fire mechanic, like the ability to turn into a fireball or leave trails of fire from their wheels, and the best part of the game is strategically balancing when to use these attacks against opponents. The mechanic is extremely touchy though, and trying to watch your heat meter while navigating the levels with an unresponsive car can be a big pain. I often found it better to hoard my boost until opponents were near, set it off to kill them, and then ignore it the rest of the race in favor of staying cool and thus less vulnerable.
The biggest positive of Fireburst is the level design, which features nice variety and interesting details like shipwrecks and crashed airplanes to weave through. It’s all very pretty to look at and well-constructed, and I only wish that the character and car designs matched the intricacies and charm of the courses they’re racing through.
At $10, it’s hard for me to recommend Fireburst to anyone. These is simply too much wrong with the core mechanics, and the pretty scenery can’t rescue what is ultimately a frustrating game that is much less fun to play than look at.
Fireburst Xbox Live Arcade Review/ indiePub/ indiePubGames.com
(This game was reviewed with a download code provided by the publisher)
(Cameron Gidari is a freelance writer and the author of Seattle Before8. Follow him on Twitter at @CGidari)