Developer: Smugbit Studios
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Pyro Pursuit feels like one of the hottest unreleased arcade cabinets of 1984. It’s unique pace may take some getting used to, and its attempts at variety don’t always work, but once it heats up its ideas still feel fresh with each new round.

In Pyro Pursuit, players guide a firefighter as far as they can up an endless burning building. However, instead of controlling the firefighter directly players place ladders in-between platforms that the firefighter automatically climbs up. The ladders scroll from side to side and stop once the screen is tapped. There’s a helpfully large window as to where the ladder can be while still safely carrying the firefighter to the next platform. But if players completely whiff their placement, tapping the screen while the firefighter is on the ladder will cause him to immediately drop so the ladder can be replaced. With raging fires constantly creeping up from below, time is always of the essence.

pyro pursuit 3pyro pursuit 4Since the player has such indirect control over the action, Pyro Pursuit has an odd yet enjoyable pace that’s simultaneously tense and frenetic while also being slow and deliberate. The building is randomly-generated, so players have to quickly but carefully plan out their moves – including paying attention to what side the next ladder is coming from. It feels like a strange combination of Spelunky and the original Donkey Kong. However, because the player is so removed, certain hazards (like burning birds) at times feel unavoidable, even with the beneficial buffer between the firefighter and the flames. But in-game power-ups like boosting fire hydrants and freezing ice cubes, as well as purchasable upgrades like faster walking and climbing speeds, do a good job at offsetting the lack of control.

If Pyro Pursuit has any real problem though, it’s the game’s somewhat repetitive nature. The mechanics themselves stay surprisingly fun and interesting, even after multiple playthroughs, and the art style is colorful and slick. But between the monotonous burning building backgrounds, obvious side-missions like “climb at least 2500 meters,” and inherently limited amount of level layouts, the game doesn’t change too much once players get into a groove. It just gets harder and faster while the awesome up-tempo arcade music gets even more panicky. Occasionally players are forced into a mini-game where they must rescue falling objects, but because the tilt controls for steering the firefighter are so stiff this admittedly appreciated attempt at gameplay variety just feels like an unwelcome distraction.

However, Pyro Pursuit‘s core gameplay mechanics are so peculiar and clever it’s easy to ignore its peripheral shortcomings. After all, the fire rises.


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