In the world of video games, no one does a favor for free. The non-playable characters of virtual lands jump at the chance to offload dull chores onto self-proclaimed heroes, sending armored strangers to herd chickens or collect potion ingredients. These spiralling quests are often worth the effort, however, as an initial small goal can balloon into an epic journey across the whole world. Friendly Fire follows such a seemingly simple quest, where fetching wood for a talking fire requires winning over all the sentient creatures in the forest. A small free project made for a game jam, Friendly Fire has great character work, but the platforming aspects could have used more polish to make the game truly shine.
The protagonist awakens in a mysterious and magical world. To their great surprise, the objects of the forest are sentient, and all of them want the player’s help. A fire sputtering in the wind wants wood to grow healthy and strong again, but the tree will only give wood to someone who will look after its pinecone. Growing a new tree is impossible without water, so the hero must climb into the clouds to gain assistance. The spirit of friendship propels the protagonist through their journey, yet a small inkling of doubt remains, as the fire may not be as friendly as it seems.
Friendly Fire is technically a 2D platformer, although more emphasis has been placed on conversing with the world’s many inhabitants than nailing jumps. Movement is tight, with both keyboard and mouse and gamepad options responding well, but the level of precision offered is rarely needed. A few windy sections around the mountaintop ensure the player is paying attention, but the speedy introduction of first a double jump and then an infinite jump shortly after makes exploring the world a breeze. This explosion of power suits the game’s light tone, but encountering a few more obstacles before rendering all platforming meaningless would have felt more rewarding.
Talking to the various characters, on the other hand, is very satisfying. The protagonist has a range of options to talk about with each character, and the one that continues the quest is not always obvious. While the tree wants you to take its pinecone to a better patch of soil, asking about the plant’s fertility problems will shut the conversation right down. Other strings of dialogue flesh out the characters, such as a magical spider explaining the many years of study it takes to become a proper fairy, or sharing the love of dance with an ABBA-adoring tree. The characters feel alive and always have something interesting to say.
In addition to light platforming, the protagonist can dance during certain sections of the adventure, utilizing a two-button rhythm mini-game. This pacifistic approach for solving conflict works well, with the player’s sweet moves to “Dancing Tree” making for a more interesting approach than swinging a sword. The skill is also used for some light puzzle-solving, with dancing on clouds causing them to rain.
The background sprites for the world in Friendly Fire are rather simple but work well, with the screen appearing clear and uncluttered. Whenever a character mentions a new objective, the camera also pans to that location, making it easy to keep track of where to go next. The creatures of the forest are more detailed and filled with personality. I liked the spider fairy’s sparkling wings and shock of blonde hair and the wise old stone’s wispy beard. The background music is calming enough that it would fit well into Animal Crossing, encouraging the player to take their time to wander about and get to know the various characters.
Friendly Fire is a super charming world that is perhaps a little too light on the platforming but more than makes up for it in character. The idea of a ridiculously long fetch quest is utilized really well, and the world is intriguing enough that I would love to see it revisited in a longer piece.
Next week we will be playing Dingletopia: Nation Under Siege (By Orcs), a strategy game with a comedic tone. The game can be downloaded from Steam. If you would like to share your thoughts, discussions are happening in the Discord server.