Published on July 5th, 2012 | by Nichomaxwell0
A Review of The Ignition Factor: Hotter than a Hellhound
Year: 1995 (2011 for Virtual Console) // System: SNES // Publisher & Developer: Jaleco // Genre: Action
>>> Like any normal boy, I wanted to become one of three things: an astronaut, a cowboy, and/or a firefighter. In the latter’s case, I think it’s the bright red fire engines and the happy-looking Dalmatian assistants that won me over. That, and fighting fires is one of the coolest (and most dangerous) public professions I can imagine anyone taking on that hardly involves bad guys and mainly concentrates on saving lives. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Jaleco came up with Fire Fighting for the Super Famicom in Japan and shipped it over to the states with the macho name The Ignition Factor.It’s action-packed, but instead of stomping on goombas or eradicating metroids, you’re spraying your way through the blaze to clear out a diverse set of buildings and locations before they collapse.
Although on the surface it seems that there’s no other game like it, The Ignition Factor surprisingly follows the conventions of fellow SNES title Zombies Ate My Neighbors! No, you do not fight zombies or giant babies or mutated plants. But just like in ZAMN, you complete each level by saving a certain number of civilians. The only difference here is that you’re fighting fire…not zombies. Should the fire reach enough citizens or your injuries overwhelm you, then you will fail the mission with two more chances to get things right. Each zone features two to three levels that you can play in an order that works for you, and in between the zones, you are awarded passwords just like in ZAMN.
The Ignition Factor plays with a top-down perspective and follows your fire fighter around open-ended levels as he rescues the forlorn workers trapped inside. You are given a time limit within which to save a minimum number of lives, and in a majority of the stages, the fire spreads with your percentage display at the top of the screen keeping track of how much of the building is aflame.
In alternate levels such as the collapsed mine, you never face fire, but you do have a gas mask and a limited supply of oxygen. However, all you have to do is continuously return to the resupply guy and those types of levels will fly by compared to the ones on fire. Although you start out with a simple objective of saving people, various scenarios and side-missions crop up and give you opportunities to earn bonuses. For example, while weaving in and out of an appliance factory, an urgent message pops up commanding you to discover why the facility caught fire. In the dinosaur amusement park, the fire chief jumps on the radio and implores you to disarm a bomb before it detonates in five minutes. I found out that, while you hear this, you can easily save who you need to save and not even bother with this type of mission, although it does reward you handsomely if you do indeed diffuse the bomb.
Rescuing people also involves complications from time to time. For example, one girl in the department store with the mannequins cannot be rescued until you find her friend Ann. Another person can only be rescued if you kick him off a glass ceiling. Some trapped citizens appear a bit glitchy (for example, the police chief tells you to spray one downed person to wake him up and reveal that he’s NOT a mannequin, but no matter how much you douse the poor guy, your clueless avatar will not recognize that the “mannequin” is indeed a human being. But for the most part, the diverse challenges that your hero must complete to rescue civilians are welcome for preventing the levels from sinking into monotony. There’s always something new and exciting for you to learn and discover in The Ignition Factor.
That’s not to say this trail-”blazer” is immune from Debbie Drowners. The perspective suffers from a huge transition problem. When you’re in a room, you’re surrounded by tiles that I guess are supposed to be the building’s roof, but the roof could also be mistaken as an empty room. So when you pass through a doorway, and the empty room sudden materializes into a corridor on fire, it takes you by surprise, ESPECIALLY when you walk right into the blaze without warning and take damage! Given the blackout of rooms save the one you’re currently in, the placement of fire right next to doorways didn’t stand out as one of Jaleco’s brightest moves while making this game.
Fighting fires also becomes a bit cumbersome. Your extinguisher doesn’t always line up with the columns of fire, meaning you have to twist and turn a couple of times before you can hose down the blaze. This isn’t a glaring issue, but given that fire is surrounding for much of the game’s duration, it’d be nice if the flames were a little easier to get rid of. But perhaps that was the point.
Some special tasks, specifically the one worker collecting the 16 dinosaur panels, ate time off the clock and didn’t appear to reward you justly for the time you invested in saving that tireless worker. I also didn’t like that all you had to do in order to begin the countdown for some citizens before the flames got them was to walk up to the room that they were stuck in. A few more tidbits bugged me, but not to the extent that I didn’t keep playing.
The Ignition Factor did what few other games dared to do: fight fires…even if they were pixelated… The idea was nicely conveyed with enjoyable game play and a nice selection of optional missions that filled your time and bolstered your high score. Certainly it’s not one of my top choices should I become bored, but I appreciated Jaleco coming up with a premise that hadn’t yet been explored on the Super Nintendo.
Challenge: 7/10: Fighting the continuously re-spawning columns of flames could drive you up the wall, but exploring the poorly mapped locations and figuring out how to rescue each person became part of the fun. Also, I enjoyed kicking down the doors…unless I was weighted down by a lot of items, which was a sensible and well-executed idea.
Handling: 7/10: You can move in eight directions and easily roll through doors and perform a variety of commands- jump, kick, and your two main items. That’s great! However, running could be activated by accident and carry your uncontrollable form into an infernal wave. That’s not so great.
Innovation: 9/10: So the game play operated similarly to Zombies Ate My Neighbors! in that you rescued a certain number of people before time ran out (and in ZAMN’s case, before the zombies got them). But at the same time, The Ignition Factor did its own thing by having you perform side missions such as disarm a bomb or find out the cause of a fire. The whole premise of fire-fighting was realistically conveyed in-game. Fires were spreading, and parts of the building fell apart. You could find random items and had to work with the fears of the trapped victims. Not all of us could follow our dreams to become fire fighters, but we might as well be living our dreams if were to plug in this action-packed thriller.
Core Experience: 6/10: Transitions from room to room were sloppy and set you up to run right into flames that you had no idea about because you couldn’t see the room up ahead. It was one thing to walk up to a dark space and then have a room appear, but it was another for an empty room to show up, and then fill up suddenly the moment you walked in. Not only did transitions drive me crazy, but also you were explicitly told how you could distinguish certain people from mannequins or objects, and yet your dense avatar would STILL refuse to follow directions.
OVERALL: 7.3/Solid: The Ignition Factor is definitely worth your time if you ever dreamed about fighting fires and being a hero without killing anybody…or anything… For retro players of the SNES out there, give some of the top titles a chance before diving deeper into the barrel to pull this one out for playtime.