Carrying a lighthearted phone conversation with her boyfriend, Nevin, Maya touches upon her anxieties and expectations after having just freshly moved into a new city. Unexpectedly, a mass fire breaks out. When the telephone lines jam and power goes out, the long-distance communication limitations of the year 1990 cut Maya and Devin’s conversation short. The two soon take their own separate journeys across the city and through memory lane in order to reunite.
Way Down Deep
August 12, 2021
Fire Tonight is an isometric narrative puzzle game developed by Reptoid Games. You alternate control between Maya and Devin with two different sets of gameplay: Maya has to navigate through multiple areas of the city and avoid various obstacles, while Devin examines various objects around his apartment, deliberating about his game plan before heading out.
Playing Maya, you rotate the map to reveal objects and passageways that are initially not visible. In the first level of the game, for example, you have to help Maya find a working payphone. There are multiple payphones in this one level, and you have to rotate the map in a couple of different angles in order for Maya to try all of them. These puzzle aspects become increasingly complex with each consecutive level, and some entryways may need the aid of a key that has to be found separately. More obstacles are also introduced later on, such as police barricades and the dangers of the city fire itself.
If Maya gets endangered or hurt, the level resets to where you last were. Maya also will eventually acquire access to her portable cassette tape player, which is useful to bypass fires when she plays music. Though the game is grounded in reality, the music temporarily subdues the fires and clears a path for Maya to walk through. The tape player has battery limitations, but Maya can replenish its juice by digging through trash cans throughout the city for batteries. Fire Tonight’s puzzles are not too difficult even for non-puzzle enthusiasts, making the path to finding the various solutions not only quick, but very satisfying.
On the other hand, Devin’s section is more subdued, leaning more into the text-focused, narrative parts of the game. As you peruse his apartment, Devin reveals some backstory between him and Maya in addition to other exposition. His apartment offers a very small gallery of minigames and interactive toys, such as a playable video game hooked to his television and a pile of cassette tapes on a table that can be listened to. Devin’s levels are mostly dedicated to providing a lot more exposition.
Rendered in the commonly associated color schemes of the late 90s with vibrant purples and blues, Fire Tonight is also a very stylish game. The bright-pink neons dedicated to coloring the titular fire make it stand out, which is also useful from a gameplay perspective to project against the maps’ generally cool hues. The 2D-animated, cartoon-styled designs of the cast also make for an eye-catching, pleasant look, harkening to the styles of cartoons contemporary to the game’s own time period.
The game is titled after the Information Society song “Fire Tonight,” sung from the perspective of someone waiting to hear back from their loved one after they hear news of a fire breaking out on the other side of town. Not only does Fire Tonight, the game, take the same literal elements from the song’s lyrics themselves, but it evokes similar themes of hopeful optimism and total trust put into a relationship in spite of a world trying to tear it apart.
Fire Tonight is “[a] story about believing in each other when the whole world tries to keep [people] apart,” and it is especially poignant that this title was to be released around the middle of what remains a pandemic, as our desire for closeness and proximity to others is still compromised. Against all odds, both Maya and Devin take risks for each other, reminiscing on the various life circumstances that have led them to this point to make the relationship work.
Fire Tonight is a relatively short game to complete in its entirety. Although there are several discovery elements to consider and look out for on a 100% completionist playthrough, the game’s puzzles are neither too simple nor too numbingly frustrating and would scratch an itch for most players. With a simple story and striking colors to boot, Fire Tonight is a night walk that is short and sweet, and sometimes that’s all you may need.
Elvie somehow finds bliss in purposefully complicating the art of storytelling and undertaking the painful practice of animation. If you see her on Twitter at @lvmaeparian, she is doing neither of those things. She currently helps with managing the socials to ensure that the secret recipe will never be revealed.