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Fire & Ice

Genre: Platform Developer: Virgin Games Publisher: TecToy Players: 1 Released: 1995

North America only saw the tip of the iceberg as far as the gaming library of the Sega Master System is concerned. Most casual gamers who’ve owned the console will never know what it’s capable of graphically and will never get a chance to appreciate it to its fullest. Unless you had a chance to see games like Castle of Illusion, Sonic The Hedgehog, or some of the late European and Brazilian releases in action you wouldn’t even have a taste of the system’s graphical capabilities, and you’ll be in the dark until then. When I first played Fire & Ice, I saw what the system could pull off graphically, and all I can say is man, do some of these games put the NES to shame with their visuals.

Now that I’m done gushing about good-looking Sega Master System games, I will start by saying that this game feels very unfinished and is not a great game by any means in its current state. Fire & Ice was going to be released by Virgin in Europe but was canceled, then bought out and released in Brazil by Tectoy. It would have been a very nice playing and solid game and maybe even a real contender had it only received the finishing touches and polish it deserved before being released, and I probably would’ve reflected that in this review.

This game plays like a cross between Cool Spot and Bubble Bobble. You play as a muskrat or some little fuzzy animal, and you must collect enough ice blocks to create an ice key to finish each level. Your little furry friend can shoot out little ice shots at you enemies, who then turn into little ice cubes. Then you must run into them and they will shatter, an idea seemingly borrowed from Bubble Bobble.

The graphics are the highlight of the game. The main character is extremely well animated and the backgrounds are incredible, especially in level two, the forest. All I can say is wow. Unfortunately, the graphics are the best part of this game, and the rest feels sloppily programmed and really drags the experience down. Don’t get me wrong, these problems don’t kill the game by any means; they just keep it from being exceptional.

Fire & Ice plays decently here by having you jump around large levels and freezing enemies and finding the key to exit to the next level. The problem is that it has a very stale feel to it and is used in a lot of other games of the time. This doesn’t mean it’s bad; far from it. I’m just saying it’s not a new concept. In my opinion, the control is what bogs this game down the most. In and of itself, the control is fairly decent but somewhat slippery, causing you to fall off of small platforms sometimes.

Frustration and tedium set in when you realize that Tectoy never finished the programming when it picked this prototype up from Virgin. When you move, the scrolling seems to have a delay, and when you are walking it seems to miss a frame once and a while and is just jerky. When you have to jump left to right and back on several small platforms it gets obnoxious, tedious, and causes frustration. The choppy scrolling causes a multitude of problems later on in the game, which gets all the worse, especially in the final world where you have to jump over a series of spikes multiple times with very little control. It’s very easy to throw away plenty of lives there. This was the single worst part of the game and one that left me extremely aggravated, giving me many ill feelings by the game’s end. Again, this isn’t game-breaking, but it just shows that the final game is unfinished and needs to be tweaked quite a bit more. Sadly, unfinished games are one of TecToy’s most common traits. Battlemaniacs, anyone?

The music is quite catchy and memorable but is very tinny and high pitched. It feels like it is missing some needed fine-tuning. I really liked the music from the first and third worlds, and you can tell that Virgin, the original developer of this game, put some effort into the music. Unfortunately, the sound effects don’t seem like they got the same attention as the music did. Though they are passable, they come off as lackluster.

Fire & Ice really isn’t a bad game at all, and I really enjoyed it, but I was left feeling kind of underwhelmed by the time I beat it. The fourth and final world is the only one to have a boss fight, but he just felt like a normal enemy that took several more hits to kill. The whole boss fight just felt tacked on to give the game a climax, and the ending was less than acceptable.

TecToy was a company that liked to find cheap ways to cash in on the game market in Brazil. It bought rights to many games and proceeded to graphically hack them and make its own games out of them. It also bought several unfinished prototype games off other developers and released them without ever giving them the finishing touches that they so desperately needed, which is how this game saw the light of day. In Fire & Ice’s defense, it’s technically a prototype that never got the tweaks, or it would’ve played far better had Virgin finished it and released it itself, so I’ll give it some grace. I’ll recommend Fire & Ice if you are looking for a new platform game to try or if you are into the Sega Master System import scene. If you need something fresh and innovative, there are better games that are more exciting.

SCORE: 5 out of 10

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