Sunday, October 3, 2010

Firebug - You Made an Ash of Yourself

I was reading the January 1983 edition of Video Games Magazine (yeah - that's the kind of stuff I do) and saw an article about a controversial game on the Apple II called "Firebug" by Muse Software.  In the game you are a "firebug" whose job is to set fire to several different floors of a building using a lit fuse and several gas cans - the more fire damage, the higher your score.  Fire officials were outraged by the game and were concerned that it would encourage kids to become arsonists.  I then discovered the game was created by Silas Warner, who also made Castle Wolfenstein which was one of my all-time favorites on the C64 - so I decided to give Firebug a go.

When the game begins you get to select the length of your fuse - the shorter the fuse, the higher the difficulty level of the game.  Then you (a 3x3 square) start running through a maze of walls on the fifth floor of the building stringing the fuse behind you which eventually lights and burns toward you.  Gas cans are scattered throughout the maze and when you run over them you knock them over which creates a spreading puddle of gasoline that the trailing lit fuse quickly ignites.  If you run by the can without knocking it over the lit fuse will cause the gas can to explode into a fireball when it reaches it.  You can also pick up the gas cans and drop them in other locations in an effort to maximize your fire damage.  If the fire touches you it's a gruesome death and game over - remember that kids!  Once you've created as much charcoal as possible without igniting yourself you escape down the stairs to the next lower floor and proceed to burn that one down too.  Each lower floor brings tighter and more complex mazes until you burn down the first floor and escape out the front door.  Here is a brief video of the gameplay:

The game ran on Apple II's Lo-Res graphics mode which only displayed 16 colors with a 40x48 resolution so as you can see the graphics were quite primitive even for 1982.  But the colorful display when the fire exploded and burned was pretty cool - I imagine that effect was pretty impressive back then.  Actually I think it looks kinda cool now.  Also, the game stores high scores with the player's initials - a feature that I have always appreciated.

My only real complaint with the game is that it ends after you escape the first floor so you only get 5 floors of play before the game is over which doesn't take long at all.  I would have liked them to have allowed you to run into another building and continue the game.  Then again, maybe I'm just missing something because several people on the high score list had higher levels listed by their names and mine just said level 1.  Maybe if you burn down 100% of every floor then it lets you continue - I don't know.

So all in all I think it's a decent little game.  I can see where the simple gameplay could be addictive and the colorful burning effects would have looked pretty cool back in the day, but without the benefit of Apple II nostalgia I probably won't be coming back to this game much in this day and age, especially due to the apparent 5-floor limitation.  Still, I did enjoy it while I was playing it.  I would definitely put it in my list of top 10 favorite games of all time for the Apple II. Just don't ask me how many Apple II games I've ever played.

If you'd like to try it for yourself download the AppleWin emulator HERE and a copy of the game HERE from RetroCPU.

Also, now that you've witnessed the horror, here are the pages from the 1983 VGM article if you care to read them - click to expand.

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Fallguy40 said...

People are so quick to overreact to everything.

Take the Medal of Honor Taliban controversy as the latest example.

BTW, those graphics are pretty awful.

MadPlanet said...

The issues don't really seem to change much with each new generation - just the graphics.

Hey - don't insult one of my favorite Apple II games! Use your imagination man! OK I guess they are a LITTLE blocky.

MadPlanet said...

..and BTW, that video is officially my first video uploaded to YouTube. I had to make one because unlike all the other games I've discussed on here a video didn't already exist for Firebug.