Evercade Game Spotlight: The Ignition Factor (Jaleco Collection 1)

Written by Pete Davison

Tags EVERCADE, jaleco

Winter is the perfect time to enjoy a roaring fire, though perhaps not of the type seen in The Ignition Factor, part of Jaleco Collection 1 and the subject of today’s Evercade Game Spotlight. Yes, we’re firmly in “towering inferno” territory here — but you’re no helpless victim. Quite the contrary, in fact; you’re a well-equipped, brave firefighter, and it’s your job to ensure people get out of various dangerous situations safely, perhaps doing a few good deeds along the way, too, as if “saving lives” wasn’t already enough.

The Ignition Factor was first released in 1994 in Jaleco’s native Japan. The original Japanese release was known simply as Fire Fighting; the rename came along with the North American localisation in early 1995, presumably in an attempt to make it more “marketable”. Back in the day, it never saw a PAL region release, so players in areas such as Europe and Australasia would have had to either import or go without — and as a relatively niche-interest game, it’s unlikely many PAL gamers would have heard of it, since it got little to no press coverage outside of the US and Japan.

Inside the US, meanwhile, The Ignition Factor had an intriguingly varied response from the press of the period. Popular American magazine Electronic Gaming Monthly gave it their Game of the Month award in March of 1995 (issue 68) — an impressive achievement considering the 32-bit consoles were imminent, and that same issue also played host to coverage of well-regarded titles such as Crusader of Centy, Popful Mail, Ristar and, uh, Bubsy.

EGM rival GamePro, meanwhile, had a somewhat more tepid response to the game in its February 1995 issue (issue 67), describing it as a “relatively fun strategy game” (despite it not being a strategy game in the traditional sense, particularly as that term was understood in the mid ’90s) and “a rental with definite potential”.

The most arguably baffling comments came from the well-respected Next Generation magazine, sister publication to the still-surviving Edge, in their February 1995 issue (issue 3). They noted that “the action is good” but also lambasted the game for being “a repackaged version of older games like Capcom’s Commando and Sega’s Alien Syndrome”. The Ignition Factor is, not to put too fine a point on it, not very much like either of those games in any way other than the fact it unfolds from a top-down perspective and allows you to “shoot” in different directions.

In The Ignition Factor, you take on the role of an unnamed firefighter who is tasked with completing a series of missions. The exact requirements for you to complete each mission vary somewhat, but they typically involve getting a raging inferno at least partially under control and rescuing victims who are trapped. Most missions also incorporate bonus objectives that allow you to obtain a higher rating once you’ve got out safely; these vary from locating lost items to downloading important data from a computer before the fire destroys it.

Prior to each mission in The Ignition Factor, you can equip yourself with a variety of items. You’ll always have a basic fire extinguisher with infinite “ammunition” on hand, but can also bring along specialist, limited capacity extinguishers for electrical (blue) or chemical (green) fires.

Alongside these, you can also bring along specialist pieces of equipment that are useful in specific circumstances, including an oxygen tank and mask for breathing in hazardous environments, a length of rope for crossing gaps, an axe for smashing through doors, a pole for poking things and checking floors for instability, and plastic explosives for blowing things up. Arguably the most useful of these optional items is a bundle of carbon dioxide bombs, which can be used to clear large areas of fire.

One thing to quickly get accustomed to in The Ignition Factor is that the items are divided into two distinct types, indicated by either a triangular or circular marker on their icon. Extinguishers and the oxygen mask have the circular icon, while other equipment has the triangle. At any given moment, you can have one of each type of item equipped, and they are assigned to the X and buttons on the Evercade controller according to how you set them up in the inventory screen.

Most of your items in The Ignition Factor are limited, with the exception of your regular fire extinguisher. If this runs dry, wait a moment and it will recharge. All other items are consumed when they are used, but you can refill your stock of them or, in some cases, change the equipment you are carrying by speaking with one of your firefighting colleagues stationed around each level.

Once into a stage in The Ignition Factor, you’ll need to quickly prioritise your various tasks, ideally getting the survivors to safety as soon as possible. To this end, you can check your map with the Select button, though note that this only really provides a rough overview of the situation rather than a detailed map. You’ll need to explore to find out how to get from one place to another — and be aware that in the midst of a fire, walls, doors and walkways have a tendency to collapse, closing off (and sometimes opening) alternative routes to take!

If you find yourself confronted with a fire, you can use your extinguisher to take care of it. Make sure an appropriate extinguisher is equipped to one of your buttons, then hold or to use it. Just like using a real extinguisher, you’ll want to aim the flow at the base of the fire for maximum effectiveness. Alternatively, you can toss a carbon dioxide bomb into the fire to clear a large area at once; this is useful if you need to get to a survivor quickly.

From the map screen (Select), you can call in assistance from the fire engine several times per mission. This will extinguish a large amount of on-screen fire, with the effectiveness greater if you are in a part of the building close to where the fire engine is parked.

In most missions, the Captain will make contact at some point to give you special objectives to complete. These are completely optional, but will net you significant bonus points at the end of the mission if you are successful. Note that in most cases, you cannot complete the objective prior to the Captain requesting it — but the Captain will request the objective at the same time in every playthrough, so those attempting to speedrun can learn when to be ready for them.

You may also find items during the mission. These aren’t visible on the screen but are in the same locations every time you play, so you can learn where they are. These are also worth bonus points if you can take them to safety after the mission — though note that if you take damage during the mission, there’s a chance the items you have collected will be damaged or destroyed, which will result in a point penalty! Also be aware of your encumbrance limit — carry too much stuff and you’ll be unable to run or kick down fragile doors and walls.

The bare minimum you need to accomplish to complete a mission is to rescue your quota of survivors, indicated on the screen, or survive until two minutes or less remains on the clock. When you’re satisfied that you’ve done everything, head for where you entered the mission and the Captain will be waiting to take you to your post-mission assessment.

The Ignition Factor is a tricky game that you won’t beat easily on your first attempt, but don’t be discouraged! The game is designed that you will learn things from each new attempt — and there are times that it rewards creativity.

Of particular note in this regard is the second mission, which sees you rescuing survivors from a textile mill. Some survivors have placed themselves atop fragile glass floors that will break if you step on them, so to get them off, try knocking them to safety by throwing a carbon dioxide bomb near them. Unorthodox, sure, but undoubtedly effective!

The Ignition Factor is full of interesting moments like this. Quite the contrary to Next Generation’s review, it’s a rather unorthodox game throughout, and once you get to grips with the various equipment items it presents you with some intriguing challenges to overcome. So if you’re looking for your next game to play from the Evercade back catalogue, why not pop in Jaleco Collection 1 and give this underappreciated action-adventure a go for yourself?

The Ignition Factor is available now as part of Jaleco Collection 1 for Evercade. Find out more here.


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