Many action games call the Super Nintendo home. But only one (that I can think of off the top of my head) contains no actual enemies. The Ignition Factor puts you into the shoes of a firefighter, fending off flames and rescuing helpless citizens. Your only enemy is fire (and breakaway pits). It’s also a bit of a thinking man’s game, with enough strategic elements to keep players constantly on their toes as they roam about the burning buildings, museums, mines and more.
SIMILAR BUT NOT THE SAME
The Firemen is considered to be something of a semi-cult hit in retro gaming circles. It used to be a lot more obscure but has since pick up a lot of steam in the past decade or so thanks to word of mouth. For the record, I consider Firemen to be the best fire fighting game on the SNES, but Ignition Factor is definitely the second best. Yes, I know there are really only two fire fighting games on the SNES but in all seriousness, Ignition Factor is definitely a decent little game.
13 YEARS AGO…
As readers of RVGFanatic may recall, I went through a Super Nintendo resurgence when I bought the system on January 17, 2006. On that same day I bought four games: Power Moves, Prehistorik Man, Ignition Factor and Fatal Fury Special. The Ignition Factor was my 3rd overall SNES game purchase, and earlier this month I finally got around to playing it. It only took me 13 years but it was nice to finally play it after all these years, especially on the 13 year anniversary itself.
THE STORY GOES…
WE DIDN’T START THE FIRE
Ignition Factor starts off hot with this blazing title screen. Sorry…
Bradshaw Steel Mill or Pygamalion Plaza — the choice is yours to make. It’s nice that Jaleco gave us some options, similar to the Mega Man games. After selecting your stage, place your firetruck at any one of four starting points. Naturally, this alters where you open up a given level. BTW, love that stylish 1994 computer
Examine items beforehand and pick the ones you want. You can only equip up to two active items at a time.
Barrels shoot upward and explode as you race across this platform. A sense of urgency is established right from the start.
Jumping in a top-down action game? Yes please! I’m always a sucker for that. Speaking of being a sucker, watch out for falling platforms over a scorching pit!
Remember, you can’t save the people if there’s no you. Don’t rush in or else…
Somebody wasn’t listening.
Similar to the barrels from DOOM, I wouldn’t do that if I were you.
Likewise, I would advise against bludgeoning your fellow comrades by way of axe. You’ll need them, especially for those all too important resupplies.
Certain items lay hidden on the floor. This was a bit annoying since there’s no indicator that an item is there ripe for the picking. A small visual marker, even if it was a flickering light, would have been appreciated.
ProTip: Blue flames can only be taken out with the electrical extinguisher. For your courageous efforts, the city immortalizes your bravery and tenacity.
Jaleco, I see you. Trying to be slick over there, aren’t cha?
Pygamalion Plaza is essentially Mannequins R Us…
Damn… now I know how Michael Myers must have felt at the end of Halloween (2018). Um, are you POSITIVE that’s a mannequin? Looks more like a man who needs saving to me.
BITCH you cray cray. Ann woulda left your ass ages ago!
Please, allow me to knock some sense into ya…
Locked doors can be opened via brute force using the axe. As for Nancy, weeeeell… *nervous chuckle*
Avatars add a nice little touch to the game. There are a few puzzles scattered throughout the game, such as seen here. Hmm, how to save Old Man Jenkins there…
McGlone Mine is next. That DANGER!! sign is rather… apropos.
There’s a really cool swirly visual effect in the mine that ups the sense of urgency and angst. Watch out for weak patches of ground that break.
Beware of poisonous gas clouds that randomly pop up. Lean up against the wall if that helps ya! Also keep an eye on your oxygen supply. Better find one of your fire fighting friends fast for a fill-up.
Jurassic Park probably inspired the Dino Park. Sure there may be some gnarly exhibits here, but time is of the utmost essence! No time to stop and meander around.
Random small details are the best. Take, f’rinstance, this guy here flapping his jacket away in hopes of subduing the fire. Gotta give him props for trying. After Dino Park it’s off to Whitney Appliances, where the only dancing you’ll be doing is not with your old flame but a whole lotta flames!
Natural selection on full display here, folks. Instead of waiting to be saved, that fool’s crazy ass decides to walk straight into the fire. But it’s weird shit like this that kind of makes the game oddly endearing.
Gemini Towers is home to the game’s weirdest WTF moment. You’ll find a random dude near the telescope. Talk to him and he’ll urge you to look through it. No big deal, right? WRONG.
WHOA what the hell?! Out of nowhere the dude wallops you with a haymaker! It is so random and bizarre that I actually laughed out loud the first time I saw it. I love it when game developers include random weird stuff into their games.
Remorseful, he at least goes over to apologize after giving you a concussion. That’s nice of him. If you refuse to look through the telescope, he confesses that he started the fire. Hey Billy Joel, guess you were wrong after all. There’s our culprit!
We didn’t start the fire.
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning.
We didn’t start the fire.
No we didn’t light it.
But we tried to fight it.
Ignition Factor even breaks the 4th wall at one point! Video Games Magazine? Psh. That was an alright magazine, but gimme EGM or GameFan any day!
Gemini Towers has some cool bits where the screen becomes much smaller once you enter certain rooms. I’ve always enjoyed when games do this. EarthBound is a prime example of that technique.
COMING THROUGH! After saving the good folks trapped at Gemini Towers, it’s off to the Shylock Center.
Holding the shoulder button allows you to strafe. It also doubles as a lifesaving tactic where it allows you to see flames in other rooms even before entering.
Sometimes you just want to hide in your cubicle. But then you work up the courage to socialize a bit with your coworkers. And that’s when you find Frank and Ann getting it on down the hallway.
Appalled, you spray ‘em in a futile attempt to stop. When that doesn’t work, you decide to bust out the almighty axe. Hey, desperate times call for desperate measures. HR is gonna have fun with this one!
UHHHH, me too. How the hell are you still alive?!
There’s a cool Mega Man 2-like effect to this game where you can jump from room to room and the screen switches like such. It’s oddly satisfying.
Another mine stage, we’ve come to the Paris Mine.
WATCH YO STEP!
Plastic explosives will break thin walls.
There’s a password system thankfully. Although the game isn’t long, the levels can be tough to beat so it’s nice not having to repeat them. However, similar to B.O.B., you don’t get a password for every cleared stage. Instead, you get one every few levels. Still better than nothing, though. But the really cool thing is the secret pass code that unlocks the DM Headquarters. You might remember this level from Jaleco’s Peace Keepers. What a nice nod!
Before you get TOO excited [we wouldn’t want you to soil your undies -Ed.], this is the hardest stage by far. This is due to there being no comrades hanging around to restock your inventory. Once you’re out, you’re out. And that means a long road ahead. It’s a neat bonus but I definitely wish they made it a little easier.
Awesome Easter eggs abound when you come to a skirmish between Flynn and Lago from Peace Keepers! Jaleco with the unexpected fan service. I love when games cross over from the same development firm.
“YEAH KICK HIS ASS, FLYNN!” Another cool bit comes when one of the mutant enemies from Peace Keepers shows up. You just knew those broken glass containers was a bad sign…
Thinking you were safe behind the locked door, the creature gives you something to remember it by!
Popping up magically out of the floor, no place is safe. They’ll electrocute your ass if you’re not careful.
Unfortunately, your water spray has zero effect on them.
Typically, an axe should suffice. But it doesn’t harm them in the least! Why, Jaleco, why? That makes no sense especially since you can easily beat them up with your bare hands in Peace Keepers. Although a neat bonus for sure, I can’t help but feel this was a bit of a wasted opportunity.
Ignition Factor can be a fun but frustrating experience. It’s definitely geared toward more “hardcore” players as the brutal time limit leaves little room for exploring and certainly less room for error. Sure you can run but once you start carrying a certain amount of items, you can’t. Even if you can run, it’s dangerous since flames are all over the place. It’s one of those games that require repeated play and precision. Not the kind of relaxing game you’ll throw in when you just want something quick and easy. I wish there was an option to increase the time limit. Different difficulty levels would have made this game far more accessible.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAID
The Ignition Factor won EGM’s Game of the Month award in issue #68 (March 1995). It garnered scores of 7, 8, 9 and 9. Despite that, it remains kind of obscure even in today’s retro gaming circles. When people talk about SNES fire fighting games, you usually hear about Firemen rather than Ignition Factor. It also came out during a bit of a funky time — the SNES began to lose some star power in early 1995 as the focus was shifting ever so slightly to the 32-bit war machines. The game was also never advertised to the moon so it’s no surprise it’s kind of been forgotten over the decades. When people do talk about it, it seems to elicit mixed reactions. Some consider it a hidden gem while others think of it as merely being decent. Others don’t like it at all and will tell you to stick to HUMAN’s Firemen. Personally, I think there’s definitely room for both titles in one’s collection.
13 years ago I got back into the SNES and on that same night, there was a seller on eBay auctioning off Ignition Factor. I had just bought Power Moves and Prehistorik Man from this seller, and I was ready to break the chain of “PM” games. I faintly remembered seeing Ignition Factor in rental stores back in the mid ’90s but it never quite resonated with me. I had less than a minute to decide as the auction was rapidly coming to a close so I quickly looked up pictures and it looked interesting enough, especially since the idea of fire fighting in video games has always intrigued me a bit. It arrived in the mail back in January 2006 and I remember thinking “I’ll get around to playing it soon enough.” Fast forward 13 years to January 2019 and well, it took me exactly that long to play it. But hey, mission accomplished
It’s got a unique concept and the visuals are different from most other SNES games. They have sort of a European feel to them. Unfortunately, some stages look a bit bland and uninspired. There isn’t much music here; Jaleco opted for a more ambient soundtrack where the focus is on the backdrafts. Occasionally, a quick frenetic jingle plays with a voiceover that makes for a pretty cool effect, but it’s nothing special overall. I enjoyed the more strategic approach to the gameplay as you would have to switch from certain extinguishers to eliminate different flames. There are also a slew of items you can toggle between to aid you in your quest. The problem is it could easily have been handled better. To toggle items, you have to go to the menu and then make the appropriate switches. Dedicating a button to switch items would have made for a more seamless and enjoyable experience. That one change would have made a world’s difference.
And as stated earlier, the timer is a bug up your ass. It would be fine if there were an option to adjust difficulty levels and thus time limits, but sadly there isn’t. Ignition Factor isn’t unbeatable, but it should have been made a little more accessible. There’s a bit to like here such as the strategic elements, the choice of levels and odd random quirky moments spread throughout, but there’s a noticeable lack of polish. Still, there’s a decent game lying underneath the rubble if you’re dedicated and patient enough to tackle it head on.