Wildfire Deaf/HoH Accessibility
Wildfire is an enjoyable 2D platformer that uses sound visualizations in a way that doesn’t detract from the gameplay. The controls are fairly simple to master and I don’t feel pressured into rushing levels, being able to take my time.
Score6.4 out of 10
It’s not often I dip my toes into a 2D platformer, but Wildfire is one I’d been told to check out because it has accessibility options. I was also informed that you can set fire to things, and that’s always fun. Filled with curiosity, I delved in to check these options out, as well as see what this game is all about.
You play as a sneaky character, capable of jumping across gaps, climbing vines, and swimming — all while navigating platforms with enemies patrolling. You can either kill them or sneak past depending on how you want to play, or…how things pan out.
Essentially, you begin as a standard member of society, but when a meteor crashes down, you wind up with elemental powers. You’ll be making use of these powers to progress through the levels with some side-objectives that aren’t mandatory. You can also burn most things, fly in a bubble, and take control of the foliage. But how well does the game come off in regards to accessibility?
Throughout Wildfire, there’s no spoken dialogue at all. There are moments in which the enemy screams in fear when you set foliage ablaze, and sometimes they’ll sigh while patrolling. Otherwise, all dialogue is represented through the use of text that’s retained inside of text boxes that clearly indicate which character is speaking.
What’s more, the text box assigns itself to blue or red depending on if the character is an enemy or friendly. The text box also follows the character when they move so you’re always informed of which character is talking, no matter how unimportant the dialogue may be. I’m always aware of who’s speaking, what’s being said, and the humour comes through wonderfully.
Normally, I’m not a fan of moving subtitles, but thanks to the thick font and background to help improve readability, I had no issues with these at all.
One of Wildfire’s biggest visual cues for sound comes in the form of a circle that expands to a certain radius that shows the area of detectable sound. You can see it in the GIF above. Whistle and you’ll see the circle expand around you, sprint and the circle will appear with every footstep, fall from a height and your crunching bones will emit sound.
Realistically speaking, the game prides itself on a stealthier approach which means that you’ll want to be more aware of the sound you’re creating. These indicators certainly help with that, so much that I can play Wildfire without having any audio whatsoever.
I do think that there could have been even more visual cues for the sounds that fit with the style of the game, for example, the splashing of water could have benefitted from stylistic text to read, for example, “splash” at the source of the sound.
Enemies do have icons above their heads to indicate their awareness, and creatures emit a purple circle that indicates their sense of smell. There probably could have been some line-of-sight system to know exactly how far an enemy can see, but the lack of such a system I don’t think takes anything away from the game.
Wildfire is an absolute joy to play and everything that happens on screen is easy to understand. There could be more ways of showing player tips in-game, for example, one level finds you returning your ancestors to their coffins. It took me around 10 minutes to accidentally discover you have to click the coffin rather than using the keyboard controls. But otherwise, control hints are fairly well shown and consistent.
There are also moments of dialogue that can be skipped by tapping the spacebar, however there’s nothing to indicate this to you. I accidentally discovered it. The alternative is that you can just let the dialogue play out, but there’s a lengthly wait before the next piece of dialogue appears.
Wildfire also does really well at showing you what your actions will do. For example, when preparing to throw something, you’ll see a guide to show your range. You’ll also see a white flame icon to indicate what will ignite if you release the throw button. A section of water will be highlighted for when you want to activate your water elemental powers, and you can see where your earth powers will create vines.
Additionally, when you start a level, the objectives appear at the top of the screen in a nice, large banner. Going to the menu at any point will also display the objectives, although I did find myself automatically hitting TAB thinking that would open an in-game HUD to detail a quick view. It doesn’t, but it felt like it should.
Throughout the game, you can find shards that act as passive buffs by reducing the amount of noise igniting flames makes or stopping your character from slipping on ice, for example. Up to three of these buffs can be assigned, but you need to find them in the world first.
One thing I noticed that bothered me was that, in some levels, there are notes you can pick up and read. In doing so, the note takes up the majority of the screen and usually has a good deal of text to read. However, the world around you doesn’t pause, and in trying to read some notes at my own pace, I found myself being attacked by enemies so often to the point I started to ignore future notes.
Regarding specific accessibility features, Wildfire has a host of options. Players can remap keyboard and mouse, enable vibration on the controller, and allow the option to auto-jump while sprinting. There’s also the option to enable death after a single hit, enable fall damage, and allow players to revive a co-op partner easily as opposed to carrying them to a checkpoint.
There’s a red/green colorblind mode as well which helps make enemies stand out when against grass. A pitch black option is also available, rendering darker levels…darker. When not enabled levels have a nice blue tinge to them to ensure the platformer is accessible.
Now, there is also an “accessibility mode” which feels a bit misleading. The way this particular option is worded, at face value, feels as if it’s going to enable a bunch of features to cater to different forms of disabilities. The reality is, when enabled, the controller configuration changes to become playable with only hand providing you have a controller. I’d probably have opted for calling this “Mobility Accessibility Mode” or something similar.
I’d also point out that the accessibility options could be duplicated into their own dedicated menu to save the player the effort of hunting these options down through individual categories.
According to the options menu, vibration is supposed to be present in the game, however, the two Xbox One controllers I used would not recognize any vibrations. Other games registered vibrations fine, so I’m unsure if this is a bug. From what I experienced taking damage, combat, checkpoints, and attacking all had no vibration assigned to them.
While the game is primarily a single-player game, there is the option for couch co-op. Because this is designed for two players on one PC, there’s no real in-game communication required. However, with the introduction of Steam Play Together —which this game does support— I think there should at least be some way of communicating through simple measures.
I highly recommend Wildfire for those who enjoy the 2D platformer genre. Visually it’s a treat with stylish lens flare from the flames and wonderful color palettes for the pixel art. This is all made better by how the game incorporates sound visualizations in a way that doesn’t detract from the gameplay. The controls are fairly simple to master and I don’t feel pressured into rushing levels, being able to take my time which certainly helps enjoy this more.
The soundtrack is beautiful, and the humor really shines through in the dialogue and the character animations. It’s certainly a game I have a lot of fun with, and the addition of being able to challenge myself to the optional challenges keeps me wanting to go back to previous levels and improve.
I do think some additional assist features available within their own accessibility menu would help players cater the game more to their liking. Options such as the ability to slow time, or to grant yourself more life points. The game at its default setting is already relatively accessible, but with that extra push, it could improve the gameplay that little bit more.