Retro Age Attack!: The Ignition Factor

The Ignition Factor was released in 1994 by publisher Jaleco on the Super Nintendo. I first laid hands on the game in 1995, bringing home a rental copy while staying with my grandparents that summer. This is one of those games that would draw you in with the box art and back cover screenshots, something that got little play in gaming magazines but just looked too cool to not check out.

I remember being kind of blown away by how unique the game was. By that time I was old enough to realize I really didn’t want to be a firefighter, but not old enough to dismiss the potentially awesome side of the career entirely. And being able to play that out in video game form was pretty mind blowing, if only because there was a complete drought of firefighting games. Hell, there’s still a complete drought of firefighting games, I could name them all on one hand and still have fingers to spare.

Ignition Factor involved taking on various blazes in different building types, like chemical plants and department stores, busting your way through the flames to save civilians trapped within. Each stage had a time limit to complete your goal, and it was likely that you wouldn’t save everything you saw. Prior to each stage you’d have to select your load out, and true to life your character can’t carry everything available. If you overloaded your character with items he’d lose key abilities, like running, jumping and kicking. And running was a pretty important thing to have, because your default walk speed in this game is ridiculously slow.

Once inside a building, you’re given an objective which usually involved rescuing a certain number of folks before time ran out. Most stages are multi-leveled, and were generally sectioned off by doors, similar to a Zelda dungeon design. Certain fires could only be handled by specific extinguisher types, and the fires were color coded to let you know if they were electrical, chemical or otherwise. Your default extinguisher had unlimited supply, but would need to recharge itself for a few seconds after limited use. Other extinguisher would need to be resupplied, done by other fellow firefighters scattered around the stage. One neat thing to note is that these other firefighters were often susceptible to danger too, if the area they were in became overran by flames, you’d often have to backtrack and save them too.

The way the game handled survivors was pretty unique, and actually calls to mind the more modern Dead Rising series by Capcom. Survivors were pretty spread out, and often times hidden in odd places. Some survivors could be saved simply by clearing the flames around them and speaking to them, others would need more assistance, like first aid kits before being rescued. Some survivors would give you hints to the whereabouts of others, and even more survivors would be propped around hazards that weren’t entirely obvious. One of the best examples comes from an early stage, where you’ll run into a survivor that’s cowering on top of a floor window. If you step on the window to save him, it’ll break way, killing the survivor and tossing you to the bottom floor of the building.

Of course, like most games, there are elements that don’t age extremely well. The controls feel a little cumbersome, and as I mentioned your default walk speed is so slow that it actually becomes aggravating. Running alleviates this but it’s also tied into double tapping a direction instead of a single button press, meaning that it can be easy to trigger your run when you don’t really mean to. The game also has a nasty habit of hiding fires right behind doorways, which are generally impossible to see through unlike other structures in the game.

Still, The Ignition Factor is a classic game that’s worth checking it out. It was recently released for the Virtual Console, and an actual copy of the game can be found for a pretty reasonable 10 to 15 dollars online. It’s definitely something I’d consider a hidden gem on the SNES, and if you have any love for retro gaming, I urge you to seek it out.