||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (February 2009)|
Project Firestart is a cinematic action/adventure game for the Commodore 64 computer system. It was designed by Jeff Tunnell and Damon Slye and published by Electronic Arts in 1989. The game features strong survival horror elements and a story with multiple paths and endings.
IGN has called it the first "fully formed vision of survival horror as we know it today," citing its balance of action and adventure, limited ammunition, weak weaponry, vulnerable main character, feeling of isolation, storytelling through journals, graphic violence, open exploration, cut-scenes, multiple endings and use of dynamically triggered music—all of which were characteristic elements of later games in the survival horror genre. Penny Arcade has similarly described it as "the Survival Horror template in its entirety".
Project Firestart began on February 13, 2061, aboard the research ship Prometheus. Financed by the System Science Foundation (SSF), an agency of the United System States (USS), the project's goal was to produce strong, durable laborers capable of helping Belters mine titanium and iridium on selected moons and asteroids.
Although the first generation genetic reshaping is extremely hazardous, it was allowed because the geneticists involved were required to follow strict safeguards guaranteeing tight control over the experiment's end product.
But the Prometheus no longer responds. The safeguards must have been breached. If they have, Firestart is out of control. The SSF has assigned you to clean up the mess.
The game is a side-scrolling, pseudo-3D action-adventure game. The player's character can run left or right through environments, shooting enemies with his laser gun and entering doors. The game adopted a cabinet projection for giving the action greater depth, and some areas allowed for movement into and out of the background. The HUD and on-screen information is very limited, just showing the health of the main character and the amount of ammo available.
Some of the terminals throughout the space station contain logs and journals of the personnel, which provide a history of the genetic project and thus the backstory - a revolutionary feature in 1989, which has become very common in modern videogames. Occasionally, due to a player action or at fixed points in the game, the game would pause for a cutscene featuring either the hero or the monsters.
Project Firestart was generally well received by the press in 1989. The famous videogame magazine Zzap!64 rated the game 91%, with the following comment: "Project Firestart is jam-packed with the sort of fast-paced, polished presentation and chilling atmosphere which make software epics.". Another magazine, PowerPlay, rated the game 78/100, describing it as "characterized by an unbelievably thick atmosphere" and at the same time criticizing its use of a disk-exchange system, which requires the player to swap the disks many times mid-game. Computer Gaming World noted the game succeeds outside the traditional mold of action or adventure games and said, "While the game may fail to satisfy devout action gamers because the pacing of the action is slow or doctrinaire role-players because of the lack of true interaction and character development, it is a suspenseful blend of music, graphics, decision-making, action, clues, plot, and even, romance."
Although never commercially successful, the game has an enduring cult following, and is ranked on Lemon64 as the 17th best Commodore 64 game by user votes as of 2009.
This game has been remade by Erik Hogan into a 3D first person game for Windows and is available at Retro Remakes.
- Travis Fahs. "IGN Presents the History of Survival Horror". IGN. Retrieved 2009-11-02.
- Jerry Holkins. "My Friend Wyrmidon". Penny Arcade (webcomic). Retrieved 2011-02-02.
- Quoted from the "Command Summary Card - Project Firestart" (Game Manual), page 1. Electronic Arts, 1987
- Zzap! Review for Project Firestart at Mobygames
- German Project Firestart review on PowerPlay (scan)
- Wilson, David (October 1989), "Quest for Firepower", Computer Gaming World: 18