Xbox Game Pass Just Quietly Released the Most Inventive Horror Game of the Decade – Inverse

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Late last year, pop culture buffs were entrenched in an online debate in which fans argued over which fictional detective would be able to solve the supernatural Kira case from the Dėath Note anime. The list of potential gumshoes included everyone from real-life music journalist Nardwuar the Human Serviette to Columbo to Phoenix Wright to Detective Pikachu. But one name that was overlooked in the zeitgeist of sleuths was a novice detective from an under-appreciated horror game who recently received a second chance to display his brilliance on Xbox Game Pass.

In Firework, developed by Shiying Studio, you play as a rookie investigator named Lin Lixun, who is charged with investigating a fire that broke out during a funeral in a secluded mountainside town. From the jump, things are off with the foggy podunk town: there are creepy paper dolls that pop up out of nowhere and doors that materialize from bloodstained brick-and-mortar walls of abandoned buildings. To make matters all the more perilous, Lin must re-examine a cold case of familicide in order to solve his current endeavor.

Many of Firework’s chapters see Lin exploring illustrations left by victims for clues.

Shiying Studio

While any other rookie investigator would shirk at having their first case take place in a superstitious town haunted by ghosts and the like, Lin is built differently. Much like Patricia Arquette in the 2005 supernatural NBC show Medium, Lin has the uncanny ability to communicate with the dead and walk through psychic projections of events leading to their demise. Firework is not just a game with a nifty gimmick, it’s a sophisticated horror game that illustrates how the genre is more than cheap jump scares.

No jump scares, just atmospheric horror

Firework is a horror game wisely devoid of low-grade scares that have long oversaturated and devalued the genre. Instead, it is rich with atmospheric horror that verges on being downright cinematic in its execution. Much of the game has you wandering in the shadows, armed with only the faint glimmer of light emanating from a candlestick to brighten your path. It’s here where the game’s sidescrolling camera functions as a spot-the-difference mini-game where Lin finds clues in abandoned apartment units and hospital rooms. Much of Lin’s sleuthing comes with the occupational hazard of specters looming behind him, ghost calls from crime victims, and being drawn into illustrations and mirror dimensions to unearth clues hiding in plain sight.

Firework game

It’s giving generational trauma.

Shiying Studio

And what’s a horror game without puzzles? While Fireworks puzzles are far from outright challenging or overly simple, they effectively stoke the embers of Firework’s unnerving ambiance. For example, in Chapter 1, Lin has to scour a bathroom for clues on how to articulate the dials for a washing machine. While the three clues are simple to spot by having Lin rub against furniture until a magnifying glass icon pops up, one specific clue considers its dial illustration being written on a mirror. Meaning that players must invert their clues in order to complete the puzzle. This clue is not only clever in its attention to detail, but it also leads to a neat homage to Silent Hill 3, where Lin reveals his aversion to his reflection.

What’s more, the game’s revelations never feel like an ass-pull where deductions are arrived at without you being hands-on with tacking the thread of Lin’s logic to the proverbial corkboard. All in all, Firework is worth any fan of horror and puzzle games time, and its lead deserves to be added to the pantheon of investigators who could solve any supernatural case that graces their desk.

Firework is available through Game Pass on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC.

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