Fire! In the Diner! Fire! In the Cake Factory! Danger Danger! Another spree of accidental flame outbreaks is afflicting the land of Casual Gaming! Once again, it's up to a little robot fire-fighter that could to vanquish the flames. Such is the heated premise of The Podge's new puzzle platformer sequel, Inferno 2: Meltdown.
Sequel to the original Inferno, Meltdown has similar mechanics. As before, you move your robot around the screen with the [WASD] keys, collecting coins and putting out ever-consuming flames by aiming the hose and shooting with a click of the mouse. Aiming the hose straight down will blast you into the air, and, should you have one on hand, the [spacebar] drops a sprinkler which will release a constant spray. You start with a generous but limited supply of water, but can refill your tank at various locations. Like before, points are awarded for the remainder of the structure left standing and coins collected, but now there are also people to save. They'll be okay if you get to them or keep the flames safely away, but should you leave them to immolate, expect a penalty. Believe me, the chances of that happening will be much higher should flames reach the ever-present oil drums, crates of fireworks, or air vents (though thankfully a spray at the fan controls will shut the latter down.) You'd better get the robot down, down, down to the source, or else, those flames'll keep getting higher!
Inferno 2 keeps what made the original appealing, while improving on its flaws. The controls are less clunky, the pace is faster, and the addition of people to protect adds greatly to the dramatics. As before, the set pieces you protect are wonderfully designed, and humorously builds from the mundane (a office trash fire) to the comically extreme (a blaze at the firework, match and propane factory!). While the focus feels more action-oriented, the new medal ranking system and harder "Meltdown" mode rewards strategic thinking: you might be able to rush in to the flames spray-happy, but if you don't collect enough coins, upgrades will be out of your reach.
Meltdown is not perfect: ladders and jet-pack controls remain a bit too finicky, there seems to be a bug that traps you on the ending screen, and the repetitiveness of the concept makes it a game still best enjoyed in short bursts. However, you'll still derive great satisfaction in every so often laying a troublesome flame to rest. Overall, those who enjoyed the first game will find Meltdown a worthy successor, and even those who didn't might have their interest kindled by its improvements to the concept.