A few seconds behind the hose in Against the Fire and it's clear this seemingly derivative twin-stick shooter has a spark of originality.
The game puts you in the role of a firefighter as a skyscraper begins to burn with people still inside. Armed with your trusty fire hose, your task is to scale the building, rescuing survivors on each floor.
Adorably angry-faced flames of various sizes rush toward you as you explore each floor of the edifice looking for trapped civilians. Shooting these flames with water from your hose extinguishes them. When you find a helpless survivor, they follow you around until you get them back to the safety zone.
The controls make use of two virtual analogue sticks: one for movement, the other for strafing (if you can call it strafing when you're using a powerful water pistol instead of a gun, but whatever). Meridian had already refined these controls, and they work just as well in Against the Fire as they do in any other top-down iPhone shooter.
The difference here is that the labyrinthine levels of this towering inferno can restrict your quenching water stream until the fire is almost upon you. This adds a superb level of tension as you attempt to run down narrow corridors, for example, or find yourself trapped at a claustrophobic dead-end. Various power-ups are available as you explore the burning floors, as is additional oxygen that provide extra time to find survivors and get them out.
The graphics are beautiful, despite it being quite chaotic in the burning building. Arrows pointing towards survivors and the exit can prove confusing since they don't actually direct you through the building. Instead, they point directly at targets and can easily lead you astray and into dead-ends, to the extent that you have to ignore them.
With 50 levels to the skyscraper, Against the Fire packs a hefty challenge despite being aimed at younger players. It certainly can't be accused of pandering simply because it's looking to entertain a demographic that's not quite ready for a blood-soaked zombie massacre.
Perhaps the game won't have a quite so much appeal if you've already blasted your way through Alive 4-ever, since the two games are very closely related, although anyone who finds this particular style of iPhone game appealing will still enjoy this refined addition to the genre.