You learn a lot about yourself as you play Kill It With Fire. In a world without material consequences, apparently, I would chuck entire plasma screen TVs and drop a nuclear bomb if it meant getting rid of a spider. Considering how many games I’ve played that feature giant arachnids, I’m a little surprised. Be it the classic RPG sewer spider or the oversized Orb Weavers who patrol the flower gardens of Grounded, it’s not like I haven’t dealt with them before. Yet it’s the appropriate scale of the spiders in Kill It With Fire that puts me over the edge. In this new first-person adventure title from Casey Donnellan Games, the ancient struggle between man and spider plays out in virtual form. The spiders are small, vulnerable to a rolled up newspaper or the bottom of a shoe. And with their size comes the triumph of redemption, and your arsenal, the comfort of overkill.
For a game built on such a faddish turn of phrase, Kill It With Fire delivers a surprisingly meaty experience. It has a broad range of scenarios that keep the objectives fresh even with the narrow scope of its gameplay. The game starts out in a single room and progresses through several locations, from a gas station to a garden, an office, and a secret lab. New types of spiders and weapons are introduced in each level, with audio cues and a simple tracking device to help you hunt down your prey. Flamethrowers, Molotov cocktails, an AK-47: whatever your choice, it’s all fair game. Each environment has a number of listed and secret objectives that unlock new rooms, as well as a mini-game that poses a unique challenge based on that level’s special weapon. The game becomes an all-out cold war between you and your eight-legged enemies, culminating in its natural and explosive conclusion.
The beauty of Kill It With Fire is that it realistically evokes the panicked determination of encountering a spider. You both don’t want to find a spider and can’t wait to kill it, and it takes only seconds before you start tearing the room apart. The spiders are unpredictable to the point of paranoia; some will explode or leap at your face, some will even play dead. You’re never sure if it’s safe to pick up or engage with any object in your environment, lest you rouse them out of their hiding place. The resulting scramble to find a counterattack is a big part of the payoff, as if you’re finding an overpowered weapon to match your retaliatory thirst for blood.
The visual violence and the game’s ridiculous weapons are also a source of catharsis. It feels absurdly powerful to stand in the middle of a bathroom floor and fire a revolver at a spider point-blank. In my effort to kill spiders, I have now burned down an entire garden, blew up a gas station, dropped an anvil, and detonated an atomic bomb. The physical response is part of the reward; light a spider on fire and it will toss itself across the room, thwack it with your clipboard and its exoskeleton will crumple into a bright green pile of goo. Whatever dread builds as you endure the squick-squick of a hiding spider’s legs is heightened by that intoxicating moment of discovery and death. There are few joys as lovely as smashing a spider dead with a frying pan as it flees for its life.
It’s not a terribly long game, but neither should it be. Kill It With Fire’s short gameplay matches its light tone, and keeps the premise from wearing out its welcome. Despite its low stakes, it is high spirited, and about as complicated and deep as it needs to be. If you’ve ever wanted to upend furniture and mow down a hedge maze just to get a spider, you’ll feel personally targeted by this one. It’s revenge fantasy chicken soup for the arachnophobic soul.
Kill It With Fire was developed by Casey Donnellan Games and published by tinybuild. It’s available for PC.
Holly Green is the editor-at-large of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.