Today’s Nostalgia Lane might well be a game you’ve never heard of, one that was so niche it hid inside another game’s niche. But for me, Pyro II became a huge obsession in my college years and I’ve never quite forgotten it since.
Let’s back up. During the Syp College Years (1994-99), I got a job working the help desk at our computer center. It was a great job for me, since 80% of the time I got to just sit at a computer, surf the internet at lightning-slow 28.8-baud speeds, and play games. Unlike now, where flash games and MMOs are everywhere, most of the games we procured were passed around from person to person on floppy discs (downloading games from the fledgling internet at the time took way too long, for the most part).
One of the games that became a huge hit among us in the computer center was this odd terrorism-centric puzzle game called Pyro II. Yeah, the theme — even back then — was somewhat eyebrow-raising: You took the role of an arsonist going around government buildings, lighting everything on fire while trying to escape before you got caught up in the conflagration. Very non-PC at the time, and I can’t see the whole “terrorism” angle playing out well now, but for the most part it was just ignored for the basic game itself.
Pyro II wasn’t pretty to look at — it was just ASCII graphics with extremely limited animation — but dang if it wasn’t addictive. Your character, a big purple box, is spooling out a fuse behind him that’s on fire and heading right for you. Each level was sort of a maze, with walls that have to be navigated as you decided — rapidly — the best way to burn down as much of the level as possible. This was tricky, because the fuse wouldn’t get close enough to the walls to burn, so you had to utilize gas cans.
Gas cans were the only tool you had to work with, and they could kill you lickety-split if you weren’t careful. You could opt to trail your fuse through one, which would cause a fiery explosion when the burning part of it caught up, or you could pick up a single can and spill a pool of gasoline anywhere you wanted. The trick here is that while the gas can explosions or puddle burnings would do the trick by catching large chunks of the level on fire, they’d also shorten the fuse considerably. However, the more flames that you had going, the slower the fuse burned, so you had incentive to get the fires going early on.
You also had to be very, very careful not to brush up against any fire (as you’d die) or light a part of the level on fire that you’d have to go through. The worst was the stairs, since that was your exit and could not be on fire at any point before you went up them. Yes, for some reason you’re burning a building from the bottom floor up, so I don’t know what your character’s exit plan was, but oh well.
A good player could burn down most of the level, and it was satisfying to watch chain explosions catch multiple walls on fire and spread. I know this makes us sound like sick jerks, but again, it was more the puzzle aspect than the story behind it. I could see this easily being remade with a non-terrorism angle (or even non-fire, really) and being just as fun.