As an adult with some modicum of disposable income, I have started to seek out games that I may have missed as a child. Most of these titles are oddities from the 16- and 32-bit eras, when print magazines would preview too many games for me to directly experience. In a similar fashion, I have started to seek out brews that I may have missed in the last few years. Most of these beers are eccentric concoctions from well-loved breweries that I passed over for more conventional offerings.
This is how I came to try an India Pale Ale brewed with jalapeno and cilantro alongside a Super Nintendo game about firefighting.
Officially opening their doors in 2014, Jailbreak Brewing Company is a relative newcomer on the craft beer scene. Named after the owners’ escape from the “imprisonment” of dreary desk jobs, Jailbreak makes a point to use regional and fresh ingredients in their brewing process. While some of their beers focus on more traditional styles, such as the Infinite Amber Ale and the Big Punisher Double IPA (both delicious), many of their brews are interesting intersections of beer and food. For example, Jailbreak’s seasonal releases include a chocolate-coconut porter and a key lime pale ale (appropriately named Desserted and B.Limey).
In addition to these rather rich irregularities, Jailbreak offers a beer with savory ingredients on their year-round list. Welcome to Scoville is an IPA that is brewed with garden fresh jalapeno peppers and cilantro. Just like its container, this beer is a vibrant yellow-orange color with a goldenrod hues. The nose is strong pepper spice with some herbal notes, reminiscent of a hot salsa with extra cilantro.
With such a powerful aroma, I was expecting an acidic scorcher with a bold citrus-hop finish. Instead, I was surprised to find a floral hop start that gives way to a mild chili body. It finishes very smooth, with no real bite to speak of and the lingering flavor of Mexican food. Unlike other beers brewed with peppers that lean into the heat of their ingredients, Welcome to Scoville focuses more on the cilantro in its mix to provide a herbal brew that tastes like a meal.
While some folks may enjoy this rather foody beer, I did not care for Welcome to Scoville. The cilantro overpowers every sip with a herbal dryness that competes with the hops, which are underwhelming from the start. Any potential heat from the jalapeno is also muted, which makes the finish more earthy vegetable than intense spice. These characteristics make Welcome to Scoville stand out from other pepper-infused brews, but it ultimately fell flat for me. How appropriate that The Ignition Factor would also leave me cold.
The 1990s were a time of rampant experimentation in video game development. Both publishers and designers were eager to try out all sorts of unique gameplay and themes on the consoles of the day. For example, the same issue of Nintendo Power (in this case, #70 from March 1995) provided maps/strategies for an excellent robot action-platformer, secret codes for a claymation fighting title, and coverage of a licensed basketball game featuring the Looney Toons.
Nestled in the same issue was a brief preview for The Ignition Factor, a game where players take control of a firefighter in various rescue situations. This two-page spread featured just enough information to intrigue my younger self, but not enough coverage to move this game onto my “Must-Have” list (alongside Chrono Trigger and Donkey Kong Country 2). To make matters worse, The Ignition Factor never showed up in my local rental store, so this title fell by the wayside until September 2015, when it magically appeared on the Wii-U Virtual Console.
Upon launching The Ignition Factor from my Wii-U Menu, I was treated to a title screen truly meant for 1994. The game’s stone logo sat on a pitch black void, literally crackling with electricity in anticipation of a new player. With a hit of the Start/+ button, the rocky letters exploded into a screen covered in debris and flames. The drama of the ’90s was in full swing and I was ready to play this forgotten Super Nintendo classic.
Unfortunately, The Ignition Factor proved to be a lackluster game. Mired with finicky controls and unintuitive navigation, trying to save people trapped in a fire was a frustrating exercise. Each stage opened with such potential- I could choose which tools my digital firefighter would carry to assist his heroic journey. However, carrying more than three items would weigh my avatar down and slow his progress to a sluggish crawl. As the levels became more complex and demanded a greater variety of tools, I was stuck navigating back-and-forth to a minimal amount of NPCs spread across sprawling maps to swap items as needed.
This sort of purposeful strategic gameplay would not have been so bothersome if the actual firefighting was inherently fun. The default fire extinguisher carried by the main character fired in a strange arc that meant the fires directly in front of him would not be quelled. To make progress in any direction, I needed some space to maneuver and extinguish these respawning flames. Couple this with a painfully long animation of catching fire whenever a flame is touched, and it makes for a less-than-engaging time. Even worse, the spouts of fire would only be visible when the firefighter moves into a new room. Mashing the fire extinguisher button became mandatory when traveling through doors, lest your plucky firefighter be caught aflame and launched backwards. As a result, I came to rely quite heavily on save states to navigate this maddening experience.
While many people may attribute these frustrating elements to the limited design rules of 1994, it is worth noting that other oddball games succeeded at interesting top-down gameplay during this time. Zombies Ate My Neighbors provided unique theming and fun mechanics with appropriate challenge, and it hit store shelves an entire year before The Ignition Factor.
In the end, both of these experiences left me disappointed. I had hoped that The Ignition Factor and Welcome to Scoville were unique gems that I had somehow overlooked. As it turns out, this frustrating game and overly herbal beer were just oddly shaped rocks that I happened to walk by on the road. I would not recommend this combination.