(KILL IT WITH FIRE is available now for PC. Distributor provided review copy.)

Spiders are the natural mortal enemies of mankind. Future historians will look back on the detritus of our time and marvel at the signs of the arachnid wars, where brave soldiers looked into the multiple eyes of demons and survived. Australian veterans will speak of the days in deep, somber tones usually reserved for MAD MAX films. Or so the internet would have us believe. 

In truth, spiders are just spiders and most of us will go our entire lives without being bitten or even harassed by one. But that hasn’t stopped developer Casey Donnellan and publisher Tiny Build from crafting a one-joke experience around the subject matter. KILL IT WITH FIRE is simply an extermination simulator, no more, no less. 

Initially given a limited supply of weaponry, tools, and even basic motor functions, players must spend their first moments lamely stumbling through clunky tutorials as they try to hit pixel sized monstrosities with books, swatters, and lamps. The more creepy crawlers you wipe out, the more items you get to play with. A new set of pants allows you to run, another will let you equip more weapons at once. Normally these kinds of things would be available right from the start, but because KILL IT WITH FIRE has very little, if anything else to its name, such things are now hidden behind arbitrary mission design. 

The first few minutes do elicit some chuckles. There’s an overtly dramatic sound cue that plays every time a spider appears, and the natural anticipation of discovering the eight legged freaks is spine tingling for a while. There’s also some guffaws to be found in the absurdity in trying to kill the creatures with increasingly devastating weaponry like flamethrowers, pistols, and shotguns. 

But the limitations quickly begin to reveal themselves. The levels are completely static environments, where you can basically just make a mess of things without actually doing damage to anything. Spiders die with anti-climactic spurts, making the whole experience feel, well, pointless. If you could actually make holes in the walls and burn down entire sections of the house, that absurdity alone would bring more value into the experience. But now it just feels like a proof of concept rather than a finished game. 

Not that the campaign (story mode?) itself is very long. It can be completed in a couple of hours, after which KILL IT WITH FIRE offers no real reason to ever look at it again. There are challenge missions, but they’re so poorly devised that I skipped them entirely. 

Joke games are not inherently a bad thing, especially at budget prices like this. But rarely seem to even try to go beyond their initial “what if” pitch, leaving them vague curiosities that are more fun to talk about than to actually play. KILL IT FIRE is probably a more rewarding experience when viewed on a Twitch stream when it’s played by your favorite internet personality. That way their natural charisma can fill out the void where KILL IT FIRE has misplaced its own.