Game Review: Flame Over [PSVita]
There have been 1001 games where you play as some form of soldier. There have been a fair few where you play as a police officer. There hasn’t however been many where you play as a fire-fighter. Flame Over is here to help make a dent in that problem. You are Blaze Carruthers. One of the finest fire-fighters London has to offer and a man with a mighty fine moustache. Your mission is simple; Tackle the fire that has set the Infernal Industries Skyscraper alight, whilst rescuing the staff… and some cats.
You tackle the fire using a variety of tools. The water hose will put out most fires, and dampen objects and the floor to try and slow down the fires spreading. The extinguisher works best in putting out electrical fires, especially before you have a chance to get to the generator room to turn off the power. The last bit of your arsenal are water bombs that help take out large areas at once, if you get your throw right.
As well as the basic arsenal there’s a fair few power-ups you can purchase from the store that appears at certain points. You can pick up a defibrillator to bring back survivors you couldn’t save in time, speed boots that make you move faster or just a bigger water tank, stronger hose or better axe. Some have more obvious uses than others and it’s not overly clear at first what certain objects do when you initially pick them up, which can be an issue.
However, that not knowing is something that makes Flame Over so more-ish to pick up and play again. It’s a classic roguelike gameplay and its one of the many things that make Flame Over fall in to the roguelike category. The procedural generation of levels works well, though in the later levels this can be unrelenting if you go into them at the level select screen once they’ve been unlocked. Unfortunately they’re unrelenting in a way that doesn’t entirely feel like your fault, as some of the fire generation can be a real struggle without some store bought power-ups. This does however encourage longer playthrough’s, but not everyone will have the patience or time to commit to long play periods, and it can be disorientating pausing halfway through a run.
Although your main enemy is fire, as you push on to the other areas within the game, the way the fire behaves becomes more unpredictable and keeps you on your toes. From an emphasis on fast spreading carpet fires to air vents spitting out fireballs in previously cleared rooms, each area of the game will require you to be on alert for different things. You can only withstand so much heat in the game, so planning out how you attack a room is key, as is keeping an eye on your water and extinguisher levels.
Completing a level is achieved by putting out all the fires, but there are other things to do and further hazards to look out for. On certain levels you will encounter Miss Ion, a survivor that needs you to complete an objective until she will follow you. This can vary from putting some files in a letterbox to finding her handbag. Upon completing the mission you will be given a medal, which can be used to purchase upgrades at the start of your next run, and given a minute of extra time, plus another minute when you save her.
In later run-throughs of the game, when you have purchased all of the permanent power-ups such as faster refill and more water bombs, time is currency. If the clock counts down on a level it is not the end but you are on borrowed time. The grim reaper himself will come to take you away and it’s up to you to avoid him and, if possible, rescue a survivor to add another minute on your time. It means you’re constantly on edge, wanting to push on, but wanting to plan too.
Flame Over is a game full of charm, but it is not without its flaws. Aiming at things in your default 180 degree view is fine but shooting at things behind you can be unpredictable. Although you can rotate the camera, the only way to do this is to stop extinguishing fires, which isn’t the best thing to do when things are getting hectic. Survivors have a knack for not being able to keep up and just stopping when you get too far away. The main issue though is the game’s biggest positive. The fire is great but at times, thanks to procedural generation, it is unrelentingly unfair, meaning you’ll be unlikely to beat the level and in the later levels with the air vents it just feels like the game is being cheap with its difficulty.
For people that are fans of roguelike games, Flame Over may feel a bit easy at first. With only 4 levels per stage and 4 stages in total, you shouldn’t find it impossible to get to the last stage; it’s completing it that’s the problem. It also won’t take long to unlock all of the permanent upgrades, but this too is not a bad thing. The replayability comes from trying to get through the game as quickly as possible. Those with gaming OCD will also be in their element rescuing survivors and completing the missions of Miss Ion. It’s a prime example of the cliché “easy to play, hard to master“.
Flame Over shows that the world of fire fighting can make for a very good game. It piles on the panic of battling a fire, but keeps it fun for all thanks to its style and presentation. If you have been wanting to attempt a roguelike game, you consider yourself a veteran or you just want to put out some fires and save some cats, then Flame Over is well worth picking up.