Rogue-likes are an incredibly popular genre of video game, especially with people who enjoy playing Indie games. After all, you get a hell of a lot of game for your money, and the game maps always change, meaning that you can theoretically play it forever. Anyhow, Flame Over, a new game by Laughing Jackal Games, takes the idea of the Rogue-like dungeon crawl and turns it into a firefighting and rescuing scenario–a pyrogue-like, if you will. I take up my extinguisher, my firehose, and MY AXE to review this game.
In Flame Over, you take the part of valiant fireman Blaze and hit up the Infernal Industries building, putting out infernos, backdrafts, and conflagrations everywhere. There’s no saying where the fires originated, although electrical fault is strongly hinted at. You dungeon-crawl through the building’s rooms and levels putting out fires and rescuing trapped people (and the occasional kitty), all to the tune of 5 minutes of time. Rescuing people earns you an extra minute per person while cats will earn an extra heart, but the floor is not considered complete until the fire is completely under control. True to most Rogue-likes, you will spend a lot of time dying, but you can then spend any money you earn on upgrades to make your firefighting easier. Oh, and did I mention that you need to first unlock each item in the shop before you can start purchasing? Furthermore, any money you do not use is ostensibly sent to a charity, so at least some good comes from the stuff.
The game plays as a twin-stick shooter squirter of sorts. When not using the hose or extinguisher, the right stick controls the camera. Engage one or the other, however, and the game goes into twin-stick mode. It’s a bit jarring to need to stop squirting just to rotate the camera, but you get used to the idea. If Blaze (or any of the survivors, for that matter) stays in a conflagrated room for too long, they die. Survivors can be revived with a defibrillator you can get later, but if Blaze goes, then that’s it. Flame over, and you have to restart. Frequent deaths are a common feature of Rogue-likes, aren’t they? And trust me, you’ll die a lot. The 5 minutes you get per level isn’t much time at all, and the 5 minutes applies to the whole darned game, not just one stage, so you can easily finish the first stage and find you only have 30 seconds or so the get through the next stage, and then there are still the upper floors to consider. And at time out is when Mr. Reaper (esq.) comes looking for you. Of course, finding survivors and helping them survive is the key to extending your time, and this is the only way to work through the entire game to the top of the building in one playthrough. I’ve lost many a poor survivor to the heat due to my own incompetence.
Flame Over is a hell of a lot of fun to play, although finding sufficient tokens to unlock the shop entries can get a little frustrating at times. The whole nature of the game is that it’s meant for endless replays, and you’ll find that this is exactly what you do. Most of the problems you’ll encounter will be absolutely your own fault, whether not retreating from a room in time, or whether you haven’t shut down the electrical board to eliminate the stubborn electrical fires or whether you decided that a room was too deadly to investigate and unknowingly let a survivor die (meaning you lose precious minutes, because let’s face it, we’re certainly not saving these guys because of the humanity factor). But eventually you do figure out that there’s a strategy at play that you need to exploit, and the powerups are just a way to get to the higher floors and higher levels faster and better.
I didn’t encounter any major problems with the game, whether it be boredom or glitches. It’s fairly sturdy and the pacing and difficulty seems well thought out. In fact, the game is built in such a way that farming for money is impossible, since you can only use what you make before the inevitable death. I guess I could argue that the loading time is a little on the long side, but not so ridiculous that you end up waiting more than ten or so seconds. One minor annoyance I did have was that that intro video plays every time you restart Stage 1, but you can skip this. I don’t feel I needed to see it every single time, though.
Overall, I heartily recommend it, because it’s just so much fun to play. Over and over. The thing you eventually come to realise about Flame Over is that the game is far more about skill and strategy than you’d think. Once you get the idea, your play times become longer, and the 5 minute limit is less of a barrier. I don’t think I’ve quite played anything like it before, and the novelty of it still hasn’t worn off. Yes, you’ll die a lot, but be prepared for a fiery challenge.
Final Score: 9 Firefighting Prawns out of 10
Developer: Laughing Jackal Games
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Age Rating: 3+