by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
Out of the frying pan, into the oven. If you're a fire fighter, you live it day by day. Like a police officer, or a doctor, at one point in childhood we probably thought about how exciting and rewarding it would be to face danger by fighting fires and, more importantly (in a child's eyes), helping cats down from trees. Along comes Flame Over, a quirky 'pyroguelike' which comes across as the childhood fantasy manifested. But, is it any fun? Or is it the equivalent to being burned alive?
Embracing The Elements: Fire, Water, Moustache
Blaze Carruthers, a veteran fire fighter and the moustachioed protagonist of Flame Over, travels through four different types of procedurally generated environment. The goals are as simple as they come: Save lives, put out fires. It's not a complicated game by any means, but it's not lacking in difficulty or in fun by any means.
This game can be incredibly deceiving even in the first few moments, running into a room and seeing a single object on fire. You put it out, then when you're onto the next room the entire thing is an inferno with electrical fires and burning furniture clashing against each other as you try to alternate between hosing them down and using a fire extinguisher to dose electrical fires not swayed by the water. Somehow dealing with that situation, the stakes go up again as you fight something similar but now with a person or several people trapped in the middle! The game can get out of hand, in a good way, very quickly. The difficulty can almost feel unfair at times, and it's frustrating, but I'd rather see a game be too hard than too easy. Throw in a time limit that can be especially unforgiving if you linger too long on any one task, and you've got a recipe for a constant rush that is two parts fun, one part frustration.
Controls are easy enough to pick up on whether you play with a controller or a mouse and keyboard, each option feeling as fluid as the other, as you guide your character through the mazes of hallways and rooms. The only downside from a control standpoint is the camera. It controls fluidly enough, but far too often do you have to rotate the camera to find the fires you want to put out and though it's more of a minor inconvenience than a control problem, it does leave something to be desired.
Miss Ion: Failed
Layout-wise, the levels tend to be very hit and miss. Being procedurally generated, that danger is always there, but while some generate feeling quite unique others have a chance of feeling extremely dull. The game can mostly get away with this however, as 99% of the time you're going to be frantically running around the screen either trying desperately to put out fires in a room before they flare back up, or escorting a person or cat to safety. The only time you really get to stop and look at the environment, for better or worse, is when you run into the dreaded Miss Ion.
Miss Ion, is a pest and intent on trying to ruin my fun. Her name clearly means Mission, and that is exactly what she does; provides you with a mission, a tertiary objective on top of putting out the fires and save lives. I despise her existence, as it always relates back to getting her purse from a random room and after looking through the whole map I can never seem to find it! Of the several times I've bumped into her, I've found it maybe once. But I sacrificed so much time trying to find it, that the time ran out before I could get it back to her and escort her from the building. It got to the point where I figured out that if the opportunity presents itself, just ignore her requests. Save everyone else, put out all the fires, then complete the level. Don't waste the remainder of your time trying to find her elusive purse.
Flame Over is a roguelike that makes a place for itself in an indie scene that is quickly beginning to overflow with new titles daily. With its colourful take on one of the most dangerous professions, combined with a simple yet difficult gameplay style, it's sure to appeal to both children and adults looking for some time to kill. Though it may not hold your attention for long, whenever it does hold it you'll be enjoying yourself.
Easy to learn controls, difficulty of a mostly good sort, colorful environments, frantic gameplay
Environments can become repetitive, Miss Ion NPC is more than annoying, unlikely to hold your attention for long playing sessions