GAME NAME: Flame Over
DEVELOPER(S): Laughing Jackal
PUBLISHER(S): Laughing Jackal
GENRE(S): Twin-stick Rogue-like
RELEASE DATE(S): March 10, 2015
What do you get if you take a rogue-like game and light the bloody thing on fire? You get a melted mess of plastic and regret. Why would you do something like that? But if you’re speaking metaphorically, you would get Flame Over, the new PlayStation Vita game developed and published by Laughing Jackal that they describe as both a “pryroguelike” and a “twin-stick squirt-em-up”.
In Flame Over, you take the role of Blaze Carruthers, London’s best firefighter. One day while working out your massive arm guns, a call comes in about a massive fire at the Infernal Industries building. It’s up to you and you alone to save they day. The building consists of 16 floors divided into four different main areas: office, executive, lab, and factory. They are all randomly generated each time you play, with dynamically moving flames and other hazards. You start the game with five minutes on the clock to make it all the way through, but once you clear a section of four levels, you can start your run from the start of the new section.
Thankfully, there are plenty of opportunities to add time to your countdown. For every person that you rescue from the various rooms you go through, you can earn an additional minute. Or you can complete missions from the subtly named Miss Ion to get even more time added. There is also one cat per level to rescue to help restore your health. Or if you like watching people burn, you can find mini time adds hidden in the rooms or buy them from the in-level shop owner that found a way to make his entire room fireproof and should probably be given a promotion to further develop his fireproof technology so he can stop selling his wares in the middle of burning buildings.
The missions that Miss Ion gives you to complete range from finding a hidden thing and returning it to her to entering given codes into hidden computer terminals. Besides the addition to your countdown clock, you will also receive a token that allows you to unlock permanent powerups in the game start screen. These powerups range from faster tank refill times to better fire resistance, and become invaluable as you attempt to go deeper into the game. Just make sure you take care of the flames around her quick, because she won’t move until you complete her mission, making me wonder how she got a job in the first place at this company if she’s fine standing in the middle of a fire.
I say attempt because this game is pretty tough from the start. All the coins you earn will be lost when you start your next run, so a lot of times you can’t make any upgrades at all. As mentioned above, each of the seven available upgrades has to be unlocked first with mission tokens. As these can be hard to come by when you’re just starting out, a lot of your money will be wasted, which can get frustrating.
The game doesn’t offer much instruction as you get started as to what buttons do or how exactly you’re supposed to complete the levels. I didn’t even realize I could fire water bombs until I consulted the digital manual, as there is no in-game controls menu or display. It wasn’t clear that you also had to bring rescued citizens back to the start of levels to earn their rewards, as I wandered around with them after I found them, getting them killed in the process. I’m not usually a fan of beginning game handholding, but some kind of light instruction on screen would have been useful here.
Once you get going on fighting the fires and you know what you’re doing, though, the game gets pretty fun. The randomly generated rooms and dynamic fire make each run unique. Sometimes you’re going to get stuck with a crappy mix where all your citizens are stacked in a fully emblazed room with no water tank resupply methods. Other times things are spaced out generously and you can speed through. But that’s the nature of rogue-likes so I’m fine with it. I was impressed with how the fires can jump off to ignite another piece of furniture in the room you’re in, or if it’s feeling extra nasty, the room next door.
The gameplay has you moving through the 3D world with the left stick and aiming either your fire hose or extinguisher with your right stick. The camera shows a top-down view that can be rotated when not shooting your fire stopping materials. The controls are all very smooth and responsive. Your character does move a little slow for my liking, but upgrades in game can help in that area. It’s very fun running up and down a room spraying the fire and trying to see how fast you can exit back out. The game definitely has a “one more try” aspect too it, but unfortunately the long load times put a damper on that momentum. Not only between restarts, but between each completed level as well.
The environments look nice around the floors you navigate, with each of the areas having a distinct feel to it. The fire effects are great and life-like and move as you’d expect them to. The characters all have an over-exaggerated cartoon style going for them that works for the setting of the game. The fire sounds are great, but the music is pretty repetitive. The same theme plays throughout the game and menus, with only slight variances made depending on what main section of the building you’re in.
Flame Over is a fun, original twist on the rogue-like genre. While the game may start out (and continue to be) frustrating and difficult, you do improve with each run, whether you buy new upgrades or not. Some long loading times do temper the desire to replay, but the fun of dousing the flames will reignite it. For fans of the genre, I would recommend picking up Flame Over and prepare yourself for a fiery good time.