Before I begin my review of Flame Over, I should make my opinion on roguelikes clear: I often enjoy the genre, but only a small fraction of roguelikes have been able to truly hold my attention for longer than a week. Usually I find roguelikes too random and harsh, especially when the player loses control of the situation to a bad randomization. There are, however, games like Spelunky that are truly masterpieces of game mechanics; every single aspect of that oh-so-perfect game plays into allowing the player to learn the game’s systems so eventually the players know what to expect, and how to take advantage of each situation. It was part of what made that game’s Daily Challenge system so appealing. When I see a game like Flame Over promising to be the next Spelunky, I get excited.
Flame Over puts the player in the fireproof boots of Blaze Carruthers, a firefighter racing through a burning building, putting out flames and rescuing survivors. Each level has multiple endangered individuals (and cats!) to rescue, as well as a power switch, hidden powerups, and cash to find.
To rescue people and cats, Blaze must talk to them and bring them to the nearest fire escape. It isn’t always that easy, as some particularly stubborn survivors will demand the player to find objects on the floor before they’ll leave the spot they’re in. Sometimes this mechanic comes off as really weird. I’ve seen many people burn to death while waiting for a “blue bag in a long hallway,” instead of hanging out in the fireproof room just a short walk away from where they’re about to roast alive. However, much like Spelunky, rescuing people and cats is worth it for the purely for the benefits. Rescuing people will give an extra minute on the timer to put out all the fires on the floor, and rescuing cats will give Blaze an extra heart.
As I learned the Flame Over’s systems, rescuing survivors became easier, as did turning off power on the floor to weaken electrical fires. What is still nearly impossible to me, or at least very stressful, is the game’s demand to extinguish all the fire on a level. I somewhat understand this, —of course a firefighter should strive to put out all the fire— I do not believe that he would waste the precious time he could have been using to save people on other levels of the building when he’s the only firefighter on the job. This issue also caused a bit of a gameplay dilemma for me: did I want to rush through the level and save everyone and get the extra time on the clock before putting out the fires? Or should I have gone room by room, putting out fires while disregarding the time bonus? Decisions, decisions.
Burning Down the House
There were some great moments in the game, though. One fond memory I have is opening a door to have a backdraft blast at Blaze, once it cleared I saw the carpet in the center of the room engulfed in a huge blaze with a terrified survivor standing right next to it all. I frantically began trying to clear a path to him so I could escort the survivor to the fire escape, only to have a fireball hit the ground next to me. Before I could react, the floor lit up, raising my heat level to the max, taking my last chunk of health. All this happened in seconds, and it’s this sort of chaotic action that made me like the game much more. The game clearly showed me what I did wrong, and next time, I’ll be prepared.
Flame Over is also really a good looking game. The visuals are very cartoonish and crisp, and while the audio for the game is a bit minimal, being mostly made of a musical track, the singular track changes tempo depending on the amount of time left on a level, which helps the player more than a traditional soundtrack would. Which is nice.
Overall, Flame Over is a quality roguelike. I wouldn’t name it the next Spelunky, but Laughing Jackal should be praised for the effort they put into making a fresh entry to the rogue-like genre.