Developer: Laughing Jackel
Publisher: Laughing Jackel
Platform: PSVITA (expected release for PS4 and Steam later)
Genre: Rogue-Like, Twin Stick Shooter
As a person who has played numerous Rogue-Like titles such as the Binding of Isaac, FTL and CRAWL, I was very optimistic when I was provided a copy of Flame Over for the PSVITA. Whilst bringing forward some new ideas and interesting gameplay mechanics: the game however lacks that common ground to hold up itself against these popular titles. Whilst you are able to get a decent amount of time from playing it,where this game suffers from is a lack of substantial content to keep players invested.
In Flame Over you play as Blaze the fireman, with his central goal being to extinguish the various fires located on his current floor. Gameplay is pretty solid, providing players various different ways to extinguish these flames. Using water, you can cover distance and generally extinguish most flames throughout these office spaces, whilst fire extinguishers are more ideal with dealing with fires surrounding electronics. But of course, this depends on whether or not players are able to locate the power box to turn off the electricity.
As you explore the rooms, the patterns of the flames do change and this encourages players to mix up the materials in order to extinguish the room. The flames also may behave differently, as some fires may jump across the room or act as a wave of death to completely cover everything.
There is also a bit of micromanagement to be had with this. As you’re extinguishing flames, being mindful of water supply and your fire extinguisher is essential for any means of progression. Once either resource is depleted, players must either find their way back to the start or seek out any water coolers/extinguishers to replenish their supplies. Health is displayed on the top right, and damage is handled through how long your player is exposed to the open flames. Standing near them for too long, and players are guaranteed to lose health.
As well as all these factors, time is also at the essence for Flame Over. With each new game, you’re only presented with five minutes to clear the entire floor from fire. What makes this even more stressful, is the fact that the clock doesn’t reset with each new stage you come across (meaning: if you had only a minute left on the prior stage, that means you only have a minute left on the next one). Additional minutes can be added if you’re able to locate and escort any civilians to safety. But once that timer runs out, a cute little Grim Reaper will eventually come and take your soul away; ultimately killing you and ending the game.
With all these factors coming into play, the game does certainly provide an interesting level of challenge. Tutorials are there, but only really outline how the controls operate. There are hints during the loading screen too and the occasional pop-in during mid game. However there is nothing substantial to clarify everything about the game. First impressions of the title may leave players thinking that the difficulty is a little off balanced.
But after an hour or so of this, players may find the performance to gradually improved. The game is hard, but like other rogue-like titles its got that same ‘tough but fair’ principle within the design.
Replayability is fairly high, with perk unlocks serving as the main encouragement for players to keep going. However, in the manner to which these perks are handled, it isn’t particularly the games saving grace. In order to unlock perks, you must earn tokens from a woman called Mrs Ion. Whilst rewarding in the sense of providing both additional time and tokens for perks, the side missions themselves are pretty lazy in design and often tedious to complete. Essentially these side missions are fetch quests, and are on par in the fun factors of completing typical households chores.
Another aspect that annoyed me was the content of the game at hand. As a whole, there’s really nothing interesting to explore within these levels. Aside from seeking out Mrs Ion and civilians, there are no additional side missions or objectives to complete. No hidden secrets. No character/skin unlocks.
No nothing. Sure the game does offer players randomly generated levels. But with only the occasional Mrs Ion missions and item stores, the impressions hardly hold it up as being ‘new experiences’.
First impressions of the music tracks were good, and it very much reminded of an intro to a Pixar movie (particularly Monsters Inc.’s introductory sequence). However after the first 20 minutes, from there on out the tune just becomes extremely repetitive. Looped tracks become auditory nightmare, so much so that I even had to mute my VITA just so I can get some peace.
Graphics aren’t anything special either. Whilst presenting reasonable gameplay, the presentation itself lacks that sense of visual fidelity or uniqueness that other rogue like games have to offer. Menus come across sloppy in design, 3D models lack the variety and animations to keep the game lively.
Really, the overall design just approached me as nothing more but a cheap iPhone game.
Like most rogue-like games, this game does certainly provide players with plenty of challenge. Bringing forward new ideas – and certainly an interesting take on the genre – the biggest faults to be had however, stems from a variety of things. With poor aesthetics, and a lack of worthwhile content to explore: it’s hard to see much investment to be had with Flame Over.