Review: Flame Over (PSV)

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Title: Flame Over
Format: PlayStation Network Download (728 MB)
Release Date: March 10, 2015
Publisher: Laughing Jackal
Developer: Laughing Jackal
Original MSRP: $9.99 (US), €9.99 (EU), £7.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: E
PEGI: 3
Flame Over is also available on PlayStation 4 (Date TBD) and PC.
The PlayStation Vita download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

This game is a Roguelike. Roguelikes are usually turn-based with a procedural level generation system and the most important aspect being permanent death. Instead of using a ‘life’ or ‘continue’ you simply start the game from the beginning with any save data being deleted.

Gameplay:
Flame Over pits your firefighter character, the ironically named Blaze, against the deadly all-consuming fire and a five-minute countdown that doesn’t end the game but instead unleashes Death to chase your poor little hero around. A single touch at this point will end your game. Putting out fire gives your hero money that you can use in the in-game shop to buy upgrades that only last until you die. Alternatively you can spend any money you’ve earned from the last game on permanent upgrades before starting a new adventure. If you don’t then it’ll be lost forever as Blaze kindly donates it to charity.

The permanent upgrades allow Blaze to withstand fire for a longer duration, increase the speed the water supply refills, or be able to carry more water bombs, among other things. If you are lucky enough to have the Caretaker’s in-game shop appear in the level you’re playing then you can acquire some very useful but sadly per-game items, like a gas mask or defibrillator. The difficulty comes with knowing when to spend your money. Do you spend a little bit of money and turn the tide of a single game or save it till the end and spend some more to try to unlock some upgrades that will make all the following games that little bit easier.

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Fighting against the redox reactions of an exothermic chemical process of combustion, or fire as most people call it, isn’t often seen in games or films for that matter. Making fire believable in a game is a tough task to achieve, especially if it’s the only enemy and such a prominent part of the experience. Flame Over delivers in making your hero’s nemesis a deadly primal beast that consumes everything in its path without mercy or thought but also manages to keep it fun, lighthearted, and entertaining at the same time.

Whilst you’re running around the randomly generated level you’ll have to keep a close eye on your Danger Meter, Thermometer, and the very important water and foam levels. If you let those tanks run dry it’s either a mad dash back to the start of the level to re-fill or find another water source for a top-up.

… the flames begin to surround and engulf the poor little firefighter …

Let me tell you, it’s a horrible feeling when both tanks are empty and you’re stuck in the corner of a room with the fire creeping ever closer. Planning your route and making sure you have a good supply before breaking down the fire door becomes second nature, as does finding the Fuseboard to cut off the electricity supply thus avoiding the problematic electrical fires that need to be smothered in foam so they don’t reignite.

You’ll also soon realize that soaking the area around the fire lowers the chance of it spreading. After many attempts I began to clear rooms a lot faster and saved more people in the process. I quickly learnt that the water spray can reach much further than the extinguisher and began to strafe and arc my attacks on the raging inferno.

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I mentioned earlier about the permanent upgrades – these can be obtained by using tokens that you collect during the game by undertaking missions from Miss Ion, a stubborn lady that will only follow you to the exit once you have completed her bizarre request. Most of the requests have you searching for a particular item hidden in the level. Thankfully this can be collected even before you’ve met the crazy lady which means you only have to collect your reward and lead her to safety.

Other hapless individuals only have to be told to follow and they’ll accept, but everyone is still in danger and can lag behind so you’ll still have to keep an eye on them. Your reward for leading each person to the exit is an extra minute added to the dreaded countdown, so if you plan everything correctly and the randomly generated level layout is favorable, you could put out the fire and leave with more time than you started with.

The rare occurrence of being briefly snagged on some scenery or accidentally turning the camera instead of using the extinguisher are the only problems I encountered with this game. The latter being my fault as I would often panic when the flames begin to surround and engulf the poor little firefighter. After a few hours with the game it became but a distant memory. Controlling Blaze becomes second nature and the early levels will feel like child’s play.

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The more you play this game the better at it you’ll become. Once you’ve saved enough to unlock most of the upgrades you’ll be averaging twenty minutes a game instead of two. It’s almost as if the upgrades distract you from how badly you play during the early hours and focus you on small easier goals without even trying for a perfect run to the end. The randomly generated levels increase the replayability of this already brilliant game. Even after I’ve played it for hours upon hours it still has me hooked.

… it’s always a frantic and tense experience …
It isn’t just the levels that are randomly generated, the locations of the people who need rescuing and the fire itself is different every time. On rare occasions you might even find a room that’s been spared the inferno’s wrath, but be careful as I assumed one particular room to be clear until the very last second when I noticed a smoldering computer in the corner. It seemed like that very moment the fire and myself both noticed each others existence. A massive fireball erupted from the computer sending a wall of fire thundering toward the terrified hero. I sent the poor guy running backward into the hall, all the while spraying as much water as he could at the conflagration. If there had been an animation for it I’m sure the firefighter would have collapsed onto his backside in relief and exhaustion as the fire struggled to take hold on the drenched carpet and died down inches away leaving only the furniture ablaze.

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Visuals:
Flame Over is a very detailed and colorful game, built using a smooth and fluid game engine that looks great on the PS Vita. Water and foam persistently coat the charred remains of the lovingly detailed furniture, plants, toilet stalls, and any other thing you could think of. You can spin the level around quickly and easily to focus on the dangers and the frame rate never drops. A nice feature is the green glow at the edge of the play area, similar to that of a Fire Exit sign that always guides you to the exit of each level, it becomes an almost unconscious beacon that never steers you wrong and never gets in the way.

I was very happy to see that the combustibles do not have an on-fire animation but instead the fire acts separately and so looks more natural than most other games and their feeble attempts. It spreads and propagates like you would expect and the only thing missing from the realism is a thick deadly smoke that would make the game almost unplayable and ruin this great experience.

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Audio:
Flame Over includes an exciting and fun soundtrack that gives it a charming personality all its own. The nice thing is that it changes depending on the level you’re on. A catchy and upbeat jazz tune plays during the game with a blend of office sounds thrown into the mix which makes it feel fun and in keeping with the level design.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
Flame Over breathes life into a very unique genre that forces you to accept death as another gameplay mechanic. Battling a deadly fire and rescuing its potential victims is strangely addictive. With death always minutes or even seconds away it’s always a frantic and tense experience that has me playing until my PS Vita battery drains. Flame Over isn’t just one of my favorite PS Vita games of the year but one of my favorite games full stop. I seriously cannot stop playing it.

Score:
10

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

Written by Chazz Harrington

Chazz Harrington

You can find me on everything: PSN, Twitter, Wii U, Origin, Steam, etc using my universal ID: ChazzH69

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