Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Review: Flame Over (PS Vita)

Time to turn this place into a disco inferno

Flame over is a fast-paced rouge like from British Indie Developer Laughing Jackal, released on 11th of March 2015 for Playstation Vita costing £7.99. PS4 and Steam releases are in the works.

In this charming, yet fiendishly difficult title you take control of the aptly named London fire-fighter Blaze, your objective is to work your way through procedurally generated levels fighting fires, rescuing people, cats and finding handbags, all while trying to stay alive and on a strict timer.

 Unsurprisingly in the first few hours of play, you will die a lot of times. This really holds true to its roots in that practice will make perfect and once you get into the swing of it you will start making good progress and unlocking new powers/items. Each floor although randomly generated contains a few core elements, fire being the primary, normal fire requires your precious supply of water (which can be refilled) to douse, electrical fires can be put out with water but will spring back into life and spread if you do not finish them off with foam or find the cut off switch hidden in every level. In this manner electrical fires become a matter of time vs safety, take the time to put them out immediately and know your route back is safe, or pile on through in hopes of finding the switch. Along with this you also have to worry about fireballs spreading fires further, walls of flame as you bash down doors and the ever present heat meter which when full spells death and game over for poor old Blaze.

 You start each level with 5 minutes on the clock, every person you manage to rescue from the fire will add an extra minute to this timer, cats increase your health when rescued and of course there is the ever present Miss Ion who will set you frankly ridiculous tasks considering her current predicament such as finding her handbag, these however do pay dividends in the form of upgrade tokens which can be spent on permanent upgrades for the intrepid hero to help you in your next attempt. Like most of the genre your progress is lost every time you lose, but you do earn an allotment of coins to spend on enhancing the permanent upgrades you have unlocked for your next attempt.

Graphically it has a certain Theme Hospital type charm to it. Over the top (Blaze’s moustache) bold and colourful characters and surroundings which while not of the utmost highest quality fit the style pretty well. Fire looks good as you would expect, however the water from your hose just looks a bit strange, more like the spraypaint function in microsoft paint than water, for lack of a better description. The sound on the other hand is decidedly average, doing it’s job well with upbeat BGM and passable sound effects however all of which is totally forgettable and really nothing particularly stands out against the rest.
As is expected with games of this genre there is almost no story to speak of, but there does not need to me. The extent being you are a fire fighter and you need to go fight fires, what more character drive do you need?

 The biggest complaint that I personally found with Flame Over was the control system, although the movement in itself controls well, if a little twitchy. Having the camera controls attached to the direction you are facing, while obscuring some of your vision with walls because of the isometric viewpoint occasionally made it somewhat difficult to see what I wanted to aim for, and as such I would often miss small fires which would then spread. Understandability camera controls would normally be assigned to the R and L bumpers but in this case those are the buttons for the Water and Foam so would not be feasible, this is not a game breaking issue for most but I found it somewhat frustrating in places.

All in all this title is a lot of fun, if occasionally frustrating and really could have done with lowering its initial difficulty a little to enable the full fun to be experienced from the start, at this point in modern gaming, having to fight to get the prize of enjoyment is something that puts off a lot of players. However once you find your stride you are treated to a gem of a title which will provide hours of fun and a hell of a lot of re-playability.

Those who should buy:
  • Fans of Roguelike titles 
  • Players looking for an easy to pick up for 5 minutes game. 
  • Fans of fast paced, action packed gameplay
Who should avoid:
  • Players who like to have their progress mean something
  • Anyone looking for a deep narrative
  • Players lacking in the patience to push on through many deaths

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