Let me just get this out of the way now—if you’re not a fan of the school of punishment type games such as Spelunky or Rogue Legacy, you can probably stop reading now. Flame Over is tough. Brutally tough. You’ll likely want to throw your Vita out the window when you start, but if you’re into that sort of thing, you won’t, because it’ll keep you wanting to come back for more punishment.
Flame Over is a mix of a roguelike and a twin-stick arcade shooter. Each floor is randomly generated, getting larger and more hazardous as you progress. Like Spelunky, the game is broken into different ‘worlds’ and upon reaching a new world, the game lets you start from there next time around. A “complete” run of the game however, is playing from the very beginning to the very end without dying or running out of time. Starting off, you’re given five minutes on the clock and your goal is to put out every fire on the floor and move on to the next. Along the way, you’ll come across people who need rescuing and you have to escort them to the exit. Doing so earns you an extra minute on the timer. You’ll also come across cats who need saving, earning you an equally valuable extra heart.
Damage is handled in an unique way in Flame Over. Taking ‘hits’ from fire wouldn’t really make sense, so instead you have a damage gauge. When near a fire, the gauge will increase and should it fill up completely, you’ll lose a heart. You can decrease the gauge by moving away from the fire and leaving the room entirely is generally the safest way to get it down. The timer isn’t all that it seems either. Hitting 0:00 doesn’t mean game over, but rather somewhere on the map, Death is out to chase you—Persona-style. During this time the game proceeds as normal and you’re able to clear the floor or try to increase your timer to scare Death away till you run out of time again.
Laughing Jackal have clearly put a lot of effort into how the fire behaves, much to the pain of the players. Fire spreads quickly and taking it on without a strategy will only lead to your own doom. Large concentrations of fire will often spawn fireballs, killing anyone in their path and spreading the fire at a disastrous rate. Luckily, you can survive a fireball hit, though it will rocket your damage gauge extremely high. While you can stop fireballs by spraying them with your hose, you’ll have to be quick as they travel fast.
While the majority of fires can be put out with your hose, electrical fires have to be put out with your fire extinguisher instead. Your extinguisher runs out much more quickly than your hose does so make sure to use it sparingly. You’re much better off getting rid of the electrical fires completely however. This is done by cutting off the floor’s electrical supply, thereby turning all current electrical fires into regular ones.
In games like Spelunky, I often felt like I would have good runs and bad runs without any common link in between. In Flame Over, however, I constantly felt myself get better and better with every run, each making small improvements. I first noticed this dying after a 30 minute run and still in the Office, the game’s starting world. Later on, I managed another 30 minute run and this time I was frustratingly close to making it to the third world. As I played, certain things just clicked in my mind about the best ways for handling certain situations and you start to learn how to best balance the game of risk and reward.
Flame Over does give you the chance to make it easier for yourself, though. During the game, you’ll randomly come across Miss Ion. Before she you can get her out of the building, you need to complete a mission for her. In the early stages, these are fairly simple tasks, such as fetching her bag from another room. Later on, these turn into more complex missions, taking much more of your precious time. The reward for helping her out is an upgrade token.
Before you start a new run of the game, you’ve shown the upgrade screen. This is where you can use the upgrade tokens to unlock abilities to make your future runs easier. These upgrades can let you withstand higher temperatures for longer or let you carry more equipment. The more significant the upgrade, the more upgrade tokens you will need. The temperature resistance upgrade mentioned needs four upgrade tokens to be unlocked for example. Once unlocked, you use the cash earned while playing to improve your upgrades further.
Cash is earned simply by putting out fires and it builds up slowly. Once you’ve died and have to restart, your money doesn’t carry over to your next playthrough. You have no choice but to spend what you’ve got before your next run. While playing the game, a shop is one of the random rooms that can appear along with a random assortment of items and powerups. On the cheap scale in the shop is an extra thirty seconds or water bombs which can be used to clear a room very quickly. The power ups such as the speed boots or defibrillator cost more than the average upgrade so you have to make a quick decision about where your spending priorities lie.
In the end, Flame Over is a game about making quick decisions and hoping you’ve made the right one.You’ll very quickly discover the best ways to take on certain rooms/obstacles and the game becomes less about putting out the fires and more about balancing everything else. When to buy the power ups, when to a rush a room or floor to save time. It’s challenging without seeming impossible and frustrating without driving you into despair.
Food for thought:
Some friendly starting advice: Your first priority of every floor should be cutting off the electricity supply. Doing so, even if it means going out of your way, will save a lot of time in the long run.