Firefighters aren’t really cast in games too often. It’s almost strange considering the occupation, filled with fire axes, burning buildings, massive hoses, yet for whatever reason it remains unexplored. Enter Blaze Carruthers, firefighter extraordinaire, who is apparently so good at his job he has stripped down to the bare essential equipment and set up an elaborate scoring system to inject some fun into his dull work life as a man who fights infernos with axes.
Flame Over has Blaze hosing his way through burning buildings, rescuing people and cats alike as he tackles the inferno. It’s an isometric roguelike firefighting game, complete with permadeath, randomised levels, and all the difficulty you can handle. It’s particularly difficult at the onset as extinguishing flames isn’t the same as shooting enemies in other games and learning just how to do so requires a little time to get to grips with how it all works. This isn’t helped by the lack of a tutorial or help, other than an icon or two on screen telling you to press L or R in the first level and hints on the loading screens.
Your goal is to put out all the fire on the level and make it back to the exit before the five minute time limit runs out. Despite his name, if Blaze spends too long in too hot an area (i.e. engulfed in flame) he will get too hot and lose a heart. Lose all three hearts and you’re done. You can extend the time by a minute by finding people and taking them to the exit, and you can get more health by saving cats in the same way. Run out of hearts and you will die, but if you run out of time then Death chases you around the level. That’s not a metaphor, the actual grim reaper appears and chases you around like the ghost in Spelunky.
You have two forms of anti-fire equipment; your hose and your fire extinguisher. Your hose has a longer range and is ideal for tackling the typical blazes you’ll encounter, but it won’t do anything to put out an electrical fire, at which point you’ll need your extinguisher. It’s not as simple as it may sound though, as the fire you’ll be beating up is dynamic and won’t just stay gone. Electrical fires will set their surroundings alight, so they should be prioritised or you’ll just have to put it all out again.
Regular fires will also spread across the room, depending on what materials there are. Rugs will be quickly engulfed in flame for obvious reason, wood succumbs more slowly, and electrics can even explode, sending flames all over the place. Fireballs also pop out of particularly large fires, creating further problems if they land on something flammable.
Controlling Blaze is a little fiddly. It’s a strange blend of twin-stick shooter in that it’s only twin stick when you’re shooting, the rest of the time the left analogue has you walk and face in the same direction while the right analogue rotates the camera. Due to the 3D isometric view, rotating the camera is pretty useful as you can’t see fires behind the wall closest to the camera, meaning you will have to stop your fire extinguishing so you can adjust your camera.
In amongst all this infernal workload there are a few things to find. If you find the generator you can cut the power, disabling all electricals on the level you are on, so there are no more electrical fires and the actual firefighting part becomes a bit easier. There are also the people and cats to save, who will happily stand in the middle of fiery death indefinitely until you tell them to follow you or they die.
Then they have the nerve to walk slowly and get caught on corners as you lead them back to the exit, so you have to stop to avoid getting too far ahead or go back so they can get around corners. Worse still is Miss Ion, who will give you a mission (get it? That’s her name!) to find her red purse which she carelessly left in a particular room. She then will refuse to move while you root around under the sofa cushions and in plant pots (somehow?) for her purse.
Once you do finish the mission you’ll get an upgrade token which you can spend on unlocking various buffs that persist between lives, from increasing the chance of finding items in furniture (extra time, for example) to increasing your resistance to heat. Once you spend the required amount of upgrade tokens to unlock an upgrade, you spend cash to upgrade them. Cash is effectively points, which are earned by putting fires out.
The persistent upgrades add a little depth to the game but not enough to give it any real longevity. It is aiming for the roguelike niche with a decent twist, but it feels too repetitive even early into the game. You’re finding the same people in the same rooms, finding the same purse for the same woman, albeit laid out in the level slightly differently than before. There are four environments and the later ones introduce more hazards to deal with, but due to the difficulty it may take a while to get there and you may get bored before you do anyway.
Flame Over takes a shot at a little explored area in games and has some interesting ideas. The way fire spreads is pretty good, but the rest of the game falls a little short with the real killer being repetition. It’s just not random enough to maintain interest for too long, and that’s a fatal flaw in a roguelike with permadeath.
Version tested: PS Vita