Flame Over genuinely surprised me. I installed the game after accepting the review assignment, and I admittedly went into playing with a bit of pessimism. A game about putting fires out? How good could it be, right?
I don’t know. It’s my fault for judging a book by its cover, I suppose. Flame Over is, for what it is, actually quite good. It’s not going to be for everyone, and some shortcomings keep it from being an absolute sensation, but there’s a lot to like here.
For PlayStation Vita owners especially, Flame Over is pretty darn cool.
This is a top-down, twin-stick “shooter” where spreading flame are your enemy. You play a firefighter, and you move from floor to floor in randomly generated buildings in order to save civilians, rescue cats and complete missions for Miss Ion (get it?).
At first blush, Flame Over is a hard game. When you enter a room filled with fire, flames will fling towards you as you zig and zag while trying to put out the blaze. The flames, obviously, generate heat. Get too hot and you’ll die.
There are two types of fire hazards to be concerned about (add stuff like chemical spills to the mix in later stages). Regular fire spreads from object to object and can chuck fireballs your way once you cross a room’s threshold. Electric fires pour black smoke from electronics, and you’ll need to use your extinguisher instead of water supply to put out these fire spawners.
Each floor works the same way. Open your map, locate the circuit breaker (to stop electric fires), move from room to room clearing out flames and saving people. Miss Ion pops up on each floor and tasks you with finding handbags, delivering secret documents or recovering jewels. Clear the floor from flames and you’ll move on.
There are four building types, and four floors per building. You can try and run through the full game at once by starting on the office levels at Stage 1. Once you clear the office, you’ll open up the next set of floors. Those sets will stay open if you want to jump into more difficult areas from the start screen.
The controls are tight, there’s a slow progressive unlock system for completing Miss Ion’s missions and you’ll use money to further upgrade unlocks. It’s a nice loop, and it’s rather addictive.
The simplicity of Flame Over, its relative difficulty and how addictive it can be at times are likely its best qualities. I went from booting this up to review to actually sitting down for quick half-hour sessions for fun. That’s a great sign for me when it comes to games.
For the first dozen or so hours, I was really into the five-minute timer mechanic, the upgrade system and the whole process of saving folks from the flames. It’s really straight forward, but it works. Heck, even the simple act of extinguishing flames en masse worked well.
Repetition is the Greatest Flaw
Trouble crops up in Flame Over because of the game’s simplicity, though. The levels may change and the backgrounds alter, but the core gameplay here is identical throughout. Put out flames with fire, find the circuit breaker, find the shop, save as many people as you can and do it before time runs out. That loop is cool… for a while.
Within half a dozen hours, you’ll likely have everything unlocked. There are only four unique areas, that I know of, and you’ll tire of seeing these again and again. Most of the civilians are duplicates, it’s the same cat every time and you can’t customize your firefighter in any cosmetic way.
The music loops, too. When you move to completely new stages, you hear a slight variation on the game’s them. It’s always the same, though, and the loop is short enough that you’ll actually hear a quick music cut when it finishes.
That repetitive loop is further compounded by what happens when you lose. Rather than a quick restart button, you’re kicked all the way back to the main menu. That means sitting through the same loading screens, skipping the same intro scene and moving through your upgrade menu again and again is inevitable.
This is especially bad at the start of the game when you aren’t good enough to last for a full half hour or hour of play. Being kicked back to the main menu every 10 minutes when I started Flame Over was extremely tiresome.
But, look, I don’t want to be too hard on Flame Over. It’s a small project, obviously, and it’ll likely carry a small price tag. For PS Vita owners, this game is a pleasant little surprise. Its twin-stick controls work great on the handheld, there’s no forced touchscreen use, its art style and music work well and its core gameplay is solid for a while.
Flame Over isn’t perfect. It is, however, fun.
A review code for Flame Over was provided by the publisher for the PS Vita. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.