Flame Over, I Love You
Dear Flame Over,
I’m writing to let you know that you drive me nuts, crazy, insane, freaking mental, and other similar expressions.
You’re so cute, cartoony, and unassuming, but I know the real you. Beneath that goofy exterior is a monstrously difficult roguelike. It just so happens to be about fighting fires in an office building instead of slaying fantasy creatures in a dungeon.
Your slightly odd camera controls (right stick to spin the camera, but it locks in place when using the hose or extinguisher) took some getting used to. I didn’t grasp your upgrade system at first (complete tasks for Ms. Ion to earn badges, use badges to unlock new skills, spend money to increase unlocked skills). I’m still not entirely sure what at least half of the items I can buy in the shop do since there’s no description in the game or in the digital manual. Then, of course, there’s the unrelenting difficulty.
It’s not just the fact that I can die just as easily on the first level as I can on the 15th. It’s the way that your random generation will often put the people I’m trying to rescue – both for the time bonus and because I’m not a monster – into impossible rescue situations. It’s the fact that I’ll be rushing into a room to save people, only to have a wave of fire sweep across the floor and kill everybody before I can even react. It’s getting hung up on furniture that blends in with the carpeting (i.e. extremely difficult to see) while I’m literally trying to outrun Death. It’s also that one time all my data was wiped for no discernible reason, which as I understand it is a rare bug but a very crappy one nonetheless.
The thing is, despite all of that – or perhaps because of it – I can’t stop playing you.
Each attempt I make feels like I’m gaining ground, either because I’ve learned about another essential power-up or because I’ve acquired more badges and money for upgrades. Every time I fight my way through a floor I learn something useful like how best to protect civilians or optimize rescues to eke out as much bonus time as possible.
Every room is like a reflex-based puzzle. Where should I focus the water first? Are there any electrical fires? What about innocent people or cats? Should I head back to the entrance to refill everything or do I risk pressing on in the interest of time? Is it a good idea to run this person back to the entrance now, or have them wait while I clear the next room and possibly find another survivor?
You drive me up the wall like you wouldn’t believe, but that’s a big part of why I never want to put you down.
PS, I love you!