Flame Over's hot stuff for two reasons: it's got an eye for terribad puns and if you invest the effort it's actually a lot of fun. Laughing Jackal's self-described pyroguelike launched on the PlayStation Vita earlier in the year, offering the fiercest fire fighting foray on PlayStation since Konami's forgotten third-person douser Firefighter F.D.18. Now the developer's ported the isometric inferno to the PlayStation 4, and made a few subtle tweaks to keep your temperature high.
For those that didn't play the title on Sony's portable, you assume the role of Blaze – a London-based fireman with a bushy moustache and a penchant for pale ale we suspect. Controlling a little like a dual-joystick shooter, you'll make your way through 16 floors of the emblazed Infernal Industries tower block, busting combustions for big bucks – and scooping up a few confused kitties along the way. It's all tongue-in-cheek stuff, but the difficulty's no joke, so you should prepare to fry.
As has become a bit of a hallmark for the genre, this is a punishing game. Randomly generated levels mean that you never quite know what you're going to get next, so you need to be prepared for all eventualities. There are occasions where the algorithm fails and pits you against almost impossible odds, but it's generally very good at creating compelling layouts, which will test you without leaving you in unbearable sweats.
The problem is that even with the addition of a new tutorial option, the title's really difficult to get to grips with. Don't let its simplistic looks deceive you, as there's a devious degree of depth hidden beneath the smog of its many fires. For example, you'll need to deal with different types of inferno – electrical and organic – using alternate types of extinguisher, while missions doled out by the brilliantly named Miss. Ion challenge you to think about how you approach each stage.
The depth on display isn't a bad thing per se – it means that you'll formulate your own strategies and tactics as you improve – but the overwhelming nature of its delivery is the underlying flaw. The problem is that you'll feel like you're butting your head against a wall during the opening hours, and while it could be argued that this is exactly what the developer set out to achieve, similar titles like Rogue Legacy have proven that you can marry steep learning curves with immediate rewards.
Not that Laughing Jackal's latest is without an idea or two from Cellar Door Games' slick sidescroller: completing the abovementioned objectives unlocks tokens, which can then be spent on permanent upgrades to help Blaze better cope with the fires in his way. Because the sessions are longer, you never quite get the one more go factor that exudes comparable games, but if you find yourself feeling the flow, then a quick two minute rescue mission can turn into an hour-long marathon.
Of course, you'll want to turn down the sound if you're planning to stick around for that long, as the jazzy soundtrack can begin to grate. The mix of piano and horns complements the blaze-based action well, but you'll soon be dialling 999 and requesting mental assistance when it gets stuck in your head. Similarly, the presentation is nothing to shout about, but a boosted resolution and the introduction of various minor visual effects – such as bloom – help to improve the overall appearance of the release.
Perhaps the most impressive feature here is the fire itself, which takes a few creative liberties by spitting all over the place, but generally acts as you'd expect a real-world inferno to. Carpets burn more effectively than tiled floors, for example, and each environment – of the four on offer – introduces a fresh challenge to force you to rethink your strategy. It's clear that there's a lot of thought and care gone into this game, you just need to have the willpower to understand it all.
Flame Over is never going to set the world on fire, but it's a deceptively enjoyable roguelike with a wholly original spin. It's a shame that the transition to the PS4 hasn't delivered a better learning curve, but this is still the same good game from the Vita – only it looks much better now. Take a bit of time to learn its systems, and this will grow on you like an out-of-control inferno. Just remember to have a bit of patience, or you will get burned.