I usually start my reviews by giving a bit of history on the game, its developers, the setting or genre… you know, typical press stuff. I thought I’d give “The Flame in the Flood” a different treatment, though, because something really special happened to me while playing this game: I fell back in love with playing video games.
You see, while having a job in the gaming industry sounds great (and it is), it’s also prone to jading a gamer to the point of having to go through the motions to review games and create content. Playing games for fun, because you genuinely like the game, sometimes takes a back seat to having to deliver consistent, good quality content. So, little Marcos here had been feeling like taking a break from it all, and he kind of did: I haven’t reviewed a game in a while. I needed a break.
But “A Flame in the Flood” has been on my wish list for months, and when Curve got in touch to let me know I got one of the (highly demanded, by the way) review codes, I thought “maybe it’s time to come back into it”.
I am glad I did.
You probably came here to know what the game is all about, what the Switch port is like, and so on. So here it goes.
You are a survivor in the wilderness, and with the help of your dog, you must fend off threats, craft items (food, medicine, repairs for your craft) while navigating rivers and docking in and out of islands. It’s a survival game at heart, but that heart has much more than survival going for it.
The visuals are one of the first (and most lasting) striking things about the game: the low-poly approach is something that I love perhaps even more than 8-bit graphics, and Molasses Flood have done a great job in creating a beautiful world of lo-poly goodness. The music is fantastic, too, with well chosen accents during crafting and item usage. Sound effects are used well, not only to highlight current events but to foreshadow future threats (like rain and wild animals lurking by).
Game play-wise, “The Flame in the Flood” plays a lot like other survival games (and yet not): you go from location to location, gathering resources and crafting what you need to feed, hydrate and shelter yourself. While it may seem a bit overdone since “Minecraft” and even “Don’t Starve” came about, the crafting system in “The Flame in the Flood” is much friendlier, giving you access to information regarding what you need to craft the items, and indications as to what you’ll use the items for.
I find this particular bit particularly welcome, as the lack of orientation in games like “Minecraft” mean that I have to spend a lot of time even trying to figure out what each thing does, and what I can build with it. While that may appeal to some people, I find Molasses Flood’s approach much more beginner-friendly, and honestly, it doesn’t get in the way of enjoying what the in-game world has to offer.
What about the Switch port, then? Well, much like other ports we’ve seen recently, the quality is outstanding. A few scattered framedrops during docking or accessing menus is all that’s keeping this version of the game from running butter-smooth, and I don’t think these detract from the experience at all. “The Flame in the Flood” looks great on the Switch, specially on the big screen, but I found the portability to be a great asset for this particular version (as it’s often the case with Switch ports); it meant that I could continue playing, and play on, even when the TV needed to be used for other tasks (such as watching soaps).
Don’t be mistaken by the crafty nature of the game play, though: there is a story to be gleamed here, through interactions with the world, its inhabitants and the sheer exploration you’ll go through. It’s not as simple as “here’s the world, live in it as much as you can” (though that is the primary goal). There’s a lot of meat on this bone for people who enjoy some narrative thrown in (I count myself among these people). Lastly, the fact that I got a dog companion made an already great game pretty much perfect.
So, with the business stuff out of the way, let me tell you why “The Flame in the Flood” made me fall back in love with video games.
Put quite simply, you can tell it was made with a lot of love. And that love clicked with me at a moment when I thought I was done with this type of relationships. Sure, it’s not perfect. It’s not for everyone. You might not even like it.
But the aesthetic beauty of it, the narrative-driven exploration, the accessible crafting and that gorgeous, scruffy dog just scream to me: “we care”. Molasses Flood cared about people who played their game. They cared about what they’d feel. They cared about making a deep, remarkable experience that wouldn’t feel forced or obtuse or inaccessible.
Maybe I’m just imagining all of this. Maybe “The Flame in the Flood” is just a good survival game into which you can sink a few hours here and there.
But I’m willing to wager that’s not the case. Just to make sure, though, I’ll spent the next few days playing more of it, falling in love all over again, and remembering what it was like to play a video game because I wanted to.