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Play with Fire

Published by Manifesto Games
Price $19.95
Primary Genre Secondary Genre

Now here's a game that should appeal to the pyromaniac in all of us. You control an indestructible ball of fire, able to roll and jump around a world of blocks. You can set these blocks on fire, burning down the world in a bid to reach the exit block. Smash down in a fiery explosion to set your surroundings on fire!

Your indestructible ball of fire. Burning your way up a staircase. Stop for breath and your route ahead may crumble to nothingness!

Hot stuff, you might say, and certainly Play With Fire is a different game to most. The blocks you are burning and melting form a 3D structure - often the key to reaching the exit block is to burn this structure down in the correct manner. If the exit is high up, you need to burn the supports underneath. Some blocks require you to become hotter before you can ignite them. Burn the wrong blocks or in the wrong order and you can be cut off from the exit, needing to restart the level.

Controls are pretty simple. You move with the arrow keys, jump with the space bar, and when airborne you can either float down slowly, hold the space bar for a faster descent or hit the Control key to smash down in an explosion. This sets all nearby blocks on fire. You can look around with the mouse, zooming in and out with the mouse wheel. Numerous keys can restart the level, quit, etc.

Nothing is worse for the airborne pilot than a cockpit fire. Burning down ancient monuments! The exit block is visible on the roof.

The graphics are quite intense - my laptop is too low spec for this game, though fortunately I have a newer desktop machine that can run it. The environment is fully 3D and the motion of blocks as they fall is smooth and hypnotically slow. Despite these high specs, graphics are actually fairly mediocre - blocks don't burn so much as glow and eventually just pop out of existence. The ball of fire moves nicely in the air but has no acceleration in lateral movement - just "go" and "stop".

Sound is reasonable. Background music is varied and often strange, and there are sound effects for things being set on fire and the smash of a fireball explosion. I was rather dismayed that burning produces no obvious sound - when half the level is on fire, I want to hear the crackle of flames! I imagine it would grate after a while if background crackling was present but silent burning is strange and almost unnerving.

Play With Fire suffers most from an unfriendly interface. The controls for the game itself are fine, but the game appears to have no menu and no in-game instructions. There is a brief manual with the game, which is essential reading if you want to be able to *quit* said game at any point. Mid game you cannot Alt-Tab out, so if you don't know the right keys to quit, you're rather stuck. I managed to quit on one occasion by accidentally logging off Windows, but this is not to be recommended. A little bit of text on screen (when paused, say, and why is pause activated with Escape and not the traditional P or Pause buttons?) would be useful.

The lack of menus also means no options, so you can't adjust the sound or music levels, can't choose different profiles for different users' progress and can't reconfigure the keys. I had thought all these were fairly standard by now. Of more concern is the way the game freezes between levels - you have to hit the space bar to start the next level. The lack of any text or indication that action is required is alarming at first - I was convinced the first time that my computer had locked up.

There's an interesting concept in Play With Fire and it should have appeal to many gamers. It is let down mostly by an unfriendly interface and high system requirements. This latter point is a minor problem given the speed at which computers grow in power but the graphics don't seem to warrant such excessive requirements. I hope that a basic and more user friendly interface may one day appear as this is a title with promise.

Graphics 72%
Sound 75%
Playability 78%
Longevity 76%
Overall Score 75%
Silver Star

Published on 31 Mar 2007
Reviewed by Andrew Williams

Keywords: play with fire review, manifesto games reviews, manifesto games games, play with fire scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.