The Flames That Follow Us is a 2D game that’s a mix between an interactive narrative game and an action platformer. And when I say that I don’t mean it mixes the two I more mean it has both parts in it. Part of the game you play as Michael, a young man of some unknown age, who is dealing with the death of his brother Tommy (I think), his feelings of survivor guilt, his feelings of not being good enough in his mind and in the minds of those around him, his feelings of needing to be just like and better than Tommy, and his inability to let go and move one. It’s some serious shit yo. The other part is where you effectively play as Michael’s toys in melee combat against other toys while platforming.
At the start of the game you can only play as one toy, a standard swordsman, but then you start finding the rest of your toys around the house which unlock new characters you can play as. You unlocked a quick bandit that uses daggers, a berserker that uses axes, the best character which is a hunter that has traps, a monk that uses potions, and the next best character right near the end the Iaido using samurai. In these you can die as much as you want your character just respawns and you can go right back into the fight, usually though you have to platform yourself back to said fight. The platforming… I hate it. You can infinitely jump up the same wall, however often you have to get to the top then quickly shift to the other direction and land, but in order to do that infinite wall jump you have to keep the movement button pressed towards the wall the whole time. This means you can push the button to make you go to the other side too early or too late both of which will make you drop like a fucking rock and not be able to land where you need. This is common, and while the game isn’t long, including these parts, it is fucking annoying when you keep falling, or if you do that finally get up and then die and have to climb up the fucking thing again. The combat is fairly fun, you can dodge, jump, and attack, I think you can also parry, and block but the game doesn’t explain that shit at all so I’m not sure. Every character also has a special attack which is down and attack. I’m not going to go through all their special moves mostly cause I didn’t bother to find them, once you get the hunter the game is easy street, he can put a bear trap down, enemies that step in it are stunned and you can hit them til your stamina runs out then run away and place another one just to start all over again. I LOVE the hunter class but you get it halfway through the game. But this all depends on what play style you like, I’m not good at dodging or jumping out of the way so the other classes sucked for me, this one often prevented people from killing the shit out of me and didn’t make me need to dodge or anything.
When the game isn’t in the toy fantasyland you’re as Michael in likely a mixture of fantasy and real life as you’re trying to deal with your emotions late one night. Michael and Tommy were on a camping trip before Tommy was to be off to uni, and apparently their family constantly shat on Michael for not being like Tommy, for not being good enough, you know the typical sibling thing. They got in a wreck which I believe killed Tommy and Michael then really internalized everyone wanting him to be like Tommy so he tried more he wanted to be Tommy for everyone, and he wasn’t because he’s Michael. And it’s just dealing with all that pain and guilt and bad feelings that that kind of shit creates. The game does a really good showing of just how hard it can be to live up to others expectations when you don’t feel like you can and you constantly feel others eyeing you up and putting you down whether they actually are or not.
I would think most people would understand that pain but that doesn’t seem to be the reality of the world. Living up to others’ expectations, to be good enough, to be as good as someone else, that shit does a lot of harm to people’s mentality, it’s pretty hard on their emotions too. I kind of get this, I had a lot of expectations placed on me growing up, I was smart, everyone constantly told me I could do anything I wanted, and heaven forbid I got under an A I’d be fucking grounded, my stepsister got Ds and they’d throw her ass a fucking party, never told her to be like me, but still expected more and more out of me. I did my part, I did what I was told, until I just couldn’t anymore. It destroyed me, it’s still part of me even, because it’ll never go away. I’m sure the developer of this game understands that all too well. It never goes away, you can move past it but it’s always there pulling at you, eating away at you. You just have to push forward anyways and do what you can do.
I’m almost always a fan of games that deal with mental health, be it depression like Sea of Solitude which kind of beats you over the fucking head with it, to dealing with grief in Gris again also beats you over the head with it, to dealing with losing and hating yourself while trying to be true to yourself in The Missing, or even schizophrenia in the well loved Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. I like games like this, even if it’s not always easy to grasp stuff in them, usually they do well off enough for people to understand them. I like the concept and story behind them typically, sometimes the gameplay is a bit fucking like the platforming in this game, but otherwise I’m always a proponent of these games because video games can give you a different perspective on things, it gives you new eyes to see through, new ways and things to experience. It can be used very well for teaching about mental health, because not everyone will understand a theater of the mind, but they will understand the stuff they see before them in a video game. A person can’t always explain their feelings or how they see the word in words all that well, but you can show people it in games. It’s not always a one to one, but with it people can at least start to grasp the concepts, the notions, the pains and suffering, and maybe just how to be there, just someone who’s there for you in most of these situations is really helpful. They see the dark places their friends can be, and maybe they haven’t really got it all that much, but with games they can be like wow, this really sucks, and be around more, check in on their friends more, etc. That’s why I appreciate games like this.
Overall, I like the graphics, they’re dark to match the tone with things being twisted and messed up. I liked the fighting once I found a character that actually fit well with how I play games. I hated the platforming, wall jumping just doesn’t work very well, beyond that it’s not bad, but that’s a big component of the platforming. So two out of three, that’s over fifty percent. The music was good background music, I didn’t really notice it, usually I only notice it if it’s bad or I actually really like it, most of the time it’s just background noise which, to me, is what music in games is. So yeah platforming is the only mark against it.
A review copy of the game was provided by the dev.
darkmikasonfire gives The Flame That Follows Us the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.