Every now and again a game comes along that (whether it realizes it or not) has a lot to say about this river that we all flow down. On the surface, The Molasses Flood’s The Flame in the Flood is a rogue-lite/like wilderness survival game. That’s what most people are going to tell you. Asking me, however, I’d tell you that The Flame in the Flood pretty much lays down a perfect metaphor for the human cycle of life.
With little information about what is happening around her, Scout and her faithful best friend Aesop get on a rickety raft and cast themselves out into the wilds of the world, floating down river to an unknown destination. Scout doesn’t really know where she’s going, all she knows is that she needs to get there.
There’s a lot of untold poetry contained within this game and its mechanics. For the most part, when you start down the river there’s no real going back. Just like life, the river flows in one direction and never in the other direction. All we can do is keep moving forward.
Sometimes the completely unexpected happens, and Scout finds herself taking an injury that could very well be life threatening. Just like in life, our character is not determined by the person that we are when everything is going right, but by the person that we are when everything is going wrong. Scout drudges through fire and flames, rain and cold, and much bigger animals that have no qualms with attempting to kill her in the name of their own survival.
Still, Scout carries on.
Along the way, Scout will meet interesting people out at the various camp sites, gas stations, and more that are dotted along the river’s banks. They’re people with their own stories and lives. We’re not there for their stories, we’re here for Scout’s. Those people briefly enter Scout’s life for a purpose, and then they are gone. Scout remains, and so does the river.
Sometimes the river is a smooth ride and you find yourself going “Everything is okay. I can do this.” Other days the river isn’t okay, with jagged and twisted rocks threatening to destroy your raft, detached branches cutting you off in front of a turn, and other times finding yourself struggling to make the basic ends meet such as food, water, and sleep.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
By the time you finish the main campaign, Scout will have been met with success and failure in equal measure. Just like us, she’s definitely no longer in ‘factory condition.’ She’ll be beaten, bruised, and battered. If we could zoom in, she’d have her own share of scars and stories to tell about them. She’s weathered, and lived.
The ending of The Flame in the Flood is short, and vague. It doesn’t need to be much more than that. When you finish, you look back on a zoomed out map version of your journey down the river. This should serve as a reminder that just like life, the destination wasn’t nearly as important as the journey itself. All of the story of your life is contained in what you did along the way, not what the ultimate conclusion was at the end.
Molasses Flood’s The Flame in the Flood isn’t the longest game, the greatest game, or even the most innovative game in the world. But I think sometimes we forget that we don’t need every game to be any of those things. Sometimes we just need a game to do the one thing that a lot of games neglect to do anymore: Have a heart and believe in what it stands for.
The Flame in the Flood has a beating heart that comes from the very essence of people. In this, it’s difficult to go wrong.