In real life, burning things down is highly antisocial, but then, so are a lot of the things that are fun to do in games.
Play with Fire has novel and interesting gameplay; you win by burning stuff down. If most 3D games have the verbs "move, jump, and shoot", Play with Fire has the verbs "move, jump, and set on fire." The result is something you've never quite seen before.
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Designed by Chris Bateman (who produced Kult: Heretic Kingdoms), Play with Fire is a highly unusual platform puzzle game in which you play a giant ball of fire--and burn things down.
Bateman (who blogs here) is something of a game design theorist, and the author of 21st Century Game Design. Play With Fire is, as a result, an unusual combination of a rigorous and theoretical approach to game design--along with a firm intention to create an easily graspable, intuitive game capable of appealing to a broad audience.
Burning Down the House
In Play With Fire you do three things: move, jump--and burn. Each level presents you with a structure composed of different kinds of materials, ranging from unburnable stone to a variety of others that burn more or less easily.
Somewhere in the level is an exit, and to get to it, you have to burn things in the right place or order to reach it. Sometimes, if you do things wrong, the structure will collapse as it burns and make it impossible to reach the exit; sometimes you must move quickly as the object burns and the fire spreads to get to the exit before the structure collapses underneath you.
Different materials burn at different temperatures, and you can increase your own temperature by starting a fire in a low-temperature material, then touching it, thereby allowing yourself to burn materials that require the next level of heat. Increasing your temperature also allows you to jump higher.
The controls are intuitive, and simplicity themselves: you move with the arrow keys, jump with Shift, and slam down at your current location with Ctrl. The challenge of the game lies in puzzle-solving, not interface mastery.
Great Balls of Fire
Despite the apparent simplicity, there's a lot going on under the surface, though; its 3D, a physics model controls how blocks fall as supports burn away, and particle effects are used to make things look realistically on fire. The combination is responsible for the relatively high system requirements of the game.
Play With Fire was developed in an unusual way; Bateman's company, International Hobo is based in the UK, but owns a development studio, Fantasy Labs Entertainment in India. Many of the game's more than 100 levels were created by people who responded when Bateman asked for submissions on his blog (among them Patrick Dugan who curates the Indie Gamers page on Myspace). So the development of Play With Fire was distributed not only across the Internet, but also across the globe.