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And the Oscar goes to...

"The Sound of Flames" is more of an experience than a game. As soon as the title screen appears, the player is shown an image of a forest fire accompanied by Liberty herself crooning a tune, "Baby..." The singing was very effective in establishing the haunting mood that would follow when pressing "Begin". In my opinion, the fiery title screen was not needed. Given that the rest of the game involves using your imagination to visualize everything that is occurring, the title screen would have been much more effective as a blank screen with some small white or red text.

As the player presses "Begin", the screen remains blank and Liberty's voice acting kicks in. Since the game has absolutely only blank screens for graphics, it only depends on the sense of sound, and the voice acting would be one of two factors that would make or break this game. And she really lets herself go here. This is a tour-de-force performance that really captures and elevates the bleak and (hopefully) eventually hopeful mood of the game. While some of the voice acting becomes repetitive, "I feel so hot... Oh god, Oh God..." it never falters into the realm of tedious or boring. The shuddering whispers, the lump in the throat, the nervousness, the verbal tics of desperation are all very impressively enunciated in a "stream-of-consciousness" fashion. If you play this with the lights off or your eyes closed while her voice sounds, you will see how convincing some of the more frantic scenes sound. Definitely the biggest asset to the game!

The story itself, like the blank screens, leaves a lot to the imagination. While Liberty describes imagery such as a "burning red sky" and abandoned towns and highways, you are always left wondering how this all began. It could be natural or it could be supernatural; it does not matter. What matters is what is happening RIGHT NOW. And in the midst of growing flames is the perfect setting for such urgency. It reminds me of Edgar Allen Poe's story "The Pit and the Pendulum" about an unnamed narrator sentenced to torture as a scythe-like pendulum swings above him, slowly descending. You never find out the "why" of anything, but with that swinging scythe, it doesn't matter why. The spectrum of dread and hope this game exudes is fascinating with its minimalism.

However, I did say, there's two things that could make or break this game. The first, with the lion's share, is the voice acting. The second was the choice layout. Much kudos to Liberty for including multiple endings to this. There are bad endings and good endings. And there is one insanely moving ending where Liberty really unhinges herself to give the most frantic two minutes of voice acting I've ever heard in a videogame. Nevertheless, you might only have a 50% chance of survival for each choice set. And when you choose the wrong decision... GAME OVER. You have to start all over again! And while Liberty's voice acting is awesome, you wouldn't want to go through 20 minutes of it again just to get to where you were. I would have included save points at each choice set for those really willing to get all those endings.

Or they could just raid the music folder =)

But, all in all, this is the kind of project I appreciate seeing in RPG Maker. Something interactive to just tell a story in a simple fashion. The voice acting gives this simple story of trying to escape from a fire a much more powerful tone than any "epic RPG plotline" can ever hope to possess.


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Cool review. :D

I have to admit I raided the music folder myself.
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