The spear trap, given to me by a couple of helpful feral children, works perfectly, impaling the lunging wolf just as it’s about to tear me to ribbons. I prepare to disassemble the carcass, gleefully—wolves have been a frequent cause of death in games past—when two more wolves suddenly appear. It’s about the most fleeting victory in video games history, I wind up torn to ribbons yet again, and my dreams of spitefully dining on delicious wolf jerky go unfulfilled.In The Flame in the Flood, a roguelike survival game by developer The Molasses Flood, you play as Scout, a little girl riding a raft down a swollen, raging river during a soggy post-apocalypse. You dock periodically at randomly generated campsites and clearings to scavenge for supplies, craft gear, and try to keep yourself fed, hydrated, and warm. The dangers are many: starvation, dehydration, injuries, wild animals, and disease. The river itself, filled with jagged rocks, uprooted trees, rusting autos, and slowly drowning houses, is both your only chance for survival and the greatest threat to it.The Flame in the Flood hits a little close to home. In the fall of ’98 I watched as the San Antonio and Guadalupe rivers near my home swelled out of their banks to drown miles of the surrounding countryside, carting off whole houses and trees with the same ease that ants carry away crumbs of bread. The waters cut us off for days, and least 31 people died.Up until now I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game properly capture the despair and (yes) beauty of those days, but this visually attractive procedurally generated survival sim comes frightfully close. It’s hardly the toughest survival sim around, and it’s hobbled by a needlessly complicated menu system, but in those wonderful moments when it finds its flow, it’s a game to remember.I’m of two minds about the river itself, though. I love the idea of it as an unstoppable force, propelling you through the game in one direction. If you’re swept past a campsite, you’ve got no choice but to keep going. If a clearing is full of wolves or boars or snakes and you’ve got no way to defend yourself, you have to simply flee, leaving unlooted crates and life-saving supplies behind forever. The words “Do not idle” are painted on a sign at the start of the game, and the river gives you no choice but to heed them.Practically, though, I despise the river, specifically the rapids sections. I don’t expect controlling a ramshackle raft in a churning flood to be easy, but it’s hard mainly for the wrong reasons: the controls are sloppy and unwieldy. The mouse or WASD lets you choose a direction, and the space bar gives you a lurching boost that may take you through the gap you’re aiming for, or may cause you to overshoot and slam against a rock, or may barely move you at all. Dying from a boat crash can be frustrating when you’re otherwise well-supplied and healthy, and it’s somehow even worse when you’re near death in the first place. Clawing your way back from the brink of disaster is the most satisfying experience survival games have to offer, but here it’s undercut by an unforgiving river that far too often never gives you the chance.In these moments, The Flame in the Flood plays more like a traditional survival game, although with recipes that mercifully keep things simple while still delivering appreciable depth. Sometimes you’ll find components like wood and string in old trunks or in the rusted guts of long-dead buses; at other times you’ll have to make them, generally by picking up things like reeds and flint, and making everything from clothes to medicine with them. Sometimes you’ll even get stuff like arrows from the few other survivors, a creepy bunch who always seem to regard me and my little dog as potential meals.It’s managing all this stuff that ruins some of the appeal. Scout has a laughably small backpack with just 12 slots, although she gains six more spaces by tossing some extra items on the dog. She can store the least essential supplies on the raft, but even it only allows for 12 extra slots. The trouble? I ended up spending most of my time in the menus managing the precious junk I scavenged, transferring some items to Aesop or eating some food on the fly in order to make room for nuts and bolts—pretty tedious stuff.Though I can accept that it’s part of a mini-game that’s designed to force me to think carefully about what to take, The Flame in the Flood makes these moments more time-consuming than they need to be, forcing me, for example, to transfer stackable items I’ve just picked up to Aesop’s inventory where the rest of such items are, even though the mutt never once leaves my side.Despite graduating from Early Access, The Flame in the Flood could still use a bit more bug-squashing. From time to time you’ll come across a quilt that, when examined, gives you a little bit of story. It also freezes my game. It’s not a fluke, either: in every game I played where I found and examined that quilt it locked me up, forcing a manual restart. Another annoyance: the dog barks helpfully when he’s found something of use, but he also barks at supply caches I’ve already emptied, often making me check them again for no purpose. I’ve also repeatedly run into a bug where all sound effects completely stop playing (on the plus side, it shut the dog up).Bugs aside, I enjoyed a great deal of The Flame in the Flood. It’s full of beautiful art and sound design, the survival is fun and challenging, and the world is both somber and colorful. I only wish the rafting controls were better. When wolves slaughter me, I blame myself for not being careful enough, but no amount of caution on the river seems to save me.