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May 15, 2017 | by  | in Games |
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Developer/Publisher: Tribute Games

Platform: PS4, PC (Windows), Xbox One

Review copy supplied by publisher.


Roguelike games — traditionally RPGs containing procedurally generated environments, permadeath, turn-based combat, and tile-based graphics — have been around since the early days of computer gaming, but seem to be becoming more popular in recent years, especially among indie developers. The modern interpretations, perhaps best called “rogue-lites”, combine the procedural generation and permadeath of traditional roguelikes with modern graphics and gameplay styles. One such game, The Binding of Isaac, is single-handedly responsible for reviving the genre and can rightfully be called one of the best indie games ever made.

Flinthook, therefore, is in very good company. An action-platformer with the aforementioned roguelike elements, you play as the titular Captain Flinthook, a space pirate and bounty hunter raiding ships for treasure and hunting down elusive bosses. In terms of the story, that’s pretty much the extent, but with gameplay as good as this game has, who needs it?

The game’s major innovation is the grappling hook, with each room designed to have you swinging from point to point while taking down enemies with your plasma gun and collecting some sweet loot. It’s a personal belief of mine that any game with a grappling hook is instantly better, so needless to say I was hooked (pun totally intended).

Everything you do once you start a run is centred on the left stick, used not only to control your movement but also for aiming your grappling hook and plasma gun. The control is tight, but not so much as to heavily punish you for making tiny mistakes; your character’s movement feels incredibly intuitive and is very satisfying, especially when using the hook in mid-air. Having everything bound to the same stick can feel a little weird, especially the shooting — my preference would be to have this bound to the right stick — but I found myself getting used to it after a few levels. The difficulty feels just right: it’s challenging, but never cheap. You can even slow down time if you find yourself in a tight spot.

Each run is split into chapters, requiring you to raid a set number of ships before facing a boss for their bounty. Though there are modifiers which add certain obstacles such as low gravity or infestations of certain enemy types, the basic layout for most levels is similar: a linear path with a couple of side rooms containing shops or chests. There is the occasional labyrinthine level, though because you can choose which version of a level you prefer, they are mostly optional. Backtracking through levels can be a little tedious, though since you keep whichever rewards you earn, even when you die, it is still worthwhile.

While the game does utilise pixel art, as is common for many retro-styled platformers and rogue-lites, the art they use is incredible. The character designs are rather cute and give the game a cartoon-like playfulness that I adore. There is some great chiptune inspired music to keep you pumped up, the intro track being a definite highlight.

The game being a rogue-lite, I can see myself returning to Flinthook over and over again just to see if I can beat my high score, something I haven’t felt from a game in a long time. While many of its key elements aren’t exactly original (the grappling hook being an exception, of course), their execution is nothing short of superb. Just be warned: if you aren’t prepared, you are probably going to die repeatedly. But I reckon you will be hooked nonetheless (sorry, but that pun is just so good I had to use it again!)

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