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It’s hard not to like a game with a good hook. What is even better though is when that game also features a hook as the hook. More precisely it’s an anchor, but you get the point. So what’s got me hooked? It’s the latest from Tribute Games, Flinthook. This fast paced action platformer with rogue-like elements will have you swinging, blasting and slowing down time in your quest to save the galaxy. Throw in some pixelated goodness and it’s hitting all the right notes, but now it’s time to see how it all comes together.
So what is Flinthook about? Here’s the short version.
In a galaxy filled with scoundrels and miscreants, everyone seeks treasure and riches!
But when a malevolent treasure hunter hatches a sinister plan to unleash an ancient evil to threaten the cosmos itself, Flinthook, the galaxy’s smallest but toughest pirate zips into action!
At the very beginning not much of the story is really known. Luckily throughout the game there are lore items that help in piecing the story together. Who is Flinthook or more importantly what is Flinthook? The mystery slowly unravels as you collect more and more. One thing is for certain, it is rather unique. The colorful sea themed space pirates will have your attention at the very least.
Let’s move on to gameplay. There are a lot of abilities at Flinthook’s disposal. The first and most obvious is the hook that can be used to sling over obstacles and through the air. It also opens doors, err make that hatches, which occasionally having some combat related uses as well, for example, popping a bubble that an enemy is using to shield themselves in. Next up is the Blasma pistol. Which I’m going to assume is some combination of a blaster/plasma pistol. I don’t think I need to explain what you do with this. The final main mechanic is slo-mo. Things can get pretty hectic and sometimes area’s are guarded by lasers. The slo-mo can get Flinthook through certain lasers, not all, but also aid in getting the timing just right for some precision swinging or dodging bullets.
There is also an array of sub weapons. These included bombs, some spiraling skulls, a sno-globe that freezes enemies and a bell that will grant Flinthook invincibility for a short amount of time. The sub weapons are picked up throughout the levels. You can only hold one at a time and it is depleted after each use, so choose when to use them wisely. So there is certainly a decent arsenal with which to wield for a 2d platformer.
The biggest question of course is how do all these mechanics come together in terms of controls? I was honest surprised and a bit relieved that the controls are silky smooth. Everything just works together in a way that feels rather natural. My biggest source of relief was the aiming of the pistol. This is done, along with movement just using the left stick. I’m actually glad the aiming wasn’t done in a “twin stick” manner. While some may find the aiming portion easier that way, I generally find that doing so takes a lot away from the other platforming mechanics. The fire button for the pistol is X on an Xbox controller. Go ahead and take a second to aim to the left with the right stick and try and press the X button repeatedly without taking your right hand off the rest of the controls. The pistols bullets are big enough in relation to everything else there isn’t really much need, if any for any sort of extra fine aiming other than the sort of basic directions, up, down, left, right, plus the diagonals. Of course there are some perks available that can also grant the ability to lock-on to a target if you need absolute precision at all times.
That’s right there are perks as well as a leveling system as part of the “roguelike” elements. The most basic way to equip these is to get them through the game’s Black Market. There are some permanent perks like health boosts, different sub weapons, number of perk slots, that will always be active. As Flinthook gains levels he will receive “booster packs” that hold perk cards. Here you can modify things a bit more to your liking. Each card offers some different boosts or effects, more gold, xp, modifiers to your pistol, extra modifiers to health and so on. Each has a set cost in terms of perk slots. It’s a good way to really modify things to your own tastes or get ready for a particular challenge. I really like the system as it does add to the experience without taking over. Although to gather enough black market coins, it could lead to some spots of grinding.
Here is where another of those “roguelike” elements comes into play. Random generation is part of the equation. Flinthook is out on bounties to take down various evil doers. Each one have several levels that need to be completed before finding the particular bounty. But there is also some choice in where to go on the way. So you need to defeat 3 pirate ships full of baddies to get your first bounty. There is also choice in that as well. 3 different options will appear each time, along with some important facts about what is or might be aboard. The best analog I can think of that does something similar is Cryptark. the ability to choose different targets on your way to the ultimate goal. The good news if you do want to grind out some black market tokens is that the ships layouts are randomly generated. The specific rooms locations and the path to the end will vary each time. So luckily you won’t be treading over exactly the same ships each time even if you are on the same bounty.
So we have variations over the levels, how is the platforming itself? The platforming is incredibly satisfying. It’s really a lot of fun swinging around from various rings found in each room. Couple that with the slo-mo and wall jumps and there are generally more than one way to get to nearly every spot in the rooms. You can really breeze around and depending on what enemies may be about, you’ll have to. Of course, you’ll want to collect any coins they drop. A lot of games can feel like the hero is really on the defensive, but since the loot does disappear after time so there is an absolute incentive to chase down foes rather then let them come to you and pick them off safely from some corner that you’ve holed your self up in.
A lot of games say they are fasted paced but in reality the smart play is a slow play. Flinthook manages to get the player to want to push the pace on their own, without the need of some silly hurry up mechanic. There are things that will occasionally chase you around that look vaguely like ghosts from Spelunky but get hit by one and it only does a dash of damage. The best runs I’ve had were not the ones that were slow and methodical, but rather the ones where I went flying through at a blistering pace. They were also the most fun as well. Not that the other runs weren’t fun either, they were, it just really excels when the pace is pushed. The speed and ease of movement is addictive.
Let’s switch gears for a minute and talk about the Art and Music. Flinthook delivers some truly outstanding visuals in pixel form. It is really gorgeous and has some really good use of colors to make everything stand out. There’s really lots and lots to look at and I would on occasion lose track of where I was actually on the screen because I was looking around at everything else. Pirates aren’t exactly known for their cleanliness, so there are plenty of items strew about, this certainly isn’t a sterile environment. The music as well is fabulous. It really adds to atmosphere and is easy on the ears.
So where does this all leave us? Flinthook is an extremely fun and addictive game. For example, before I knew it, I had 8 hours in the game on just the first day. It will both scratch that roguelike and platformer itch at the same time. The only real question that I would have is longevity. Once everything is found and done there are your standard daily and weekly challenges to keep one coming back. Once targets have been defeated there are also hardcore modes that can be bought at the black market. There should be plenty for the completionists out there, collectables, some of which are time based rewards, so speed running and leaderboards. I guess there is a chance of tiring of it before all that is completed, but even just completing the most basic, just beating all the bounties should put you somewhere near the 15 hour mark, if not more. (I’ve spent more than that and am around half way through, but I took many detours into collecting and speed running as well.) That should be plenty for most, especially in a game as charming and addictive as Flinthook.
- Fast paced platforming action
- Controls are intuitive
- Looks and sounds great
- Plenty of extra's to keep you coming back
- Black market items require a bit of grinding to acquire