Flinthook (PlayStation 4) Review

By Sam Turner 12.05.2017 1

Review for Flinthook on PlayStation 4

To the pale-eyed viewer Flinthook might look like a game about chaperoning a space pirate across procedurally generated side-scrolling levels of a roguelike shooter, therefore completing all the squares needed to complete 'Indie Game Bingo'. However, first impressions belie what's really happening. Flinthook is a ballet in space. An acrobatic opera of compasses made of slime and baddies wrapped in bubbles.

It's true that Flinthook is made up of parts that have come before it. Cut the game and it will bleed Spelunky. Feed it some bad chicken and it will throw up a few chunks of The Binding of Isaac. There is history here and though Flinthook strikes a familiar chord it is a chord that is only a musical vignette to the true orchestration of what is happening on screen.

The opening title sequence does a better job of capturing the true heart of Flinthook than the next seven or eight hundred words could ever manage. Pixelated colours flash and dissolve on screen to a bright edgy soundtrack that could sit alongside any 80s cartoon opening from my e-numbered inspired Saturday morning rituals. The stall is well and truly set out for an action packed adventure in the high seas of space as 'Captain Flinthook' moves from one ship to another pillaging and plundering on a whim.

Screenshot for Flinthook on PlayStation 4

The goal here is to use the resources you gather from each level to track down increasingly deadly pirate leaders and visit space justice upon them all. To access each end stage though will take skill, death defying athletics and more importantly luck as dying will send you back to the beginning of your journey ready to start it all again.

With a gun in one hand and a grappling hook in the other, passing through each of the stages of Flinthook to get to the final goal appears, at first, to be a breeze. The shooting is responsive and deadly and the 'Quickhook' shoots out and attaches to any of the rings in sight. The hook adds much needed vertically and acrobatics to the rooms that make up each randomised ship. It's a nifty tool that means that, thanks to some clever programming, you should never need to touch the floor if the feeling should take you. What brings together all these elements is also importantly holding up the Captains' trousers, the Chronobelt.

This item of waist wear is the final part of the puzzle unites these familiar rudiments of the modern side scrolling roguelike and gives it the flair and panache it needs. It might seem much to be jockeying so much hardware, but somehow the added complication of being able to slow down time is balanced amongst the shooting and swinging that dominates the action within the game.

Screenshot for Flinthook on PlayStation 4

What the Chronobelt achieves is to turn desperate situations on their head; allowing time to become the friend of the Captain and the enemy of all the nefarious characters on-board the ship. As bullets spread across the scene and death flits across the screen, slowing down time offers up a winning edge. Allowing the player to reach for the next hook or letting them summersault between hellfire and harm. It's the simplest of design elements, but it makes the often perilous situations of Flinthook become somewhat manageable. More importantly, it allows the player a moment to appreciate the beautiful animations of the Captain as he dances between the bullets and swing from hook to hook with the grace of a dancer.

Like many roguelikes out there things do get hairy in Flinthook and that's not mentioning some of the hirsute enemies that sometimes appear unannounced. Progression is measured in each of the Pirate Captains that Flinthook is able to defeat. Finding each one, however, is a task given over to the compass of slime who upon consuming a set level of currency squeezes out a Polaroid giving up the location of the next delicious bounty. As progression is lost immediately upon death advancing along this path can be arduous and time consuming. Having progression ripped out from the sweating and pursed fingers of a player is the price you pay for taking risks, not taking a shot or pushing ones luck, but it doesn't make the pill any sweeter.

Screenshot for Flinthook on PlayStation 4

Flinthook does go some way to try and mitigate this constant road blocking with a generous amount of perks. Using a standard dual currency model, part time perks can be purchased using easily accessed gold and these last only until the big bad boss is on their knees. On the other hand you can save up the rarer and more valuable currency available to access perks that can be applied permanently. It's a mechanic that will feel familiar to anyone who has played a mobile game within the last five years, but there are no micro-transactions here. Instead it's a system that given the lease of life by not being locked behind a pay wall adds added strategic depth to each raid.

There is enough variety in this shopping list of perks, which means that should any raid become a chore then there is plenty the player can do in order to try and mess up the odds. Flinthook can often breed frustration, but at least it offers up the tools in order to fight back effectively. This also means that the player is free to develop their skills over time and use the perks to prop up the weaker areas of their game until they are improved.

Heads will be hit against brick wall, controllers may even get thrown on to the couch as health runs low and more pitfalls are put in place, but Flinthook constantly pulls the player back in with its design and gameplay. Everything is punchy and bright with a palette of animation, which is humorous and vibrant. Levels are also a swirling mix of deadly puzzles and kill rooms, meaning that the different skills being tested improve and rough edges are being rounded out. All of this is gathered together with a soundtrack that is a buzzing symphony of 8-bit delight. In fact it's often worth getting into fights just to glide from hook to hook as the music perfectly reflects the mood and the smile on your face.

Screenshot for Flinthook on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

What irks about Flinthook is found in every roguelike; the sudden deaths, the lack of tangible progress and the inability to feel safe within your environment. However, some players will delight in this usual pattern and others whom usually fight against such road blocking will find enough within the walls to come back time and time again, gluttons for such delightful and gloriously designed punishment. Flinthook is a ballet upon spikes, far too risky to participate in, but get it right and the rewards are such a beautiful spectacle.

Developer

Tribute Games

Publisher

Tribute Games

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

the hero looks like the phantom killer from The Town that Dreaded Sundown...

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