Review – Flinthook
Flinthook is a metroidvania roguelite 2D action platformer in which you play as masked pirate Captain Flinthook in an attempt to stop a malevolent treasure hunter from unleashing an ancient evil to threaten the cosmos. In a future setting of flying space pirate ships, energy pistols, time manipulating belts and hook-shots mixed with classic 16-bit graphic and sound design, Flinthook is truly an amazing example of how to mix new gameplay mechanics and still pay homage to the old school days.
Developed by Tribute Games, it’s clear that they hold true to their company name. Flinthook is a beautiful tribute to the old school platforming days, where there is no hand-holding and it isn’t afraid to punish the player for mistakes. You will die over and over, but it was always due to mistakes rather than the game being unfair. They give you every tool you need to handle each situation, but it’s up to the player to use them correctly in timing.
The story revolves around Flinthook accepting bounties on pirate leader minions of this “malevolent treasure hunter.” But first you have to track them down by beating a level and acquiring a “Ghost Gem” which you then feed to Slimey a magical goo compass creature. Each boss requires a different amount of these to be found and once you acquire the correct amount you can then instigate the boss fight. As I mentioned, you will die a lot, and when that happens you have to start your hunt all over even if you make it to the actual boss fight. But by then you should have acquired a few Black Market Coins that you can use to boost your skills and make the next go a bit easier. What also adds to the difficulty and my only gripe is that the “Mercy Invulnerability” after a hit is very short so getting stuck in bad situations can lead to a quick death.
What makes this loop not get stale is that each level is different since they are procedurally generated and each level has modifiers or secret lore items to find. Modifiers range from massive battle rooms, multiple mini-boss fights, ghosts, and flying bug infestations to curses, time limits, low gravity and many more. Typically each level will have a secret black market shop where you can buy perks or health upgrades and potions or lore items and relics to collect. Some levels will feel similar in a general layout, but enemy and trap locations will always differ so there ‘ always something new.
The upgrade system works with using XP to level up and unlock more moves and booster packs, including perk cards. Perk cards can be equipped in available perk slots before starting a bounty. Each perk will take up a certain amount of perk slots depending on how beneficial the perk is. Gaining a few extra HP points may only take up 1 perk slot while increasing your damage may cost 4. You will have to decide on how to balance your perks to benefit your play style. Beating levels or finding secret rooms will grant you tokens that you can use in the Black Market, and the Black Market is where you will be purchasing upgrades for perk capacity, bonus XP, and permanent perks like gaining extra health if you clear an enemy encounter without taking damage. Black Market Coins, abilities and perk cards are permanent, which helps keep the game from being unfair; each death and upgrade makes you better.
Captain Flinthook is armed with a handful of weapons and tricks to aid in the defeat of these pirate scum. Your main weapon is the Blasma Pistol which can be modified with perk cards to add a charge shot, increase the firing range and damage. You’re also equipped with a handy hook shot which is invaluable to navigate the traps and dangers of the enemy ships. Additionally you have a Chronobelt which slows down time to help dodge enemy bullets and get past certain level barriers; the duration and effect of the Chronobelt can be increased with perks as well. Found around levels will be secondary one-time-use items such as bombs, battle helmets (makes you invulnerable while wearing), Snow Globes (freezes enemies for a short time) and Spinning Skulls (enemy seeking skulls).
The graphics are the new age 16-bit pixel art which looks great and is very well done. It’s simple, colorful, and it adds to the overall charm of the game. What really stands out is the sound design. The soundtrack is outstanding, right from the opening scene track to the menu and level music, it’s all very catchy and well done. I’ve have found myself putting on the songs at work. The character and item sound effects are all well done as well and while it still has that 16-bit sound, you can tell it’s high quality.
Flinthook is an extremely challenging and rewarding experience that has kept me hooked since I started it. From the fast combat, well done platforming puzzles and varying procedurally generated levels to the fantastic soundtrack and classic art design, Flinthook is a (Ghost) gem found in an overly hand-holding saturated market. The difficulty may turn some people off, but if you’re looking for a fun and challenging game, Flinthook is well worth the price.
Reviewed on Xbox One.
Flinthook is available now on PC, Xbox One and PS4.