Heart&Slash, is a rogue like game with procedurally generated levels. No two games will be the same in terms of level design. This keeps the experience fresh and interesting, giving you no idea what is around the next corner. The back story, is that Quassy, a QA robot who is now self-aware, revolts and takes it upon itself to lead a robotic revolution against the human after it malfunctions. The resulting war against humans, leads to the eradication of the human race. No one is left alive despite a valiant effort.
You start of in a test chamber, controlling Heart, and have to follow the orders of your creator. It’s a tutorial to get you familiar with the controls. Which are not difficult to learn. You need to defeat Slash by the end of said tutorial, which is when Quassy goes rogue. The Doctor and his assistant have a conversation with each other, which seems to centre around coffee for the most part. Which seems a bit convoluted and unnecessary, despite attempting to inject some humour into the opening proceedings. Maybe voice actors would have had an easier time conveying the humour. Once the opening cut scene of still pictures is over, and humanity is no more, you gain control of Heart once more. A glowing console is your target, and your creator is able to communicate with you, giving you instructions with a partially garbled message, instructing you to gain an upgrade to continue. It seems as though he is either somehow alive, or has uploaded a self-aware AI version of himself.
You locate and equip weapons and upgrades in the first room you come too at the start of each play through. This is the only room that remains the same. Sometimes you will find useless junk you can scrap, such as a rubber duck or wooden planks. In the top right corner of your screen you have bolts representing you junk collected, and once you have filled this bar up, you get a little box underneath to represent an upgrade can be purchased. Sadly this is not explained to you during the course of the introduction, and I had to figure this out for myself. These are gained by defeating enemies in case you were unsure. Weapons are assigned to 3 slots. Your X and Y buttons do fast and slow attacks, with the LT and RT used for selection of other weapons. These need to be held down which is a nuisance, as a toggle option would have been easier to work with.
Each run sees you start from the beginning, until you reach a checkpoint, which seems like a good distance away, leaving you wondering if it’s worth replaying the same section multiple times. Not the easiest of games, but not an impossible feat. Your health bars is represented by Hearts, (see what they did?) and does not regenerate. You need to find hearts to replenish you health (and again?) which can be relinquished by your foes. This is quite a rare occurrence, and all too often, you die before you find any health pickups. Robot enemies intent on defeating you can seem quite over powered, especially the larger variety. Flying bots are very difficult to take down also.
A bright, colourful palette has been used by the developer, and with the retro look, gives Heart&Slash a cute visual impression. Personally, I like retro games, and wasn’t offended by the end result.
The sound track reminds me of early 90’s Sega. I did like the soundtrack at first, but given how irritating it gets after prolonged play, you will likely find yourself turning the music down, or as in my case, off completely. Sound effects are basic to say the least. With attacks on enemies, you are presented with sound file that could well be named sandpaper scratching.
The camera is just plain awful. Each and every time you press the jump button, the camera zooms above your head, and back down once you land. I’ve never suffered motion sickness playing a game before, and I can safely say I never want to again. In combat the camera attempts an almost overhead view, and this makes it nigh on impossible to judge where the aerial attacks on flying bots are going to be. I also suffered glitching into scenery, rendering me helpless as I was quickly taken down by enemies. The camera control is hyper sensitive, and often, you will turn it further than you need too.
Those who can tolerate the gameplay mechanics short falls, may enjoy the rogue like elements, and procedurally generated levels elements, as this keeps the game fresh and interesting. Coupled with the difficulty, Heart&Slash could be a game that will keep you busy for quite some time. But given the first checkpoint is some distance away with no save system, you may get bored quickly. Some tweaks and rebalancing of the bots are desperately needed.
Heart&Slash has garnered interest not only for myself, but several people I know. However, it falls short with regards to the gameplay and soundtrack. Which is a shame, as I had high hopes. The asking price of £15.99 is way to high, and perhaps £7.99 would have generated more interest. The challenge presented may be of interest to a select few, but most gamers will pass on Heart & Slash. This is a shame, as I am a huge Indie game fan. But I don’t see myself venturing back into this title.
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