The last decade has seen a huge rise in the number of indie studios having the chance to bring their games to consoles. With games like Shovel Knight, Fez and Axiom Verge we are seeing some indie titles receiving high praise on some accounts with others falling short.
Heart&Slash comes from Developer aheartfulofgames and has an interesting 3D style that reminded me of N64 titles or even more recently games like Grow Home. The game is a 3D brawler with some platforming later on and it also has rogue-like elements.
Heart&Slash takes place 100 years after an event known as the ‘Robolution.’ You play as a quirky little robot called Heart, who’s extremely quick on his feet. Heart is trying to escape from QuAsSy, the evil corporate leader trying to turn robots into lifeless servants with identical actions. The story isn’t that great but at least there has been some kind of attempt at setting up a premise for what you’re doing during the game.
You play as a robot named Heart and the first thing I noticed was how difficult it was to actually control him and move from room to room. The world you venture through is randomly generated each time you start, something we are seeing more often in current games, and you must battle through waves of challenging enemy robots. You fight through enemies with melee attacks through various passageways and small rooms full of different robots. I also want to mention that if you die you have to start again as the game is a rogue-like experience. The enemies you face come in different sizes, forms and difficulties which keeps gameplay interesting and fresh throughout. The combat is tricky at first but once you understand how to approach each enemy it soon becomes second nature. The controls are simple but actually moving Heart can be extremely challenging as he moves very quickly and the camera can be a little unpredictable at times. You run, jump and slash your way through hordes of robots and use a mixture of light and heavy melee attacks.
When starting out I found that I was dying a lot and it took a while to actually make much progress. The key is to keep moving, dodging and attacking when the time is right. That can be difficult though as the more you move the more the camera can become troublesome. I would have actually liked to have been able to turn down the camera sensitivity as it tends to swing around all over the place making combat difficult. What I enjoyed most about the combat was being able to string together combos using the X and Y buttons and using B to perform back rolls to avoid incoming attacks. The back triggers are used to switch weapons but I found I would tend to stick to the same one most of the time.
Like I said the stage is randomly generated each time and when you start out you get to equip three items before heading out. These consist of things like weapons, shields and parts you have unlocked from previous runs. The game has plenty of content here as it has over 100 weapons and parts to unlock. Every item has different abilities and reasons to unlock which gives the game plenty of replayability. Also if you don’t want to use a specific item you can scrap it for health.
For the most part the gameplay feels great and offers some very challenging moments throughout. I found that I was often overrun by multiple enemies and I found the flying robots especially tricky to bring down. I spent ages trying to find out if there was anyway to lock onto enemies as the game doesn’t clearly tell you and to make it clear you can’t. This felt incredibly frustrating at times and combined with the awkward camera it became a real issue at times. After a while though you will get used to the combat and know when and how to attack enemies. After destroying an enemy, they drop screws, much like in Ratchet and Clank and these can be used to purchase weapon and character upgrades. Upgrading is essential and will significantly improve your chances of survival. There are plenty of aspects to upgrade like speed (even though you already run insanely fast), evading, jumping and health.
There are only three level types to play through which is a shame, but they are fairly large and the fact that they are randomly generated gives enough variety. Also you can unlock different playable characters which is also a nice addition and keeps things fresh. The gameplay can start to get a little repetitive at times and there are certainly some aspects that could have been improved like the lack of narrative during the game.
The presentation is fairly decent with obvious inspiration from games like Ratchet and Clank. The environments are bright and colourful and the enemies are vibrant and interesting in design. The soundtrack is fairly catchy, with upbeat tunes and techno beats. Having said that, there isn’t much variation to the music and after a while it can get a little repetitive.
Heart&Slash unfortunately does have its issues though, which ultimately hold it back somewhat. The most obvious is the award camera combined with the extremely fast movement. For a game that requires you to be fully focused on combat the camera feels clumsy and makes it less enjoyable. I would have also liked to have seen stats for weapons and more details on what was most effective against certain enemies. These issues aren’t game breaking but they are annoying and at times made the game less enjoyable.
Overall, Heart&Slash is a fun fast-paced game with tonnes of combat and varied enemies to fight. The rogue-like element makes gameplay challenging and the upgrades feel useful if used properly. I was disappointed with the lack of story and the camera issues really impacted gameplay at times. Having said that the combat is satisfying, the environments are vibrant and the randomly generated stages keeps things exciting.
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