Ninjas. Spies. Batman. All the cool kids use grappling hooks. It’s easy to see why. Grappling hooks are a pretty badass way to get around. Now imagine if you had a grappling hook AND a sweet belt that allowed you to slow time. And you were a pirate. A space pirate. With a ghost for a face. Flinthook gives you all of these things and more in this pixelated rogue-like from Tribute Games. And I’ve got to say, it’s an absolute gem of a game that I would happily recommend to anybody with fingers and thumbs. Sure, it’s tough in places. It’s ball-crushingly unfair in other places. But zipping around, blasting space-pirates and collecting booty never gets boring or repetitive due to the intuitive control scheme, upgradable gear and absolutely astounding chip tune soundtrack.
As Flinthook, you’re tasked with cleaning up the galaxy by hunting down the most villainous scum the cosmos has to offer and claiming the huge bounties placed upon their heads. To find them, you need to board enemy ships and grab the ghost tokens to feed to your slug-compass. All sounds pretty straightforward, right? Each ship is broken down into several rooms. Some of these rooms contain treasure, others contain waves of enemies, and all of them contain a bunch of little golden rings for you to grapple on to.
The whole thing is procedurally generated, so every room aboard the enemy ships is populated with a random assortment of danger and loot. Spikes, proximity lasers, poisonous gas; pretty much everything within these ships is designed to thwart your progress. Luckily, the enemy buccaneers also chose to populate every room with the aforementioned golden rings, so dodging these traps and grabbing the token for your slug-compass is possible. It’s tricky, but possible.
The game plays incredibly well. The movement of your character is extremely fluid, so you rarely feel hard-done-by when you meet your end (which you will). Grappling onto the rings allows you to attack enemies from different angles, and slowing time will allow you to get the drop on most bad guys. The difficulty level of each room will inevitably vary due to the random-generated nature of the game. Sometimes you will breeze through a room and collect bucketfuls of gold to spend on extra perks, other times you will be faced with seemingly impossible-to-beat enemies (there’s a floating octopus thing that shoots a continuous laser beam that I didn’t manage to kill even once), or enter a room to fall straight into a pit of spikes and die. But death never stopped me from having another crack at the game. It just feels so user-friendly. Each hit to Flinthook will usually take about ten HP away from you, but most chests will contain not only gold, but snacks to replenish your health. You also earn experience as you play, and before you start each run you get to choose perks that are bought from the black market. These perks will vary from more firepower to extra health, and the higher your level the more you can assign.
I’m going to be honest here, I never got past the first bounty available. I tried. God how I tried. It’s just a bit of a tricky game. It’s all very well made though. The overall look of Flinthook is absolutely great, and it’s a game that really suits the 8-bit format. The animation of the titular character and the enemies is simple but effective, and the level design is top-notch. The grapple-rings are often the only way to get from point A to B, but it never feels repetitive. The puzzles are well-thought out, enemy-wave rooms award chests of gold when beaten, and although it can feel a tad unfair at times, you’ll gain XP during each run to make the next try a little easier. The chip tune soundtrack is absolutely brilliant. Usually with these sort of games, I get bored of hearing the same tunes repeated on loop, but Flinthook has managed to craft a few exciting numbers that never get boring, and the theme tune is genuinely amazing.
It’s a great game that I thoroughly enjoyed playing. It’s random as hell, but a whole load of fun, due to how easy it is to pick up and play. As games go, I’m not really much of a fan of platformers in general, but this one really stands out. It’s like a mix of the original Bionic Commando and Castlevania. It has tons of replayability due to the amount of perks available and the difficulty level in general, and also offers weekly and daily challenges to compete for top-score status on the online leaderboards. I actually have nothing bad to say about this game. It’s that good. A must-have for fans of the platformer genre, and definitely worth a look for everyone else. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at just how much fun slinging a hook can be.
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