In an online game space filled to the brim with titles styled after classic pixelated games, games usually need a killer gameplay gimmick to stand apart from the crowd. The key to any good gameplay idea is that it’s easy to pick up, difficult to master, but keeps pushing the player to try new combinations. Flinthook goes for that idea and effortlessly nails it.
Flinthook casts the player as Captain Flinthook, a space pirate that is short on stature but large on skill. Using a grappling hook, blaster, and a slo-mo device, Flinthook is on a mission to raid enemy pirates of their treasure, both material and personal. While it’s possible to grab secondary weapons, these three items are a constant and feel like a breeze when you get to use them correctly together. During my first few hours of playing the game, I had almost resigned myself to being unable to defeat the first boss until something clicked and I used all three items together as much as I could. From that point on, it managed to coalesce into a game where I realized death was only the beginning.
And death will come, and possibly pretty often. But that’s okay because you get to level up Captain Flinthook regardless of how much you die. And as you level up you can utilize more perks that can give you bigger advantages and increase your chances to survive. These perks can be found during your raids, or you can purchase them from an in-game shop using currency you find regularly while pillaging and plundering. Point is, stick with it. Yes, it may be hard at first but with each level increase or treasure found, you’ll be a better space pirate for it.
Flinthook: Windows PC, Xbox One [Reviewed], PlayStation 4
Developer: Tribute Games
Publisher: Tribute Games
Release Date: 14 April 2017
Price: £11.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
While new equipment is great to have, with each death Flinthook forces you to the beginning of your raid towards a specific boss fight. In any other game, this might grow dull, but Flinthook has a small but genius solution: randomly produced ships. In other words, just because you died in one room on a ship is no guarantee that you’ll see it on your next attempt. It’s a great way to ensure a level of exploration and to keep the player guessing as to what is in the next room. But with the amount of death you might have it also keeps your plundering proceedings from becoming tedious.
Next to the gameplay, arguably the next best part about Flinthook is the game’s audio design and music. Sound effects are distinctive enough to determine if an attempted grapple was successful, missed completely, or hit something a player can’t grapple. However, the enemies don’t have much sound effects themselves, and that feels like a missed opportunity to give more personality to the great visual designs.
The music of Flinthook is composed purely of chip-tunes and it is magnificent. Over the week I’ve had with the game, I have caught myself on many occasions humming the main menu’s theme. Happily, the fast-paced music doesn’t stop there and has yet to wear its welcome down.
While I’ve been pretty pleased with Flinthook, those that dislike precision platformers should beware. Flinthook often requires players to land on platforms that can disappear, or utilize hooks that can change position. Also, observing the environment for all the various dangers will prove fruitful. Nothing is worse than using a hook only to hit spikes in the ceiling ending your life.
Running into the various hazards will actually come from a design choice that the player doesn’t have much control over. The direction of movement, as well as the direction the hook and blaster fire in, are mapped to the left control stick. It’s another piece of the game that takes some adjusting to, but mapping hook and blaster directions to the right stick might have made the otherwise tight controls even better.
After the credits roll, and Captain Flinthook has filled his own coffers, is where the game loses a bit of steam. Because the game is difficult at first, and players have to retry a few times, there stands a good chance that rooms will repeat before players get to the final boss. Despite this revision, different post-game challenges keep the game fresh enough for good replayability.
Daily and weekly challenges, harder versions of the same bosses, and an infinite mode all wait to test player’s hooking abilities. Unfortunately, these challenges lack an incentive to play through them aside from more levels. This absence feels like the biggest missed opportunity in Flinthook.
Flinthook is an enjoyable game for those looking for a challenge. It may not offer the best content once you finish the main mode, but it’s a fun ride while it lasts. It also manages to stay memorable with catchy music and controls that are well conceived. More then that though, Flinthook is a game that has left me hooked on a feeling of pulling off aerial stunts against pirates and nabbing their loot. And isn’t that why we enjoy games to begin with?