Dime a Dozen
Indie roguelike platformer games are a dime a dozen. With many developers trying to create their own, many of them turn out mediocre at best. They bank on recreating the successes of other famed indie games without trying to do anything original on their own.
That’s where Flinthook from Tribute Games comes in. This indie title came out on PS4 several months ago and has now made the leap to the Nintendo Switch. Is this an example of a roguelike done right, or should it be made to walk the plank?
Flinthook puts you in the shoes of Captain Flinthook, a half man/half ghost entity who has taken up the career of bounty hunter. With the help of your trusty hook and Blasma Pistol, it’s your job to find outlaws and take down several enemy pirate ships along the way. Did I mention that this all takes place in outer space?
I have to give props to this story direction. Having a bounty hunter in space is something that I haven’t really seen before- and it certainly hasn’t been done in the indie market. It also helps that Captain Flinthook is very well-designed. While the cover art certainly doesn’t do him justice, his in-game sprite is phenomenal and extremely well-animated.
In terms of gameplay, Flinthook takes a very similar approach to a lot of other indies: randomly generated rooms with permadeath. That said, it’s the nuances that make this game stand out from the competition.
While the rooms are randomly generated, it’s more that the developers created a large set of rooms and have the game sporadically select them for each level. It makes the experience fell much more organic. On top of that, you won’t be crawling through an endless dungeon- instead, the game is separated into levels with multiple rooms. Each level is an enemy pirate ship that you must infiltrate and pillage. Once you do that, you move on to the next one.
Where the game gets really interesting is that, the entire time, you’re focused on finding a specific outlaw. You just have to conquer a series of enemy ships without dying, then you get a chance to find your bounty and take them down. I found it to be a great way of giving me a purpose to keep playing, even when the game kept getting the best of me.
Instead of just platforming and shooting your way through each room, Flinthook equips you with a hook that you can shoot. It allows you to grab on to rings and propel yourself through each level. These rings are placed generously throughout the game, ensuring that you always have a way to shoot yourself in the air or dodge to the side.
By having that addition of mobility, Flinthook not only feels different, but he controls very well. He can also wall jump and shoot in addition to swinging around, so he’s no slouch in combat either. That said, the joystick for aiming is tied to the joystick for moving, so it gets a bit frustrating trying to gun down enemies at weird angles. It also doesn’t help firefights when a lot of the enemies look and function the same. You just have to fight more of them at a time the farther you get into the game.
Another area where Flinthook subverted the trends of a roguelike is the perk system. Instead of only getting better through skill, the game has Captain Flinthook tied to a level-up system. As he gains experience, he can unlock more items to buy in the Black Market. These items are perks that can then be attached to him at the start of each run. The bottom line is that, the more you play, the stronger he gets, regardless of whether you live or die. It essentially guarantees that a patient player will eventually get to fight the outlaw. Considering how brutally difficult Flinthook can be at times, it was a nice design choice.
Flinthook also doesn’t just have a regular adventure mode to play. It has a daily and weekly challenge that will take you to different pirate ships, and a sound and relic room where you can look at all of the unique booty you found. All of these separate additions come together in a well-polished package.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that Captain Flinthook can also slow down time. The reason I’m talking about it last is because it felt like an addition Tribute Games shoved in at the last minute. Because of how it’s only useful in specific situations, I often forgot it was there. It doesn’t detract from the experience, but understand that it’s not a focus of the game.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Flinthook was provided by Tribute Games.