It would be foolish to bury the hook here in anything but the hull of a pirate ship: Flinthook is an instant classic, and it deserves more praise than just one review can give. Montreal developer Tribute Games has created something energetic and beautiful that plays like a dream. Well balanced mechanics, an immersive pirate-filled world, and procedurally generated levels with a hand-crafted feel all come together to create a surefire hit. With all this in mind, let’s waste no time and dive right in to what makes Flinthook such a compelling videogame.
As soon as the game starts, Flinthook invites you into its world with an animated sequence. Our mysterious hero appears silhouetted until they don their ghostly mask. Seconds later, Flinthook is staring down enemies and captaining a space pirate ship with all the bravado of an action hero. Playing as this mysterious privateer, you must fight to stop a wicked treasure hunter with a plan to let loose unstoppable and ancient evil. Flinthook serves as a bounty hunter of sorts, and you are tasked with tracking and capturing villainous pirates that have fled to the far corners of the galaxy to collect the bounty on their heads. Fill up the belly of your slimy compass and it will chart your course to fight evil. In a galaxy filled with riches and pirates fighting to claim it, Flinthook must step up to fight the good fight.
Our anonymous and agender hero fights with three main tools: a Quickhook that swings you through levels with ease, an ever full Blasma Pistol, and the invaluable time-slowing Chrono-belt. Secondary weapons and items like bombs and shields make cameos, but these first three tools are the focus of Flinthook’s arsenal. As a result, the game is delightfully intuitive to pick up. The tutorial is short but sweet, and within the first five minutes of playing Flinthook you know almost everything you need to in order to figure out the rest as you adventure.
This concept of simple controls that can function in multiple situations is a recipe for success. It’s a staple of the platforming genre, and by avoiding complication Flinthook is an immediately relatable title. Though it might be in space, it in no way alienates its players. Though this is not to say that Flinthook is a very easy game. Healing apples can be hard to come by and packs of enemies can be lurking behind every door. Death is fairly commonplace and Flinthook features no save points. Tribute Games describes Flinthook as “a fast action-platformer with ‘roguelike’ elements,” and it plays like a rogue-lite. Your level progression stays with you after death, saving players the frustration of unforgiving failure and allowing you to progress even as you’re still learning.
This aspect of learning is truly key to Flinthook. Because the tutorial is brief, the game invites you to discover new enemies, obstacles, and effective playstyles for yourself as you play. One of the quickest things you’ll pick up is an understanding of just how useful Flinthook’s slow time ability is, as it can help you in situations with both enemies and the environment and replenishes itself quickly. This is one of the most satisfying things about this game: you may be grappling clumsily at first and dying often, but every time you enter a new ship you do so with new knowledge of how to play to Flinthook’s strength. Not just that, but you keep the in game experience to prove it.
Once you know what to watch out for, you can strategically equip perks to Flinthook and browse the Black Market in between raids to upgrade their tools, health, and skills so you can be better equipped for the danger that lies ahead. Ships you raid are procedurally generated, and when beginning a voyage you have multiple ships to choose from with different randomly assigned qualities. For example some ships are “labyrinthine,” meaning that they will be particularly hard to navigate, and others feature more treasure or lore for Flinthook to collect. As a result, you must plan for each expedition with these ship types in mind if you are to succeed. This system of variation also adds interest to the infinite possibilities of procedurally generated levels, though they are so well rendered that all they seem to be hand designed.
This sense that Flinthook’s computer made worlds are instead the result of intentional planning is likely due in part to the Tribute Game’s perfect execution of the retro pixel style. The studio was highly influenced by the 8-bit and 16-bit era of gaming in the creation of Flinthook, and this doesn’t just show in the gameplay. Flinthook is like the sharper dressed cousin of the platformers of old. It’s a perfect upgrade to a timeless style that still maintains a clear connection to its roots, making it instantly recognizable as a retro title. The delightful earworm that is Flinthook’s soundtrack also contributes to this sense of nostalgia, and it serves as the perfect background music for your swashbuckling adventure. Merchants and pirates punctuate the fun with quips that are perfectly befitting of a salty sailor and also appropriately lighthearted. In a world where so many indie developers are trying to recreate the classics of their childhood, Flinthook has distinguished itself. Because it is so successful in its recreation of this old-time action hero type of game, Flinthook gives the player the sense that it will be a game we look back on with the same fondness that we do classic Nintendo titles now.
With a system of upgrades, treasure to collect, and procedurally generated levels, Flinthook promises a high replay value. It will likely be a wonderful game to return to, if only so you can immerse yourself in an environment that has so wonderfully embraced nostalgic themes while still daring to improve upon them. Flinthook creates a unique world for the player to explore that exceeds all expectations, and as a result it has earned itself a place of honor in the world of indie platformers.
Flinthook will be available on Steam (PC, Mac, Linux,) Xbox One, and PS4 for $14.99 on April 18th, 2017. For more information about this title, visit Flinthook’s official website and check out the game’s official wiki.
Are you fan of classic platformers, or looking forward to Flinthook? Let us know your thoughts about the game and what you’re most excited about in the comments below or contact us.