Platforms: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Steam, Xbox One
As you begin Flinthook, it’s apparent that the game isn’t lacking in charm and is just downright cute at times. As you begin to dig deeper into its gameplay and variety of levels you quickly realize that its charm is actually concealing a brutally challenging platformer that’s also satisfying, addicting, and a hell of a lot of fun.
In Flinthook, you take on the role of, well, Flinthook, the galaxy’s smallest yet toughest pirate. With just a handful of gadgets, your goal is to save the galaxy from an evil treasure hunter (who is hellbent on unleashing an ancient evil) and collect as much loot as you possibly can (you are a pirate after all). Flinthook will start off with his trusty Quickshot grappling hook to help traverse levels, a Blasma Pistol for taking out the bad guys, and a Chrono Buckle that can be used to slow down time. Figuring out exactly how to use each piece of your equipment effectively in a variety of situations will determine just how successful you are. Each of these items combine to create a rewarding hook that keeps gameplay fresh and exciting.
Using the Quickshot allows for some unique platforming sections and pulling off a tough sequence while dodging enemy fire and environmental hazards is always satisfying. Unfortunately there are some sections that don’t utilize the Quickshot and stick to more traditional platforming. While these sections aren’t bad because the platforming is solid, they just come off as boring once you’ve experienced just how fun the Quickshot sections can be.
The Quickshot isn’t without its problems either. There are times when it can feel a bit wonky and you won’t hit the target you want. This becomes most apparent in certain enemy encounters where it is essential that you use the Quickshot. There were far too many times when I felt I was aiming right at a specific part of an enemy, only to attach to a random hook on the wall. In most cases this would send me flying right into the enemy causing damage to Flinthook and much frustration for me. It’s mostly a minor annoyance in an otherwise technically great experience.
Flinthook also throws in elements of the ever popular “roguelike” genre. As you begin, you’ll choose a bounty (basically the final boss of a section) and then proceed to complete a certain number of randomly assembled pirate ships. Upon completing a ship you’ll acquire a ghost gem, which you must feed to your Goo Compass, Slimey. Once you’ve fed Slimey enough ghost gems, it will give you the location of your bounty. In true roguelike fashion, you’ll have to complete each pirate ship and then defeat the bounty in one life. If at any point you meet your demise, it’s back to square one. There will be shops and other rooms throughout to help you along and, thankfully, there are also a number of other ways to sway fortune in your favor.
Once you choose a bounty to hunt down you’ll be able improve Flinthook’s odds of success with the use of perks. These perks have a variety of effects. Some allow you collect more gold in different scenarios, some improve your combat effectiveness or defensive capabilities, and others allow you collect more XP. At the end of each run you’ll get XP that will go toward your overall level which carries over between all playthroughs. As you level up you’ll get booster packs that contain new perks, giving you even more options in how you approach each new run. While you must pick and choose which perks you’ll use, you can unlock more permanent means of improvement.
When you successfully complete the heist of a pirate ship, you’ll acquire at least one token that can be used in the game’s store, known as the Black Market. In the Black Market, you’ll be able to unlock a variety of permanent items that will apply bonuses to every playthrough you do thereafter. These items include more maximum starting health, more perk slots, improved XP gain, and various sub weapons. The Black Market quickly becomes vital to your success, as Flinthook can get brutally difficult in the late stages of the game.
This is the perfect example of a game that is easy to pick up and play but hard to master. Knowing exactly how to traverse various situations with your Quickshot and Chrono Buckle is what will separate success from failure. Not utilizing all the tools you’ve been given is a quick way to end up short of claiming your bounty. Luckily, learning the ropes is fun even when you’re not succeeding. The constant acquiring of XP, Black Market tokens, booster packs, and perks make for an experience that will keep you coming back for more, even when the game is punishing you. Flinthook isn’t necessarily a groundbreaking experience, but with a myriad of items to unlock and secrets to find, it’s definitely a fun one and well worth your time.