Flinthook is a 16-bit era graphically-stylized, metroidvania side-scroller from indie developer Tribute Games. While it seems there are a large influx of these games hitting consoles in the last few years, Flinthook stands out as a top example of the genre. With an interesting story, cute, well designed characters, randomly changing levels, and roguelike elements, there is a lot to love about it. Flinthook’s hero is a mysterious masked space pirate; his mask is actually a sentient alien itself, granting “Flinthook” resurrection when players die. And it happens to look like an adorable ghost. So, strap into your space-pirate ship, and get hooked.
Flinthook himself is equipped with a blaster weapon (mapped to the square button), a magic time slowing sack (L2), and his claim to the name, a hook-blasting, auto-retracting grappling gun (R2 + R analog stick to aim). Jumping (X), wall sliding, and hooking around is really the best part of Flinthook, the more a player invests in this system, the more fun it is. Many boss fights and enemy rooms will require the fast use of your hook as well as slowing time mid-air to avoid projectiles and flying enemies. The blaster weapon is aimed with the right stick as well, so it also helps to hold L1 and stop to aim at times. Some bosses will have small damage points, so precision will be key to defeating them. The hookshot can also be used to pop protective bubbles around enemies that will be granted at times. These complex gameplay aspects are what make Flinthook so damn amazing.
After a tutorial, players are given their first bounty levels, for Bad Billy Bullseye, and must choose from three different randomly-generated levels. A skull number will reflect the difficulty level and icons will show what rooms or scenarios are to be found there. Before you start though, Flinthook also tosses in the perks system. Perks are cards Flinthook will find or buy as he progresses. A small amount of slots are allotted for these perks and that amount can be increased with upgrades at the Pirate Black Market. These are purchased with rewarded skull tokens, found randomly in treasure shells. This is yet another very cool system in Flinthook that allows players to customize the game. Players can add more HP, more critical hits, or added time slow power. The choice is yours, but I must recommend HP at the start, Flinthook is not an easy game, and health refills are scarce.
Each bounty requires a certain number of levels be completed before you can attack the target’s ship. When you complete them, players are awarded ghost gems to feed your cute, blobby, alien compass. Players only have one life to complete each bounty. This is where the roguelike element of Flinthook comes in. When you are resurrected by the alien mask, all gold you collected will be lost and your point score will be tallied and applied to your total rank. Be sure to use your gold when you find the rare chance to spend it. Each rank players acquire will give you a pack of random perk cards, increasing your power level for the next run. This is the repetitive nature of Flinthook and it could be argued that a more linear story mode would of been more enjoyable, but I feel Tribute Games knew the star of their game was the gameplay, and to keep people coming back, the random levels, constant rewards, and growth structure compliment the resets. They even included daily and weekly challenge levels to keep it fresh.
Flinthook has super catchy chiptune music that fits the game well during exploration, along with the stressful fast paced boss battles. The graphics are cute, but not annoying, though the enemy models are a bit repetitive after hours of treasure hunting. I love the transitions between rooms using the hookshot, zipping around, breaking everything for gold, and the room designs themselves are challenging with all the booby traps and obstacles. The sub weapons are rare, but very useful, so try to save them for bosses and tough rooms. There are bombs, ice/freeze area powers, and more. You can only have one at a time, so pick carefully. There are even other collectibles, like lore and relics for players to hunt down. Flinthook surprisingly has so much to do. I expect Flinthook will be a game I come back to between others, as it’s just plain fun and I can jump in and play even with just a few minutes to kill. With an MSRP of $14.99, if you enjoy the metroidvania genre, it’s a spectacular deal. I’m definitely hooked.
Flinthook is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam. This review is based on a PS4 copy provided for that purpose.
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