Good roguelikes have this superpower that other games don’t; they’re able to build a fully fleshed out universe with just a handful of moving parts. Spelunky was a recent masterpiece in this regard. That game was built on a bedrock of simple platforming that revealed greater depth with each run. There was something profoundly mysterious about its universe and the mystery was a big part of its appeal. People that fell in love with Spelunky have been itching for another game to share that love with, and I’m thrilled to say that Flinthook is a worthy heir.
As best I can tell, you play as a bounty hunter that has been possessed by a ghost and you’re searching for your other ghost buddies that have been stuffed into bottles and scattered across the galaxy. With the help of your trusty wind-up, smile powered, polaroid printing compass, you’ll get a number of bounties that will take you from star system to star system, hunting down space pirates in search of your ghost friends. And if you’re lucky you’ll pocket some shiny treasure along the way. The story congeals into a beautiful, insane mishmash that somehow works. It isn’t overt or heavy-handed, it’s just a weird goofy backdrop to lighten the mood. It’s true that most people don’t come to roguelikes for their story, but it’s nice when they have one that gets you smiling anyway.
“Tribute Games have been crafting tighter platformers with every release and Flinthook feels like the culmination of that growth.”
The folks over at Tribute Games have been crafting tighter platformers with every release and Flinthook feels like the culmination of that growth. There is a depth here that wasn’t found in their previous releases. The platforming and shooting are fundamentally connected in ways that they’ve never done before. With blaster and hookshot at your disposal, the movement and combat options are endless. Scattered across every room are a number of grapple points that each represent an opportunity for a cunning offense or tactical defense. There’s also a bullet time mechanic where the press of a button will slow down the action making dodges and attacking a bit more manageable, not to mention stylish.
Once you get familiar with the mechanics, zip lining around the stage while blasting enemies starts to feel incredibly rewarding as your on-the-fly planning bears out. The controls are tight and they reward experience and skill which is the litmus test when measuring a roguelike’s fairness. Levels that feel impossible on the first attempt slowly seem more manageable the longer you spend with the game. That being said, there are some bullshit rooms in Flinthook. Rooms where damage is nearly guaranteed; which sucks.
On a larger scale, the game plays like The Binding of Isaac where each level is a series of rooms, and each room is an arena that, once cleared, will grant you a bit of gold and a smidgen of healing. Good play is rewarded, and damage deficits incurred in earlier rooms can be repaid later on if you keep a calm head and play smartly. This is a great system because a win never feels too far out of reach.
Much like Spelunky, Flinthook feels chock-full of secrets. Shops sell items that may drastically change how your character controls, rooms might hold item pedestals that offer a free upgrade, or a character might let you gamble your run on an item that might drastically hinder or help you. And all of this must be learned by trying it. There’s a lot to dig into here, and after 10 hours I still feel like I’m learning things. And this is all couched in those inherently rewarding roguelike trappings where your character grows in strength over time.
“Fun is a great describing word for Flinthook. It’s fun to play, it’s fun to look at, and it’s fun to explore.”
Every inch of Flinthook has been lovingly labored over. The outrageous cast of oddball characters are somehow imbued with a great deal of personality. I say somehow because none of them get much screen time, yet I love ‘em all. The shopkeeper is this rotund hookah smoking weirdo, the guy that runs/eats the library is just some schlumpy alligator thing (but I would grab beers with that guy in a heartbeat), and the little slime jelly that lives in my space compass who eats Ghost Gems is weirdly fascinating. What is he smoking? Why does he eat books? Why is it hungry for Ghost Gems? And why can you only find Ghost Gems in Space Shells? Maybe I don’t want to know the answers because the mystery is half of the fun.
Fun is a great word for describing Flinthook. It’s fun to play, it’s fun to look at, and it’s fun to explore. Games that are lovingly made are often a treat to play and Flinthook is no exception. If you’re a fan of roguelikes and platformers, treat yourself to one of the best games in the genre.
*** PS4 key provided by the publisher ***
- Weird universe
- Amazing blend of action and platforming
- Music bumps
- Some cheap rooms