When I tell you that Flinthook is a rogue-lite, I can already imagine the tired groans, which are completely understandable. Steam is crammed to the throat with rogue-likes and rogue-lites. However, give Flinthook one chance, and Tribute Games will show you how refreshing and unique a take on the genre they have to offer.
I found the premise itself rather interesting, if a bit goofy. You’re Flinthook, a space pirate, blasting your way through other ships in search of new bounty. Oh, and you’re a ghost too, with a gun in one hand and a grappling hook in the other. Your own ship fires a massive anchor that hooks itself to other ships, and you then make your way in to the ship and across its various rooms, towards the final boss at the end of each ship.
This is where the rogue-lite elements come to play. The ships are all randomly generated, but the rooms themselves are pre-designed. This adds a lot to the overall quality of the game, since every room feels hand crafted to challenge and delight the player, with every new run feeling unique and different. The clever placement of enemy encounters and traps gives Flinthook a very refined feel, and so much more enjoyable to replay. On your way you’ll come across new treasures, merchants and other items that will come in handy as you progress further.
Because of this mix of randomly generated ships, and meticulously crafted rooms and encounters within them, Flinthook has a very satisfying core loop to it. You’ll be moving quickly across rooms by latching your hook on to rings placed about them, while shooting enemies using your gun. Both your hook and weapons can be upgraded over time, along with your health, movement speed, and so on. Upgrades are perks which you equip, and you can only equip a limited number of perks at any given time. This prevents you from feeling overpowered, but never feels too restrictive, as you always keep unlocking new upgrades, and are encouraged to switch them out often. Also, not all upgrades feel really essential, and it’s easy to disregard some of them.
Flinthook never feels overly difficult, and has a reasonably smooth difficulty curve to it. The main challenge of the game are the bosses, but the game does an adequate job of getting you ready for whats to come by the time you reach the boss. My main struggle when I first started Flinthook was actually the control scheme on the PS4 controller. I was moving and aiming with the same stick. It did lead to a low start for me, but once I fell into the rhythm of it, I appreciated how good a job the game did of making me zip around using the hook while making use of the slow motion ability. With a keyboard and mouse, however, Flinthook controls like any other rogue-like. This is in no way a knock against Flinthook, I just felt like I should mention it because it stood out to me.
Flinthook doesn’t do big things. It uses simplistic, yet colorful pixel art, and has all the trademarks of any good rogue-like. It’s the polish in the little details that had me ‘hooked’ to the game for so many hours Its easy to just pick a ship, and go shooting and hook-swinging your way across. By having cleverly designed rooms, Flinthook makes you use every tool at your disposal, thus never letting you fall into a button mashing stupor. I was always thinking and planning, and once I beat the boss, I was instantly upgrading and eager to make the next run. And once you’re done with a particular ship, you could unlock harder versions of them from the black market shop. It takes a while, since you’ll need quite a few black market coins to unlock these, but to me they felt completely worth it because of the increased challenge they offered.
And I have to give props to the music and the soundtrack, which is extremely well done and suits the tone of the game really well. It was another reason why I could just sit back and do one more bounty before deciding to take a break.
Flinthook is not an easy game, but it is easy to get into. The tutorial does a great job of helping you understand the gameplay mechanics. Even with everything going on in each room, specially as I kept going further in, I never felt daunted or overwhelmed. With charming pixel graphics, pleasant soundtrack, fun, fast and challenging gameplay, Flinthook is an immensely enjoyable game.