If Mega Man, Bionic Commando and Rogue had a baby, it’d be Flinthook. I usually try my hardest not to make lazy comparisons like that, but it’s what I think every time I boot up the game. Also worth noting: those are awesome games and a combination of the three means that Flinthook is an amalgamation of greatness.
Flinthook has a solid and enjoyable gameplay loop. You star as a cartoony space captain who plays the part of an intergalactic Robin Hood: robbing rich pirates of their plunder to, uh, better your own situation. You do so by boarding various procedurally generated spaceships, relieving them of coins, power-ups and collectables as you work your way up to one of the heads of the eponymous Cluster Clan. Rinse, wash, repeat. This in itself is a fun concept, but when you look at the disparate parts of Flinthook and how they work together, it’s hard not to admire it from a different level.
At its core, Flinthook is a platformer. The good captain is a marvel to control, which in itself sets the game above most others. His jumping is very precise and weighted, which is where the Mega Man comparison comes in. It’s focused and comfortable, meaning movement feels second nature rather quickly. Everything else in his repertoire feels perfect, too: a hookshot you constantly use to propel yourself around in magnificent fashion, a blaster that feels solid and destructive and can shoot in any direction, and the ability to slow down time to get past barriers and sticky situations alike. Even though Flinthook never pushes beyond this move set, the controls feel so fantastic that the limited options never get old.
The next layer to the game is the distinct and entertaining stages. Each gets more complex as you go on, as you work your way to the pirate boss skulking at the end of the level. They are built from a random assortment of ‘building blocks’: pre-constructed rooms that are tacked together to make a unique ship. Even as busy and detailed as they are, the repeated visual design of them could wear thin for some players after a while – but I liked the familiarity. Up until the final encounter you have the option to pick from an assortment of ships, with modifiers underneath them letting you know what to expect from each choice. Some are more combat focused, others have shops you can peruse, and so on. This keeps Flinthook exciting, with the only dampener coming from dying and have to work your way back up the stage.
The influence of Rogue is felt in the conceit of the game. Namely that you get one chance to get to the pirate boss and if you don’t, well, sucks to be you. Being sent to the bottom of the ladder can be a hard pill to swallow, but unlike Rogue’s actual mechanic of forcing you to start from scratch, in Flinthook you can level up the captain to the point where you can blast through levels by sheer force of will alone. There are slots in which you can add power-ups that change the way Flinthook approaches each new run. You can extend his life or change his weapons, give yourself a health boost at the start of each new stage or have barrels and such give you more money – and so on and so forth. Customizing Flinthook is an engaging and powerful mechanic, one that’ll make you really think about what you’re trying to accomplish, and perhaps even gamble a little bit on what you think you’re capable of doing.
It sounds like a cliché to say it, but the loop of solid gameplay, ever-changing stages and constant progression – even if you lose – makes Flinthook a slightly addicting experience. And the fact that it’s on the take-it-anywhere-you-never-ever-need-to-stop-playing Switch means it’s all too easy to succumb to that “one more run” mentality – after all, the console’s sitting right there, next to you on your nightstand or end table. The pull of becoming a space pirate is hard enough to resist as it is; having access to it at a moment’s notice makes it nigh-on inescapable.
Flinthook is available for PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch. We reviewed the Switch version.
Disclosure statement: Review code for Flinthook was provided by Tribute Games. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.