Flinthook (2017)

Flinthook is one of these games that seems almost perfect from the start: a great soundtrack, beautiful 2d-pixel graphics that closely remind me of Bitmap Brothers games (one of my all-time favorite classic studio when it comes to aesthetics) and more or less solid controls that makes the game initially fun to play.

The most similar game in terms of approach is Rogue Legacy: randomized level architecture based on various room segments that repeat ad nauseam in countless different configurations, single runs that either end with your death or a win against one of the few bosses and a metagame where you can earn advancements even if you die in single runs. Flinthook’s unique gimmick is the eponymous hook that allows you to fling yourself through the level segments at high speeds and avoid various traps. In theory.

In praxis, the hooking-mechanism works most of the time, but the times when it doesn’t often becomes a critical failure that traps you in a harmful loop that’s hard to escape. One major annoyance is that if you aim for a ring to hook but instead hit one of the spike balls, the hook gets deflected. Often, when it looks like you should hook, you don’t. The auto-aim works most of the time, but when it fails, it mostly does in the most unfortunate situations. Some rooms are designed in such a way that it’s almost impossible to escape without a major loss of health.

Traps in general are another problem. While the graphics are lovely, they are so busy and every rooms is stuffed to the brim with shiny things to look at, that the traps themselves are easily to miss, even when you know what to look for. Especially the ground plate spikes that shoot for the whole length of the plate, not just the part you’re standing on. I really hate those plates.

Shooting is a bit annoying as well, as your range is never as far as that of the enemies while their shots go through walls, unlike yours. That makes the game somewhat unfair, as it forces you to get close to the enemies, while they can snipe you from afar.

I also hated the slow-down mechanism and the time-barriers, which felt like something stuffed into the game purely to annoy the player and often aggravated the issues I had with individual room designs. All the little issues, hard-to-see traps, the less-than-ideal hooking mechanism, the time-barriers only highlighted the main issue of the game: the individual rooms.

Most of them are okay, offering the right balance between difficulty, stuff to find, enemies to kill. You get into the flow of things, fling yourself through the level, makes short process of the enemies and suddenly you’re in a room where you need a lot of luck just to escape alive.

The game is full of that and if you play long enough, you really get tired of seeing these badly designed rooms kill all the effort you put into every run. At some point advancing because of this becomes a terrible, boring grind and you’ll likely stop before ever reaching the ending.

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