PSX 2016 – Flinthook Preview – Swingers (PS4)
There is something inherently cool about grappling hooks. The thought of cruising around the air from one location to another is absolutely thrilling, and it’s no surprise that video games have tried to implement that over the years. The thing is, its implementation tends to be really hit-or-miss. Some games have gotten the swinging down, but then failed to create a captivating experience on top of that, while other games have bungled up that core mechanic entirely.
The good news is that I’ve finally found a game that has made using a grappling hook a blast. I’m talking about Tribute Games’ Flinthook, which is the latest game from the developer behind Mercenary Kings and Wizordb. The studio’s past efforts have all been mashups of genres, and this is no different as it marries 2D platforming with rogue-like progression.
Nailing The Basics
In Flinthook, I took control of a masked space pirate named Captain Flinthook (which is a pretty dope name). I was dropped into a pirate ship, and it was up to me to use my grappling hook to get around. I was able to aim it by using the left analog stick, and there’s the slightest bit of auto-aim attached, so it feels fantastic. In literally seconds I was using my weapon to zip around different points on the map, and was able to open locked doors with it.
Shortly after learning how to maneuver around, I discovered a plasma gun hidden away in a chest, and quickly found myself bombarded by enemies. The gun is aimed with the left stick, just like the grappling hook, and it instantly felt natural shooting down the creatures and boxes aboard the ship. The initial gun I had didn’t have much range to it, however, so I had to get pretty close-up in order to do damage as bullets would dissipate before reaching my foe.
The other core ability that the player has at their disposal is being able to slow time. Not only is this useful for dodging enemy gunfire and getting an edge on opponents, but it’s also used in some light puzzle solving. Several times I had to enter this slowdown period to get past impenetrable laser beams that blocked my way.
As mentioned before, Flinthook is a rogue-like title. I never died in the demo I saw, so I can’t really speak to how the game handles that aspect, but I did talk to the developer about their inspiration behind going in that direction. They mentioned that they wanted to create something with replayability, and that’s why the game takes advantage of procedurally generated ships that feature some pre-made room layouts. In theory, this should give players the best of both worlds as they get properly designed levels that are highly replayable. I can only speak to what I played, but it never felt like the ship was a mess from a design standpoint and I would’ve never had guessed it was procedurally generated if I wasn’t told so.
A few hints toward a bigger story was also given during the demo as I saw my character accepting a bounty to take out another pirate. I tried asking Tribute Games about the character and if they were some sort of bounty hunter, but they were really keen on letting players discover the story for themselves, and didn’t want to get into who or what the protagonist is behind the mask. That’s something I definitely respect, and it has upped my intrigue for sure.
The demo I played ended when I reached a boss battle. This was disappointing, as I was excited to see how it played out, but a good demo should leave the player wanting more. It definitely accomplished that, as I can’t wait for Flinthook to release in 2017. The game controls like a charm, and I was zooming around the pirate ship in just a few minutes. Tribute Games have always made good games, but it looks like they have something really special here.