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CONSOLE: PlayStation 4 DEVELOPER: Tribute Games PUBLISHER: Tribute Games
RELEASE DATE (NA): April 18, 2017 GENRE: 2D Platformer
// review by Meow

Flint Hook, Sea Shells.

Released to no note at all comes another indie title released on PS4 and PC (and Xbox One... and Switch...): Flinthook! In a show of excellent spritework and dang catchy music, the game opens on a high note showing some interesting stuff a lighthouse, some ghosts, and a guy with a gun and some bombs. Noooo, not NES Bomberman, it's Captain Flinthook! The game's story is given through silent little cutscenes where characters do things and react... if that makes sense to you. Watching Flinthook get all worked up when the villain kidnaps a ghost pal of his is charming, especially with his little lip quiver.

The game's concept is pretty easy to grasp: you travel through space, invading enemy ships, stealing ghost gems to feed to your compass slime to give him power to find their captains, and defeat these ship captains to free your captured friends. Every ship (except boss ships) is randomized, being loaded with traps and foes to give you a tough time. To overcome these obstacles, you are armed with the ability to do wall-jumps, as well as a Blasma Blaster and the Chrono-Belt, a mystical belt that holds up your pants AND time, slowing down the world, giving you a moment to take in your surroundings to avoid any incoming dangers. Finally, you have the Quickhook, a mythical tool held by heroes of the cosmos that mysteriously finds its ways into the hands of the worthy on its own that allows the user to grapple onto hooks and fling them to safety.

The version of the game I played was the PS4 version, which has two control schemes, which leads a bit into a problem with the game. Your choices of controls are Default and Pro. Naturally, I go with Pro because I'm da best. To be a bit more serious, Default has a pretty normal game controller layout where X is jump and you have buttons and whatever, but you have to press a button to shoot. Pro lets you shoot just by moving the right analog stick, which is nice, but... it has a really odd button layout. They make R1 the jump button, and X is now a "stand and shoot" button. You can't change it at all, which bugs me. If the PC version lets you customize the control scheme, I'd be tempted to call that one the default best version on that alone. But I can't confirm that at this time, and I can't be bothered to look right now.

The gameplay has a slightly bullet-hell-esque feel to it, with increasing difficulty in ships causing more projectiles to be launched around, encouraging more precision. Thankfully, you can take the edge off with good use of the Chronobelt. There are also sub-items you can nab such as a bomb or even a helmet that grants temporary invincibility (my favorite). There's even a snowglobe which freezes all foes for a time, and then there's... spinning skulls. You basically send out a juiced up version of Stone Man's weapon from Mega Man 5 out... though you're more likely to hit something with it than that piece of junk. But still, it's probably the least interesting subweapon, and considering you have to pay coins to unlock it,, there is other better substuff. Speaking of paying, after you clear an enemy ship, and sometimes from random chests if you're lucky, you'll pick up green coins you can trade in at the black market, which is basically an out-of-level shop to unlock some things, as well as power you up. Some stuff you can increase is your maximum HP, how much XP you earn from excursions, and slots to equip perks that you earn through finding booster packs through chests and leveling. Which segues into the next section...

To give you a bit more of an edge, you can earn game-modifying Perk cards, each with a certain value, that you can equip to do things such as enable a double-jump, shoot faster the higher you can get your combo going, or even equipping a gambling sort of perk that will give you an assortment of random perks equal to a value greater than the card equipped, but at the chance that it may also give you a cursed perk as well, which are cards that add a thorn in your side such as reducing max HP, have HP drain away over time, or even shortening your Chronobelt's duration, but as a trade-off will grant a boost to XP gain. In stages, you can also find and purchase perks with gold that will last you a run, but you don't get to keep these for future endeavors.

On your adventures in space, you can discover all sorts of crazy things. Some things include relics, which are odd little trinkets that you can collect for the fun of it. There are also libraries where you can collect a random bit of lore to the game's universe which has an interesting secretive story to it. However, irritatingly enough, the lore you get from each library visit is random, and you CAN get duplicates, so I didn't bother trying to get them all. I love me some lore, but I've already played the gachapon nightmare with Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap for that sweet 100%, mmk? No more. My life is limited, and I ain't wasting it on gambling. You can also discover some secretive ships for fulfilling certain requirements, most notable of which are Ghost Ships since you have to clear them all to achieve the game's true ending. Ghost Ships only appear if you're weighed down with THREE or more curses. It's usually not a problem to GET the curses (as long as RNG plays nice), but the problem is the fact you're cursed and don't often get the choice of what you're cursed with. So you could have several HP reduction curses and are left with basically 3 hits worth of max HP, or have multiple HP drains, or next to no Chronobelt usage. And if that's not bad enough, Ghost Ships are always packed with the hardest forms of foes you can find which have special quirks to them, such as a starfish enemy that used to just dash around now will explode into bullets when defeated. At the end of each ship is a ghastly monster to defeat, and upon slaying them you will receive one of your beloved ghostly companions, freeing them from their accursed glass prison. Yes, they're in those bottles you see ships in on shelves.

The game isn't too terribly long, provided you're good enough and have a smart enough load-out, but it is a challenging and fun time. The music is also pretty catchy; I'll slap a couple songs down at the bottom for you to listen to. If I can have one major complaint, controls aside, it's that colors they use for spikes and spike traps mesh too well with the environment... like, my mind won't register that there's a spike somewhere until I've taken about 5 ticks of damage, utterly confused as to what the heck I'm taking damage from. Oh! I was sitting on a spike, how silly of me. Bleh. Seriously, I've died so many times simply because the spikes don't stand out as not being a background object. But that aside, I don't feel like this is a bad time. The pixel art is quality, the music is hype (Editor's Note: "Hype"?), and the game goes for 15 or so bucks. It's digital download only for you on this, unless you've got some serious dosh to shell out for a physical copy. Yeah, this actually got a limited run, can you believe it? I'd like to end this review on one final note: when you play this game, the controller's light turns green; it's so freaking cool. The little things, gotta love 'em. ♥

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