The glory days of certain Super Nintendo days still shine brightly on many players, because, during this era, we had to rely on our wits to survive. Whether it was rampaging through Contra III: The Alien Wars on its highest difficulty (and beating that mother of a final boss as it came tearing up from the ground) or putting Mega Man 7 through its paces, there were more than enough games that we hated at first, but grew to love as we became better at them. And that’s where Tribute Games’ latest release, Flinthook, comes in.
The creators of the humorous and fun Mercenary Kings are back for more, this time putting you in control of a merciless pirate that will stop at nothing to plunder for treasure and take down bounties across the galaxy, in the hope of bumping up his cash flow. But these are no simple “shoot the bad guy and take his body away” sort of hauls. Nope, you gotta fight through a wave of enemies and obstacles as you eventually get to the big battles, and even then, there’s no guarantee you’re going to survive unless you, to quote the Internet, “get good.”
Flinthook features simplistic run and gun style controls, as you can control both your character and the direction they shoot at pretty much all times. However, you’ll find as you go on over the course of your adventure, things begin to get a lot tougher. Spikes swivel around in particular patterns that require nimble jumping (or “flinthooking”) to get around; enemies become more and more numbered, forcing you to react quickly or suffer as a result; and treasures become increasingly tough to acquire. In other words, it follows the SNES “get better or die trying” logic – and I’m fine with that.
Bring On The Old-School Challenge!
The lead character has a couple of tools that will prove useful when it comes to getting through the stages. The first is a grappling hook that enables him to grab onto ledges and other grapple points. This enables him to get around a stage much more quickly, as well as zip his way into other rooms basically by latching on and shooting his way through.
As for the second ability, it’s essentially a time slower, which is good for getting through laser walls and getting a jump on enemies should you be overwhelmed. As expected, you only have a few seconds of this to use at a time – you can’t play the whole game this way, cheater – so you’ll want to use it sparingly, or perish.
The gameplay is responsive and quick, especially when it comes to the grappling hook. However, it’s not entirely accurate, as there were times that a grapple point was missed even though we were right next to it. It’s certainly not a game breaker, by any means, but it would’ve been nice to have the same precision aiming that we do with our main weapon. Maybe that’s something Tribute can consider with an update to the game.
Prepare For A Bounty-Ful Of Fun
As for the rest, it plays very nicely, although the short level layout may be annoying for some. You basically venture from room to room as you seek out treasures and bounties, and while the challenge increases as you go along, the layouts start to look the same over time. It would’ve been nice to mix things up with a few outdoor battles, or even invading passing ships and taking them on in real time. As it stands, though, Tribute sticks with its basic design, and it generally works, as repetitive as it seems.
Flinthook also greatly benefits from an old-school style presentation. This is vintage SNES creativity through and through, with fun little animations, stuff exploding all over the screen with very little slowdown (something even the SNES couldn’t handle, based on our time with stuff like Super R-Type and Gradius III), and, again, level design that could’ve used a slight shake-up, but still isn’t bad. Tribute did a swell job making this game look like something out of the old-school era. It sounds that way too, with fun little bleeps and bloops, and a joyous little soundtrack that players won’t be able to get enough of.
Though Flinthook’s challenge level may frustrate a few of you, it’s definitely set up to challenge others – the types that chewed up Contra: Hard Corps, spit it out and yelled, “OK, what’s next, you mothers?!” The later levels in the game really get good, even with the typical internal design, and the treasures you hunt down will keep you busy for hours. With an inspired presentation and fun run-and-gun gameplay that’ll bring your mindset back to the “good ol’ days,” Flinthook will definitely dig into you and keep you, ahem, hooked for awhile.
RATING: Three and a half out of five stars.
Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.