Flinthook commandeering space pirate ships with his trusty hook [This Week in Gaming]

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Don’t trust the smile on this space pirate’s face.

Flinthook, a 2D indie platforming bullet mania game, is not easy.

The game, developed by Tribute Games, a Montreal based independent game studio, follows the adventure of a ghost who inhabits the body of a humanoid space pirate, named Captain Flinthook. Flinthook travels to different spaceships, conquering them with a belt that slows time, his Blasma Pistol and his name sake hook.

This pixel art, retro-styled game has the player traveling through labyrinth like spaceships featuring many obstacles and enemies. In Flinthook users avoid bullets and environmental hazards such as spikes, lasers and poisonous gas.

Flinthook uses his trusty hook to interact with his environment and swing across the map to get to higher locations and avoid hazards. His hook is also used to fight against shielded enemies that your blaster can’t penetrate.

Slowing down time with your belt — for a limited amount of time — helps save Flinthook from lasers and the onslaught of bullets that are always aimed at the pirate. Also, Flinthook’s pistol can shoot against aimed missiles and a variety of enemies.

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This roguelike, randomly generated action game, requires a lot more grinding than expected. Each time Captain Flinthook receives damage, it brings the pirate closer to an untimely demise. Starting at 100 health allows players to take a few hits before actually dying, but progressing through multiple ships in a row is what makes the game difficult.

The game, however, does help players out. Each ship contains treasure chests that hold healing items, although they typically aren’t that easy to come by. For the most part treasures come after rooms that lock the player inside with continuous enemies, or rooms that require Flinthook to overcome risky terrain.

Ships also feature stores within them. At the stores Flinthook can purchase health items, shielding items, items that increase speed and more with coins earned from defeating enemies or found in treasure boxes.

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Flinthook also levels up in the game through experience points. After Flinthook conquers a ship or dies he gains experience and perk packs. Perks are what can make or break the player in Flinthook and are passive bonuses separated into several categories. Perks are able to effect Flinthook’s movement speed, health, luck, the amount of XP he gains, the character’s Blasma Pistol and a category for random effects.  Levelling up and grinding these perks can make the game not as frustrating. Having an extra 50 health makes surviving against mini bosses or locked-in rooms more manageable than at the beginning of the game.

Flinthook can also go to the Black Market that is found before anchoring another spaceship. Players can buy Perk Packs or weapons such as a pistol with freezing abilities that slows down your enemies.

The spaceships in Flinthook are randomly generated, following a guideline to ensure fairness but never letting up on the unrelenting assault of aggressive enemies. The map on the top right corner of the screen can help show you which room may lead into a dead end and can tip off rooms full of raiding enemies. Near the end of each spaceship there’s a mini boss room that tries its best at putting a frown on Flinthook’s face. The closer Flinthook gets to the final boss of a level the harder the mini bosses are to defeat and the riskier the rooms are to navigate through. Conquering several ships is required to get to the next level.

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Playing Flinthook at first felt unnatural. The left analog stick is used to move Flinthook but is also used to control his hook. Sometimes trying to aim the hook to the right position resulted in me falling to my death. Using all of Flinthook’s abilities, including the left bumper for slowing down time, aiming with the left analog stick and using the hook with the right bumper, while shooting with X simultaneously, felt weird, but was often necessarily. However, after a couple hours of playing it was easier to maneuver Flinthook through the game’s maze-like ships.

After playing through Bloodborne, Dark Souls 3 and Nioh I’d say Flinthook has been the most merciless game I have played in a while.  Although I enjoyed my time with Flinthook after playing for several hours I was astonished and embarrassed to realize I hadn’t beat the first level.

I have never been the greatest at 2D platformers but Captain Flinthook’s cute smile led me astray. Flinthook had me on the edge of my seat while yelling at the TV as I watched plasma bullets slowly strike Flinthook’s body murdering my little space pirate.

This game is downloadable on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Steam.