There’s another pattern emerging in indie titles where using basic shapes with simplified gameplay are becoming more apparent. My initial impressions have been ‘lazy’. Pixel art becomes a trend for the wrong reasons, as some games use it as a shortcut not to have to spend a budget on graphics; often forgetting about the gameplay too, but these blocky assets did not appeal to me. Until I played them. Another reason why your elders were right when they told you not to judge a book by its cover; Flat Heroes is great.
Flat Heroes lacks any protagonist or plot. The only goal here is survival. Each level starts with your avatar – a pixellated block, and your attempts to avoid all sorts of projectiles that come your way. It’s an onslaught and can be best described as an expansion pack to the Undertale battles. I’m one of the few who wasn’t a massive fan of that title, but I loved the simplicity and ingenuity of the conflicts and how much fun you could have avoiding little blocks. I suppose there’s that element of arcade nostalgia involved somewhere as, before graphics got to the standard they are today, games of yesteryear only really had gameplay going for them.
That’s not to undersell Flat Heroes, however, as any shortage in big, bold 3D models is made up for in the colour choices and fundamental gameplay. It almost plays out like a Saul Bass piece (famous for making a lot of the intro scenes to Hitchcock movies, for fellow film fans) and the colour palettes are spot-on. In many ways, Flat Heroes is a very stylistic game, so the choice of simple shapes represented on-screen seems perfect as there’s no time for distractions – you need your wits about you in this title.
You play a square in the title that can jump on command, dash, as well as roll about when traversing the various obstacles in your way. It isn’t always clear where the attacks are coming from you. You have to keep moving, weaving in and out of the various platforms, taking shelter underneath or jumping above when projectiles are unleashed from underneath. There’s always something going on, and you can’t sit still for one moment.
Flat Heroes can be played as a solo effort, in co-op or multiplayer and it’s strong in all areas – as a single-player or with friends. I must admit, as gorgeous as it looks, you need to play the game to appreciate it fully. When I look back at the trailer, I would perhaps have dismissed this from the outset as it just seemed like a quirky little platform puzzle game. Well, it is a quirky one, but it’s a special one at that. You’ll appreciate the urgency of dodging what seems like endless ballistic all heading your way and just when it feels like too much, you’ve finished the stage. The timing is just right, and the difficulty adjusts accordingly, but I will say that the boss battles are a little tricky.
Without having any attack buttons, it wasn’t clear how to defeat the bosses, and I spent multiple attempts avoiding their attack patterns, watching them recharge to repeat the process. There was nothing I could do to interrupt this other than dodge each time. But… there is a move that deflects some attacks such as the pulse. I tried this a few times on the first boss to no effect until I realised that you could use the environment to your advantage to defeat them. Doh. But, everything is so quick – from the actual levels, sometimes only 15-20 seconds long to respawning, it’s almost instantaneous with zero slow down – even when there is seemingly 100s of elements on the screen at one time.
In terms of comparison, Flat Heroes reminds me of Super Meat Boy and Just Beats & Shapes. For the first comparison, it’s that simplicity of controls. Anyone can pick it up and play, but to be able to survive requires a lot of practice and skill – the further you get, the harder it gets, and there’s no let-up. This may put off some more casual gamers, as it’s not a walk in the park. The second comparison is Just Beats & Shapes due to the visual style and gameplay element of avoiding all threats, though Flat Heroes is a lot less pink by far.
The multiplayer element unlocks a wealth of replay value alone. There’s the versus mode where players can take on one another in various types of mini-games for up to four players, or you can have a friend drop in or out during a campaign – each player gets their own coloured square. Still, as you can expect, it gets a little hectic when everyone is on the screen at one time, so unless you’re outside, plug it into dock mode for the full benefits as this will be squint and you’ll miss it.
Flat Heroes caters to a wide range of gamers from casual to hardcore. The further you do down the rabbit hole, the harder it gets, but if that doesn’t appeal to you and you want a party game that you can play with friends locally, then Flat Heroes ticks that box as well. From my perspective, I was happy to play this in handheld mode on my own and then have someone else drop in to play, also in handheld mode – well, tabletop to be precise, and it wasn’t much of an issue, just the hand cramps of playing on a joy-con each. Due to the length of each stage, you can play this for a couple of minutes or longer, but I wouldn’t expect this to be a game you could play for hours at a time as it’s merely too hectic. That said, this will be on my go-to list for the foreseeable future.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Flat Heroes Review
Gameplay - 9/10
Graphics - 6/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 9/10
Fast-paced, suitable for solo campaigns, co-ops or versus, Flat Heroes ticks on multiple boxes. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity, this is one of the best multiplayer experiences I’ve had on the Switch, and for people who lack the time they wish they had for gaming, this is ideal.
- Incredibly simple controls – no need to explain how to play to your pals.
- Despite playing four colours of blocks, it does look pretty.
- More than enough levels and challenges to keep going.
- Not a game you can crack in one go as is it’s a bit too hectic.
- On the surface, this won’t appeal to those looking for more depth.
- The difficulty level, especially in survival is super hard!