Some may argue that gameplay usurps every other aspect of a game. If there isn’t good gameplay, the game isn’t good despite any other factors: story, soundtrack, etc. etc. I don’t necessarily agree with this, but I always find game concepts interesting when you rip out everything that gets in the way of the mechanics. Flat Heroes seems to take this concept to the extreme with is minimal style and emphasis on fast, tight controls.
Flat Heroes is a platformer with a touch of bullet hell. Fast reaction times are necessary, but some levels need more than speed as you figure out a way to maneuver your block around dangers in action that is reminiscent of old school coin-op arcade with vector graphics. But those weren’t nearly as smooth and fast as Flat Heroes. For a game with such minimal sensibility the controls had to feel tight—and they absolutely do. It’s a joy to jump, dash and otherwise try to survive through each level.
Different levels have different challenges . Sometimes you will have to attack, but most of the time it’s in your best interest to just run, dodge, and otherwise survive until the encounter is over. Most encounters will consist of you dodging some sort of projectile or another, often with a narrow margin of error. If a level is too hard, you do have the option to skip it to move on-and you can go back anytime you want to finish it.
Flat Heroes doesn’t just throw you into the fray, though. It usually teaches you the mechanics you need to succeed from level to level. Each new idea is introduced in a quick and novel way, so that despite what it has to throw at you, it really doesn’t feel unfair. It doesn’t hurt that if you do fail either– restarting an attempt at a level is nearly instantaneous. And despite how quickly it’s possible to play through some stages, there are plenty that should pose a challenge.
There are seven worlds each consisting of around fifteen missions each, which is a good amount to play through. Despite how much Flat Heroes touts itself as an adventure game, there is no story to speak of, just pure minimal platforming. That said there is plenty to keep you coming back, even after you beat all of the levels.
Flat Heroes features a few different game modes to keep things interesting. First of all, you can play all of the levels co-op with up to three other players. After you beat each world, the speed run clock becomes available. There are also challenge levels, including an endless challenge mode. There are even several multiplayer versus modes that turn Flat Heroes into a party game. There are three different types of versus modes, and they range from free-for-all battles to games that resemble tag. They’re very fast paced, and extremely fun to play. If you don’t have any friends available, you can play these multiplayer modes against the AI, which can serve up a brutal challenge.
Flat Heroes isn’t much to look at, but don’t dismiss it because of that. It’s a joy to play, and a perfect example of minimal game mechanics trumping presentation. Don’t get me wrong, though, as Flat Heroes looks as smooth and crisp as its controls feel. If you’re on the fence, there’s a demo available on the Steam store page. In the meantime, you can pick up Flat Heroes in Early Access until its full release on August 2nd.