By: Jeff Cater
Heart & Slash is a mascot-centered platformer not unlike anything you’d expect to play on the Nintendo 64 or PlayStation 2. Fortunately, developer aheartfulofgames seems to have nailed the feel of those old cherished games like Banjo-Kazooie or Spyro, but it also brings a few modern twists to the genre.
Robots have finally staged the “Robotlution” and crushed humanity, but that doesn’t quite put to ease the robot who has learned to feel and love.
At first, the controls are extremely frustrating. Having your secondary and tertiary weapons bound to the triggers feels a tad awkward, mostly because Heart seems to have an extremely slow attack speed and recovery time.
These two slight issues compound into one big one: it just feels as though Heart isn’t willing to do what you want. Moving Heart and the camera are simple enough, but as with most third-person action games the camera can get a bit cramped in some of the smaller environments.
Heart & Slash features some pretty decent visuals and uses of colored lighting, and it looks like a vibrant 8-Bit title has exploded into three dimensions. Enemy variations are sufficient, and the special effects are as well, but frame-rate problems crop up every now and then when the scene is packed with enemies. The level design is handsome and varied, but just as you’ll be fighting robots, you’ll be fighting with the levels themselves and the game’s camera system.
There is a great soundtrack here, as long as you are progressing at a decent pace. If you’re stuck in any given level, the optimistic melodies start sounding like a sarcastic, haunting carnival tune.
Simply put, the game has some pretty good ideas that are executed rather poorly. The weapon switching system is the first gripe I have, and it adds an unnecessary layer of frustration to the game.
For example, using fire, ice and normal weapons in conjunction with one another sounds great, as each enemy is vulnerable to a certain type. The trouble is these enemies tend to group together, rendering weapon switching into a quick decision-making event where the thing demanding the most consideration is which enemy you’d like to hit you.
Also, Heart himself is pretty awful at fighting. If you miss a strike, prepare for a world of hurt as the unrelenting enemies bore down on you without mercy. You’ll die, of course. That’s where the roguelike mechanics kick in, and you’ll be “rebuilt” at the beginning of the level.
And it’s very easy to miss a combo, because for some reason Heart likes to jet around the level at Mach 5, giving the game a speedy feel that betrays the accuracy demanded from its melee combat. The levels are extremely cramped as well, so in a split-second you can be on the other side of any given stage.
I might be missing something, but I don’t understand why the movement is so jacked up in Heart & Slash. It threw off the feel of the game entirely and made it a difficult (not in the traditional sense) play. The camera bouncing off of everything as I’m trying to correct myself adds unneeded chores to the game as well.