05/09/2018

⬛️⬜️ Review: Flat Heroes "N++, But You’re A Square" ⬜️⬛️ #GameDev #IndieGame

Share This Post On Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share This Post On

Developer: Parallel Circles
Platform: PC – Steam
Rating: Ice Cool
Review by: Gareth ‘GazChap’ Griffiths @GazChap
The tagline to Parallel Circles’ Flat Heroes promises “an epic minimalist adventure” – and, you know what? 
They’re not wrong.

If I had to describe Flat Heroes in a few words, I’d probably go for “N++, But You’re A Square” Meant literally, of course, not in the “don’t be a speccy-four-eyes” kind of way. If you’ve ever played N++, Metanet Software’s “magnum opus”, you’ll be right at home here.
The goal of the two games are remarkably similar and Flat Heroes sees you controlling a square living in a square world, and you must navigate your way through the games 150 campaign levels (spread across 10 “worlds”) by avoiding each level’s many traps to reach the goal.
Unlike N++, which saw your character having to jump and run his way to an exit goal on each level (which would usually require opening by jumping through a switch on the map), the goal of Flat Heroes levels is simply to survive.
In some levels, particularly the early worlds, survival is simply a case of avoiding the traps until they finish doing their thing, after which you’re given a lovely big tick and you can move on to the next level. But, before long you’ll have more complex enemies to face – including some that will continue attacking you until you destroy them.

That’s the other big difference between Flat Heroes and N++. In the latter, you were defenceless against each enemy, but in Flat Heroes you can launch an attack, which basically consists of a small “energy pulse” that comes out from you in an expanding circle. It doesn’t go far, but it will take out most enemies with one hit.
The variety of enemies and traps that you’ll encounter in each of the levels is also astounding, the developers have really made the effort to think of good ways to use the geometric style they’ve settled upon. I don’t want to say too much about them for fear of spoiling the surprise, but I love it when a developer creates a game where the enemies play fair. Each enemy behaves in a specific way, and once you learn it, you can usually deal with them easily – if you die, it’s down to you, not an enemy behaving unexpectedly.
The last level in each world is a boss fight. Again, I don’t want to spoil too much, but the bosses that I saw during my playtime were well thought out, each very different from the last and with a clear way to beat them – you just need to figure it out.
After beating a boss, you unlock the next world and a new colour palette for the game (that you can switch between on the main menu screens). Once you beat world 3, you also unlock Survival mode, which itself has several sub-modes, including a daily challenge. These survival modes see you facing a selection of the games traps, one after the other (and often, at the same time!) in an endless struggle to keep going. The longer you can survive, the higher up the leaderboard you’ll go, and this gets very addictive.
If you want to get more than one of you involved, you can do. Up to four players can play together in the campaign and survival modes. In both modes, you play cooperatively – in campaign mode, if one of you completes the goal, you all move on to the next level. This gets switched up a bit in survival mode – if you die in survival mode, you become a “ghost” that can slowly move around the level – another player can then “tag” you back in by attacking you, but if everyone dies it is game over.
Talking of multiplayer, there’s also a versus mode, which pits you against up to three other players (local multiplayer only) or AI bots. There are a few different versus modes, from a “battle” mode which is kind of like a 2D deathmatch, to the intriguing “zones” mode where each player starts with 15 seconds on their clock, which ticks down when they are inside the current “zone” marked on the playfield. First to run out of time wins – which leads to players trying to knock each other out of the zone or destroy one another. Good fun, and very hectic!
The game also features Twitch integration. I’ve not used this myself, but the developers say that Twitch mode is “a twist of the survival mode” and that “your viewers can vote on what should happen next in the level” which, to be honest, sounds damn good and is making me consider signing up.
The presentation of the game is amazing. Sure, it’s graphically very simple but that’s a positive – if the graphics were more complicated I think it would soon become very difficult to work out what’s going on. The user interface is clear and easy to use, and the sound and music are also spot on. I briefly played without sound, and it is significantly harder to survive, which tells me that the audio is used to good effect.
Unusually for this kind of game, there’s no tutorial to speak of. Sure, the early levels are all about introducing you to the game mechanics, but it doesn’t hand hold you at all, nor does it give you any clues as to what you need to do – the developers are clearly confident that the game is intuitive enough, and I would heartily agree.

I only have one complaint about the game – and even that might be an issue with my setup rather than the game itself – but when you play in survival mode, the frame rate starts to struggle, and movement is jerky. It’s still just about playable, but it makes the game harder. I don’t know what is causing it, perhaps it records movement for replay purposes or something, but given the graphical simplicity it’s not a problem you expect the game to have.
Summary
Other than that, Flat Heroes is a brilliant game. Well thought out, excellently presented, with responsive controls and superb game-feel. Dare I say it, but it might replace N++ as my “have a quick 15 minutes before bed” game of choice – although there’s always the danger that 15 minutes will become two hours! Even better, I’ve heard the game is also available on the Nintendo Switch, so I can enjoy it on-the-go!
❄️ RATING: ICE COOL ❄️
Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)