Published on June 29th, 2016 | by Rares Gruian3
Heart & Slash Review (PS4)
Heart & Slash is a difficult title to quantify in one simple number, most games usually are. The game has incredible potential and some may argue that it even achieves it. But enough with all this cryptic babble, let’s dig into the details.
Heart & Slash is hack and slash, roguelike game in which you play as the titular, fanboyish robot, Heart. You battle your way through 3 main areas to discover the truth about yourself and the robot uprising that’s killed your human creator. The story is pretty light, but there are moments of depth, especially during big reveals. Aside from a main story, there is a side quest you can do once to unlock Heart’s rival, Slash. This side quest spans multiple runs and has you doing a variety of tasks for Slash. One run through the game will take you about 1-3 hours, this can be more or less depending how much you want to explore, and given the fact that you can’t save the progress of a run, this length seems about right. As is the case with roguelikes, one run is never enough to see all that the game has to offer. There are over 100 items in the game, 6 playable characters, and various bosses that will change the way you tackle the mid game.
The main goal in an average run of Heart & Slash is to beat the boss at the end and win the run. There are many ways to achieve this. Each run will start you off with 3 items, and you will find dozens more on your adventure. Items are split into 2 categories, weapons and equipment. Certain enemies are weak to certain elemental weapons, so you can allocate your 3 weapon slots accordingly, but this never really mattered to me, I just wailed on them with what I had, and it was all the same. Equipment can be applied to your body and there are 4 slots, one for arms, legs, torso, and head. These can offer certain upgrades like extra strength when enemies are near, increased XP gain, or a massive laser that shoots from your head. With the massive variety of items in the game, there is a lot of opportunity to mix and match, you’d be hard pressed to recreate the same setup twice.
Another cool feature of Heart & Slash is how it helps the player. Its health, XP, and item mechanics are all intertwined, giving the player a lot of freedom when crafting their run. Enemies drop XP, which is used to upgrade items, and better items have more value. This value is calculated in hearts so if at any point in the run you feel you are at low health, you can recycle your items and get more HP back. And if you are at full HP, you can still recycle items to get an extra heart container. But say you aren’t in that fortunate of a situation, if you are near death and don’t think you can make it, you can try and back as much XP as possible and what you don’t use is carried over to the next run, giving you a head start. It really is quite an elegant system, which can really be pushed as players learn more.
So by the sound of it, it seems like I’d give this game a glowing recommendation, right? Well, yes and no. Your enjoyment of Heart & Slash, will rest solely on how much you are willing to put up with the game and push forward as it constantly pushes back. And by that I mean the game is buggy, like pretty bad too, like run ruining bad, like losing hours of work bad. On the small side, there are visual bugs like flickering textures, stuff may freeze on screen and stay there, like dialogue boxes that should have disappeared, finicky camera and the mini map may sometimes be unreadable, stuff like that to name a few. But even these issues don’t take away from the game’s overall enjoyment. I, like many others I think can live with these, as no game is perfect and is bound to have a bug here and there. But frequent glitching of boss battles, where you can’t attack them (or you can and they just don’t take damage) and the only solution is death, is a real bummer. Heart & Slash often created situations where enemies, that you have to kill to advance, spawn on buildings I couldn’t always reach. Once again, death was the only option. One of the bosses also has a 50/50 chance of crashing your game, like “Sony error message please type up a crash report and submit a screenshot” crash. It may sound like I’m more angry than I actually am, but so many of these situations simply resulted in me just saying “oh well” and jumping back in, because the nature of the game is to be played in such small bursts, crashes like this aren’t as devastating as in say, a grand RPG title. Except of course if you lose the perfectly crafted run to unlock two of the hardest trophies in the game, then it might start to get to you.
The game is done in a voxel style and is very colorful and creative visually. There aren’t that many enemy types, but they are mixed and matched with different weapons, which really makes it seem like there are more. All the items have a unique artwork for their name and some unique flavor text explaining what they do, and sometimes being very cryptic about it at the same time and letting you find out for yourself. The game is charming and oozes visual flair, you can tell this was a labor of love right down to the heart on Heart’s computer face.
There are a handful of tracks in this game and each one sounds great. I especially like the main menu music, every time I hear it start up I get excited to play the game. I’m also quite fond of Slash’s Theme. I don’t usually listen to rock music, but that track really stuck with me. The game is also filled with sound effects from the smashing and smacking of the weapons to the various noises the enemies make. There are also times when the only noises you hear is the pitter patter of Heart running down a hallway, and that’s nice because it builds tension to what is usually a boss battle, or just gives you time to recover from an intense battle.
If you’ve gotten this far into the review I think my thoughts on the game are very clear. I enjoyed it very much, but there are some glaring flaws. I kept an open mind and that got me through some of the bugginess, but it’ll take a lot of willpower to stick with the game in its current state, especially if you aren’t a fan of roguelikes as much as I am.
Review Copy Provided by BadLand Indie.
Summary: Heart & Slash falls just a bit short of true gaming bliss. With its consistent technical issues, I find myself recommending it to everyone, but with a huge WARNING label on the front. All the pieces are there and running, it just needs a bit of fine-tuning.