Flat Heroes Switch Review
Most people have played N in some form or other – whether it be as a flash game in the back of IT class, as N+ on a DS/PSP a few year later, or maybe in its final form, N++; released back in 2015. It’s an amazing, beautiful game about speed, reactions, and most importantly – momentum. It’s all about surviving a constant barrage of lasers, homing rockets, and sniping bots, all whilst booking it to the exit against the clock (and against physics). Flat Heroes takes many of these ideas, like the familiar designs and similar array of obstacles to avoid, and moves in a new direction. Instead of trying to avoid these obstacles in order to reach the exit, Flat Heroes, much like Bangai-O Spirits, is all about being the last thing standing.
As homing blocks rapidly approach, laser-shooting triangles go absolutely mental (and are annoyingly too often about luck to avoid), and heavy duty rockets get launched towards your position, the player must jump, dash, parry, and wall-jump out of harm’s way until the onslaught of attacks is over and it’s on the the next level. It’s about survival instead of needing to reach a particular goal, or within a certain time limit. It’s quick and it’s fun, spanning 10 worlds of 15 stages each on the normal difficulty and then the same again on hard (or ‘heroes’ mode). Besides the interesting and unique boss battles that throw all sorts of curve balls, the modular feel is my favourite part. It makes it terribly easy to pick up and play a couple of levels when there’s a few minutes to spare, then it’s very easy to put down again to come back to later.
However, with only 300 levels in the campaign it’s quite easy to rush through, but that would be doing yourself a disservice for several reasons. Firstly, as mentioned, the bite-sized levels are neat time fillers but most importantly, with hasty consumption Flat Heroes becomes a bit of a grind. With the levels being square and a little too ‘zoomed-in’, there’s not much room for creativity in the layouts. Sure, some levels you can’t touch the walls, or the floor, or this level only has walls and no solid ground etc etc but it quickly becomes repetitive. The lack of well-paced new mechanics or obstacle types only furthers this ‘grindy’ feel if played for over 15-20 minutes in a single sitting. There is a survival mode that has a couple of different challenges inside, including dailies, but as the rest of them are quite literally the same thing over and over again they also wear out fast, especially because they need to be unlocked one by one, by playing the previous survival modes until your eyes bleed.
Multiplayer allows up to 3 other players to join in, either in co-op mode or versus. Although, only one versus mode is available from the get-go, a ‘King-of-the-hill’ type game, whilst the others are arbitrarily locked behind the campaign. Why so many modes are locked up in this kind of micro-game befuddles me, especially considering the amount of effort needed to unlock them. It’s that old Smash Brothers or Soul Calibur problem of needing to unlock all the characters to play with your friends but by playing the game enough to unlock all these characters makes you practically invincible by their standards – nobody is going to beat you and that’s not fun for anyone. The co-op mode can fall into the same problem, unless it’s played from the beginning with the same party, because all the co-op mode does is allow everybody to play the level at the same time. Inevitably, the best player will just carry everybody else through the stages or keep killing themselves to allow others to sort of catch up – once again, fun for no one.
Now, it might seem like I’ve given it quite a hard time but Flat Heroes isn’t bad. The problem is that it’s not great either and it sits, meagre and timid, in the shadow of a genre-defining masterpiece. The multiplayer aspect is a bit of a mess, there’s not enough meat on its bones to really keep me interested and then, even if it did, it would all be over too fast. The quick-play style it boasts is definitely a plus but on the other hand, if I only had a few minutes to play a game like this I could never see myself popping on Flat Heroes over N++. And because of that, I unfortunately just cannot recommend it, when the clearly superior title is available on all the same platforms, including the Switch. I mean, that game has thousands of levels (before we even count user-created content) that constantly evolve and challenge the player, really pushing them to their limit, and mechanics that continue to teach and test the player until they seriously master them. It’s both morish and modular, but in comparison Flat Heroes is just kind of, well, flat.