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[INTERVIEW] Captain Flinthook & Tribute Games

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In the wake of my interview with Castlevania’s Adi Shankar, I was in the mood for some good old metroidvania.

For those not in the know, ‘metroidvania’ is a subgenre of the action-platformer (think Mario), taking inspiration from the explorative, pseudo-RPG styles of the Metroid and Castlevania series. In my opinion, metroidvania’s stand out as the best the action-platformer genre has to offer: games like Shovel Knight, Dead Cells, and Spelunky, to name some excellent examples.

Upon taking a glance at the Steam marketplace, one game caught my eye: Captain Flinthook by Tribute Games. With its beautiful cover-art and intriguing trailer, I was h–

Come on, let me say it at least once–

I was hooked from the get-go.

Starting up Flinthook, I had a pretty solid idea of what to expect: a quirky little platformer about using a grappling hook to overcome obstacles. As it turned out, that’s only the surface-layer of what Flinthook has to offer. You control the titular space pirate, hunting the galaxy’s most dangerous criminals in his quest for loot. Your gear includes a pistol, hook, and the ability to slow time for brief periods – to help you with those trickier puzzles. I can honestly say I underestimated Flinthook: it’s one of those games that frustrates you at first when you’re still unused to the controls and mechanics but persist, and you quickly master them. At that point, it’s a matter of living the game; acting on reflex alone as you zip around the screen, popping enemies and dodging traps before they pop you.

I sat down to speak with Yannick, one of the developers on Flinthook, to discuss this worthy addition to the gloried metroidvania genre. First, he spoke of inspirations:

“A big inspiration was our own Mercenary Kings! The idea was to start from the platforming action the game already had, but making it quicker and dynamic. A lot of it came from Bionic Commando, which is awesome, but still a bit stiff in its grappling hook mechanic. We tried a lot of different ways to hook around until we came up with the resulting game.”

That hits the nail on the head. Ever since the days of Superman 64, gamers have thirsted for new ways to move around the screen, from flying to swinging to grappling. A game with good-feeling movement has already achieved half its mission, giving a sense of freedom and fluidity that many triple-A games still get wrong. With this in mind, I asked Yannick if he had an ‘ideal play style’ in mind for Captain Flinthook?

“Thanks to the chronobelt, Flinthook can slow the flow of time and be ‘slow and steady’ in small doses! But the game was made to be a fast-paced platforming romp!”

Aiming for the ‘best time’ has been built into platformers from their very inception. Even Super Mario Bros. had a timer that gave more points for completing a level quickly. Flinthook is clearly designed with this in mind, but unlike Mario, it is by no means a necessity. You can take as long as you like on any given level, but greater rewards – and enjoyment – await those who master the mechanics and swiftly, yet gracefully surpass obstacles.

I have previously mentioned that too many developers forget the power of music. My favourite games have awesome soundtracks tailored to the mood and pace of their story beats. Tribute Games did not skip on this one: Captain Flinthook has an intense, high-energy OST by Patrice Bourgeault. Asked how this soundtrack suits the game, Yannick demonstrated the intimate creativity and thought that was poured into Flinthook’s sound:

“Patrice’s soundtrack does a lot to communicate the world and the game’s feel right off the bat. It’s a mix of adventure and bravado, like a lot of space movie themes have, but there’s also something comical and jaunty in some tracks because the cartoony pirate universe we’re presenting lends itself to that. The music also switches to urgency whenever you enter a battle room or a boss, so we feel that Patrice’s work complements the game very well.”

I asked Yannick for his favourite track. He was brief but charming:

“The third track, ‘Hook Into Adventure’, from our tutorial level! Combined with the visuals of the billowing sands on the plains, it just starts the game off right!”

At the end of our interview, I gave Yannick a chance to advertise Captain Flinthook to HEAVY readers:

“Flinthook is a super-fun platformer, but we made sure to make it extremely replayable, with its randomly-generated levels and daily challenges. I also think we have some of the best 2D graphics out there, and the catchiest music too! At 15 bucks, it’s a steal!’

Captain Flinthook can be purchased for Windows, PS4, and XBOX One. Its soundtrack can be listened to on Bandcamp.

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