“Heart&Slash is a 3D brawler that is set in a world where machines are all that remains from the Human civilization. You play as Heart, an innocent robot fighting to escape the grip of the evil and all seeing machine QuAsSy (Quality Assurance Systems). But make no mistake Heart&Slash is a hard game. Every death is permanent and means a new randomly generated level for you to start over with a different set of weapons and items you can use, new enemies to fight and secrets to explore. “
– The Heart&Slash Steam page (http://store.steampowered.com/app/326840/)
Heart&Slash’s story places you in a world populated only by robots. There’s no humans left in the world, with these robots literally the last remnants of the human civilisation. You play as an adorable little robot called Heart who wants to escape the restrictive clutches of industrial standardisation and instead find love. Awwww. Of course, it isn’t that simple seeing as there’s an evil machine called QuAsSy (Quality Assurance Systems) that wants nothing more than to stop Heart and have him conform to the mechanical life of a robot.
The game is a 3D brawler with rouge-like elements. The best way to describe the combat is as something similar to Bayonetta or Devil May Cry, with action-packed quick paced fighting that gives you multiple means to take down your opponents. Of course, life isn’t easy seeing as there’s a perma-death aspect to the game, though fortunately the game makes sure to keep things fresh for each playthrough. Levels will switch around and vary, you’ll pick up a different assortment of items whilst you also never know what enemies are waiting for you in each room. Heart&Slash is a tricky game that has you dying a lot, so this constant variation between playthroughs manages to keep things feeling relatively fresh.
Whilst I’ve described the combat as being similar to Bayonetta and Devil May Cry, it doesn’t feature the same intensity or intricacies. This isn’t really an issue though and I actually found it a little more accessible whilst still managing to maintain the excitement of the action games that inspire it. You have your basic light and heavy attacks, whilst Heart also has access to a huge range of weapons.
Heart feels great to control too and is extremely agile. The controls are precise and fluid, whilst platforming, rolling and jumping in the game is easily performed thanks to the simple and accessible control scheme. The same applies for the combat – I’ve never been particularly good at these kinds of action games, but the controls had me smashing enemies apart with minimal fuss. It actually felt quite fulfilling to beat enemies with ease, even if they did get the upper hand themselves plenty of times. I’ve already mentioned it, but you’ll die a lot in-game.
I did have an issue with the game’s camera that could actually feel quite disorientating at times. Whilst I’m sure it won’t affect all players in the same way, it did have me feeling dizzy at times.
Heart&Slash has an impressive repertoire of weaponry, with the game featuring over a hundred different weapons and pieces of equipment to keep Heart armed and ready for action. The level of customisation is great and it makes for an enjoyable and varied experience that you can fine-tune for your play style. Of course, you have to find any weapons and equipment before you’re able to use them, but the whole loot system made sure there was always a sense of excitement with each new item you discover. Most of the weapons and equipment felt different from each other and there was certainly a great level of variation between them all. You can also upgrade these weapons and equipment to improve them, making you stronger for any challenges the game throws at you the further you progress.
You’ll need to be well-armed though, especially considering the game’s harsh difficulty – it certainly isn’t a breeze to get through. Despite the action-packed nature of the game and combat, you’ll also have to be cautious and plan ahead for everything you do. Heart might be looking for love, but risk-takers certainly won’t find it in Heart&Slash – especially considering that each death sends you right back to the start…
As I’ve mentioned, the game varies up with each playthrough so it does make the constant dying a little more bearable. It’s a double edged sword though – it also means you can never learn how to conquer any sections that might’ve caused you problems. Instead of learning how to adapt to each situation or enemy type, the game instead throws you into all new situations to cause you problems. Of course, the more you play through the game the more you’ll persevere through each playthrough – there’s a serious feeling of satisfaction that comes with progression in the game, even if said progression can often feel minimal.
Heart&Slash’s aesthetic design is clever, utilising the popular 8-bit pixelated style in a fully 3D world. It looks pretty slick in-game, with the cel-shaded style really complimenting the retro-stylized world and characters. The environments aren’t packed to the brim with detail, but each of the three worlds in the game are so full of colour and life that they manage to look good anyway. It’s an attractive game and I constantly felt impressed with my surroundings.
Whilst I found the game world attractive, I couldn’t help but to feel that the levels could’ve had a bit more variety. The game is meant to be set in a dull, robotic world, but it still felt a little too dull for my liking – there’s only so much that bright colours can do for a world when the environments themselves are so lacking in variation.
The game’s music is pretty chirpy and happy – I’d even go as far as calling it ‘cutesy’. The upbeat synth tunes are pretty nice, though there was nothing that really grabbed me and had me humming along (even though I really digged the main menu music). The soundtrack is decent and fits in with the game world, but there was nothing spectacular that really stuck with me after my time with the game.
Heart&Slash is a fun 3D brawler that features a great assortment of rogue-like features. Heart himself is a loveable character that makes you genuinely feel happy to play as, whilst the dystopian world around him is vibrant and a treat to look at – even if it is lacking in variety.
It controls well, combat is tight and there’s plenty of cool unlockables to find. It’s a tricky experience that can feel frustrating at times thanks to its perma-death, but fortunately the variety provided with each playthrough keeps Heart&Slash feeling like an enjoyable experience. There are certainly better action games out there, but there’s still a lot to love about Heart&Slash.
Publisher: Badland Indie (www.badlandindie.com)
Release Date: 24/06/2016
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Mac, Linux
This review was written by guest reviewer Shaun from YouTube channel Respawn – You can check out his YouTube channel through this link.