Set long after an apocalyptic robot uprising – the Robolution – you control one well-intentioned robot, fighting back against the murderous machines under the guidance of your human creator, now seemingly embedded in some sort of AI.
The ‘prologue-like’ tutorial is a neat touch in both setting up the story and introducing players to the mechanics. Similarly, I appreciated the way in which your character Heart is crafted and contrasted against the evil robots through the game’s character design and the text dialogue in boss encounters.Obviously, being a roguelike, the story does little more than create an over-the-top premise and inject zany characters that – whilst contributing to the game’s charm – cater for the hack’n’slash gameplay more than seeking to tell an engaging narrative.I’m more mixed when it comes to the game’s presentation. On one hand, I love the character and enemy design, both aesthetically and in terms of their types and attacks. Similarly, the game’s art style is unique and eye-catching. Heart&Slash has a sense of humour and fun, embedded across the game’s art style, character, and even weapon design and dialogue. The rocket-propelled sledgehammer was one of my personal favourite early-run pickups.
However, whilst the environments gradually change, they never look overly impressive and although the map is randomised, I felt like they were a little too bland. Arenas often appeared the same, or layouts repeated. Certainly, the game does get a little more adventurous in later stages, introducing platforming and verticality, but they never feel particularly inspired.My largest gripe is with the camera, which is terribly finicky. It was overly sensitive, with no option to change its sensitivity, and just felt positioned just a little too far away such that corners of the room or corridors would obscure parts of the screen or the action was hard to make out.A lot rides on the gameplay in a roguelike such as this, and thankfully Heart&Slash holds up pretty decently. The varied array of attacks and the ability to roll offers some almost Dark Souls level of tactics in approach of any new enemy. Experimentation is encouraged with different attacks as various enemy types pose unique challenges but also weaknesses. Weapons pickups are abundant, with three able to be equipped at any given time and used simply by holding the triggers, with each serving different play-styles.Sadly, I felt a slight sense of looseness to the combat. It might have been something to do with the difficulties I had with the camera, maybe the length of the animations or just slight performance issues (although I doubt the latter). Whatever the reasoning, the game lacks the sharpness I deem to be essential to this style of game.Heart&Slash does a commendable job of blending hack’n’slash gameplay with roguelike elements but doesn’t excel in either. The way it endeavours to use fully 3D characters and environments is ambitious, but let down by frustrating camera controls. It’s a solid game, but not one that makes a mark on the genre. I sensed this would have been a game I enjoyed, but rather is felt limited in it’s potential, perhaps more so by the resources available to the independent developers, not their vision.
The PS4 version of Heart&Slash was primarily tested for the purpose of this review.