Alex Green looks into Flat Heroes, and minimalism is the order of the day. Can this indie title deliver what it tries to?
Often a game can be judged on its narrative depth, like Life is Strange. It can be judged on its action mechanics, like Shadow of Mordor or the Batman: Arkham series. However, Flat Heroes is so hard to judge because it’s the definition of minimalism. The most basic of games. And yet, it’s one of my favourite games on the Nintendo Switch. I say that with no exaggeration.
Flat Heroes is very simple. You play as a square, jumping off walls, bouncing around boxed levels surviving projectiles and explosions to complete the level. Developed by Parallel Circles, a Manchester-based studio founded in 2016, the game features hundreds of levels of dashing from arrows, avoiding bombs and escaping zones, as well as a survival mode on various levels of difficulty to record the best times. All these and a versus mode are available with 4 player local co-op and available on both Nintendo Switch and PC.
I talk about simplicity so much as the best indie games have always done a lot with little. And in this case, Parallel Circles have done a lot with basic 2D platforming. Firstly, the game mechanics are so tight, with the movement, dashing and bouncing feeling so natural. The momentum feels palpable in the game, with every jump feeling a sense of realistic travel in such a fast-paced game. This is key to the game’s success as the fast pace necessitates extremely well-crafted controls. This is the case for both the Switch version and the PC version. However, the PC version does recommend controllers, so make sure you have a few on hand if playing on Steam. The switch version handles just as well with the bonus of very simple controls working well on a simple controller like the Switch. The game also is impressive graphically, with varying shades of colour complimenting the game’s indie feel, reminding me of N+ with its basic but effective look.
This game utterly shines at points (ironic given its non-glossy colour scheme) but particularly in two key areas. Firstly, the level design and the variation of enemies, from homing arrows to small exploding enemies and hexagons spawning tons of enemies gives it freshness and prevents the game getting stale in later levels. This extends to some unique boss fights at the end of each of the campaign’s 10 worlds which challenge the player or players in interesting ways. The game is not too easy and will challenge your quick thinking and platforming skills. The other area in which Flat Heroes excels is local multiplayer. It is riotously fun playing with friends. The multiple squares adding a sense of unpredictable chaos and the occasional accidental obstacle. In a sense, the game draws comparisons to Overcooked in its multiplayer madness. Those who have played the multiplayer in that game know it can be truly frantic, and Flat Heroes doubles down on this. It turns the game from a fun platformer to a chaotic mess of shapes and jumping that if you get together your friends, you will have a blast with the game. It’s even more crazy in survival mode when the enemies are slightly less predictable and respawning teammates becomes a necessity to score a large time.
However, this of course is a double-edged sword. The game is admittedly less fun playing solo, with that magical sense of companionship lost. It results in a classic issue that may put off consumers in that if no one else is there to play it, what’s the point if that’s what makes it great? This issue is really exemplified in the sense that the game can get a little frustrating alone. In addition, it also must be said that there isn’t much extra content besides the modes that can keep you coming back, although the PC version did get an update with new levels and enemies.
For me, the game feels a tad better on Switch. Obviously, you already have the controllers for the Switch version, but also the Nintendo Switch feels like a home for indie games like this. I can whole heartedly recommend both versions of the game, largely depending on your preference of system. Flat Heroes has genuinely surprised me with its excellent craftsmanship and unadulterated fun, and I can’t wait to see what Parallel Circles are working on next.