Indie games that attempt to recreate specific moments in gaming are always interesting experiments. Heart&Slash feels like a long-lost 3D arena combat brawler for Dreamcast so plug in your VMU and get ready to fight!
You play Heart&Slash by controlling a small robot named Heart. He runs very fast so you'll often feel like you're playing a Sonic game. Anyway, you navigate through massive randomly generated mazes while battling enemies with mostly melee weapons. Keep in mind, this is a roguelike so once you perish, you have to start all over again. The combat seems odd at first but as you beat on robot after robot, it'll click and you'll start to have a blast. There are so many enemy types that figuring out what each one is capable of will take quite some time. After you start to recognize foes and take them out effectively, it becomes a very satisfying combat system. Thankfully, the controls are simple as you run, jump, dodge, and unleash light and heavy attacks. You can also equip a couple of optional weapons that you can use on the fly by holding down the shoulder buttons. Overall, this is one fast-paced and thrilling brawler that manages to retain its excitement for hours at a time.
Heart&Slash's blocky and pixilated visuals are bursting with charm. Watching Heart run is so cute while enemies are animated in a way that you can predict their next moves. The onscreen warnings help tremendously with this, too. One thing about the graphics that I love is the pastel colours because they bring a certain innocence to the intense combat. All of that being said, the best part of Heart&Slash's presentation by far is the absolutely fantastic soundtrack. It sounds like late '90s arcade music mixed with disco house. It'll be difficult to find a more positive sounding collection of vibes in any game. Even while writing this, I can't get the music out of my head.
Although all you basically do in Heart&Slash is play over and over again to try and reach further areas and eventually complete the campaign, there's a surprising amount of extras to keep you entertained. As you battle, many statistics are gathered that are used to unlock additional pieces of equipment and achievements. Gathering a wealth of items means that they'll now spawn in the stages so having the opportunity to find a powerful sword that suits your play style is awesome. Upon defeating enemies, you'll earn junk that you can use to level up both yourself and your equipment. Becoming powerful relies on your luck to get preferred items to spawn and your ability to survive so you can gather more junk. If that's not enough, you can even unlock a handful of additional characters.
Heart&Slash may be a ton of fun but it does have its issues. First, the camera is very difficult to deal with at times. Considering you have to focus on battle, making adjustments when your view is obstructed is a huge annoyance, especially when you take damage from an out of view surprise attack. Next, navigating the stages can be downright confusing. The first stage is fairly straightforward with small rooms and narrow hallways but later on, environments open up and become overwhelming. The map is basic and just shows outlines of rooms but I wish it also displayed obstacles and other important features. Finally, I found the weapons to be extremely unbalanced. Some weapons are super slow and require too many strikes to defeat enemies while others are quick and destroy robots with ease.
If you're looking for a fun-filled retro-style 3D arena brawler then you need to download Heart&Slash. The combination of exciting combat, upbeat presentation, and constant discoveries make it one of the most addictive games I've played so far this year.
- + Fast-paced 3D arena combat gameplay that's super satisfying and full of excitement
- + Great retro visuals and phenomenal music
- + Tons of content and equipment to discover
- - The camera can be finicky which results in surprise attacks and obstructed gameplay
- - Navigating the stages is too confusing
- - Weapons are incredibly unbalanced