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Heart&Slash Review

Heart&Slash Review

Heart&Slash takes us to a world 100 years after a robot revolution. A world devoid of humanity where robots rule and the eponymous Heart tries to stop the tyranny of QuAsSy (Quality Assurance System).

Take the combo-based brawling from something like Bayonetta and cross it with the randomised level layouts, item collection and perma-death of The Binding of Isaac and you’ll have a rough idea how Heart&Slash plays. Along with this blending of genres it also brings with it some ideas of its own.

Not all is as it seems

As you play you take Heart on a journey through a variety of environments beating the robotic inhabitants to a pulp whilst discovering items and upgrading them and your robotic body to increase your chance of survival. This is where some of its own ideas kick in; Heart can hold three weapons as well as up to four accessories, these can each be upgraded with their own unique options.

These upgrades are paid for with an in-game currency, “bolts”, which are earned by destroying robots. Killing enemies fills the bar in the top-right of the screen and when full gives you a box of bolts, each upgrade costs a certain amount of these boxes. This is where another unique idea shows up; any boxes you don’t spend in a run will follow you into the next one. This allows you to do some runs to build up a stockpile of bolt boxes to spend on a ‘good’ run where you can upgrade some things immediately for an easier time.

Upgrades include things shared by most weapons like increased damage or speed but also more unique things like leaving fire trails or increased knockback on hammers. Every weapon has a different set which helps to make them feel even more unique. Heart can also be upgraded with higher jump height, faster running speed or better evasion; these upgrades also give a health boost.

The Morning Star... lovelyItems get unlocked permanently for future runs by completing a variety of ‘quest’ criteria; finishing story moments or killing 10 of a certain enemy, that kind of thing. There are enough of these quests that it feels like you are always making progress, even on runs where you fail quite badly. This does a good job of stopping the death/restart cycle from feeling too punishing as you run into new items and weapons frequently.

The combat in the game is very satisfying, the variety of weapons is great and they all feel quite different. Swinging the massive heft of the Morning Star feels very different to using the light Fire Slicer sword or the weighty blast from the Shorty Gun.

It uses a basic but very responsive combo based system using both light and heavy attacks along with an evade button. Every weapon, of which there are over 70, have their own combos and move-set which inevitably means you’ll soon favour some over others. Combat gives good hit feedback and the window for evading attacks is fair but not too long either.

The game is pretty hard as you’d probably expect from a game designed around constant replay and it’s made more evident by the game being a skill-based brawler. You can always complete areas and rooms no matter what you’ve found on that run; but the randomness of items means that in reality a ‘lucky drop’ of a strong weapon can make things a LOT easier for you and vice versa.

Typical BattleThe levels start you out in a factory setting that has a variety of colour-schemes before letting you see the outside world including a city theme as well as a sewer. The random element of the levels can be a little hit and miss, rooms with lifts leading to nowhere and similar issues, although on the whole they gel well and the aesthetics feel unique enough.

The game has a charming three-dimensional pixel-art style that has its own feel, almost voxel-like in execution. The character designs, especially Heart themselves, are wonderfully expressive and their animations add a great deal to them. The soundtrack is also stellar with wonderfully catchy tunes you’ll be humming away to even when you aren’t playing.

Along the way you’ll encounter the initially confused and rather mysterious Slash along with a variety of colourful characters and bosses to introduce yourself to; and sometimes introduce the sharp end of your weapon to.

The unique art style really pops.Heart&Slash does have some issues: the camera most notably is a little finicky requiring some manual handling to keep everything you want to see in view. The controls are also a little sensitive; Heart feels like they are moving a little too fast and it makes smaller deliberate motion quite tricky which can make jumping gaps or manoeuvring around groups more frustrating than they should be.

7.50/10 7½

Heart&Slash (Reviewed on Xbox One)

This game is good, with a few negatives.

All in all, Heart&Slash is a fun brawler rogue-lite with a quirky and charming presentation, it has a good sense of humour and a lot to offer fans of both genres. The unique elements it brings to the table definitely make the genre more approachable.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Simone Brown

Simone Brown

Staff Writer

Often reminiscing about the 'good old days'. Simone has almost perfected her plan to enter the Speed Force and alter the timeline.

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