Making a game stand out is important, especially in the crowded indie space. Sometimes all it takes is a really cool feature to prevent your game from being lost in the mire. Flinthook checks a number of boxes you've seen before: it's a Metroidvania-style roguelike with procedurally-generated levels. It feels fresh though, because of its primary movement mechanic: the grappling hook.
The unnamed protagonist is a space pirate, plundering the ships of other space pirates for the best treasure he can find. Each of Flinthook's levels are procedurally-generated; every ship you find is different, because it's a new ship floating through the cosmos. Your entry into each level is via your anchor slamming through the side of their hull.
Once you're inside, you have to learn to get used on Flinthook's unique control scheme. To make the grappling hook work, you'd think the game works like a twinstick shooter, but you're wrong. All aiming and movement is done with the left analog stick. On the demo's DualShock 4 controller, your grappling hook is bound to R2, jumping to X, and shooting to Square. (L1 holds you in one place for aiming precision.) Tap R2 when you're aiming the stick in a direction and your hook will activate.
Around each room there are rings that your hook can attach to; some floating in the room, others on the doors. You just aim at a ring and hit the right trigger to attach your hook and pull yourself in. You can move from ring to ring in succession with only a few course corrections and taps of the trigger. Once you've mastered it, you can fly across rooms in seconds. Sure, you can walk and jump normally, but it's much slower. Hooking feels great and represents some of the best movement I've experienced in a game of this type.
You have to attack sometimes though and it'd be hard to switch between movement and shooting without help. The game adds a time dilation mechanic, where you can press a button and slow down time for brief period. It recharges, so you can't lean on it too hard, but it's also available when you need it. Both the hook and time-slow can be used to attack in certain situations: the hook can be used to remove bubble shields certain enemies have and one enemy could only be damaged once time slowed enough to see their weak spot.
Tribute Games does need to build on the brief demo available at PAX East, which spanned two locked ships, one mid-boss battle, and promised a larger boss fight. There is a sub-weapon button (Triangle on the DS4), but the only sub-weapons available in the demo were the bomb and invincible diving bell. I'm sure Tribute Games is building some other great sub-weapons to really extend the gameplay variety of Flinthook. They have some trust behind them as the developers of the excellent Ninja Senki DX and Mercenary Kings.
Flinthook also features some great pixel art from illustrator Stephane Boutain. Flinthook's art is cute and fluid.
I like a lot of what I saw at PAX East, even if Flinthook is real early. Watching the game is what will draw you in though, because it just looks fun to get around. I've included a gameplay video above because seeing is believing. Trust me, it's as enjoyable as it looks.