Heart and Slash is an addictive, frantic indie brawler featuring an adorable, if feisty, robot named Heart. Smashing through room after room, it doesn’t take long to realize that it’s a fitting name for the titular star, as the rogue robot is as full of heart as the game itself.
Developed by aheartfulofgames and published by BadLand Indie, Heart and Slash features graphics that are reminiscent of old school arcade games, giving it a retro yet polished look and feel. Despite its simple graphics, the game brings its characters to life through versatile combat, cheery music and challenging gameplay. What sets Heart and Slash apart from many other brawler-based games is how nonlinear it is. Maps are randomly loaded before each play through and there is no way to save one’s progression during the game. That’s right – permadeath.
At the start of each game, the player is provided with three random powerups. Sometimes these powerups are puny, sometimes they are overpowered. Since they are different every game, Heart and Slash challenges players to be flexible and adaptable rather than encouraging skill in only one or two of the 75 available weapons. Yes, that’s correct – there are over 75 weapons or augmentations to collect as you scramble through the giant randomly generated, robot-infested maze. During your play throughs you’ll have the chance to beat robo baddies into oblivion with an electric Thunder Hammer, roast machinated minions with a Fire Sword or pulverize your foes with a pair of dumbells – and many other weapons.
Yet despite the game’s effort to grant a unique experience with each play through, Heart and Slash is regrettably repetitive. While it is addicting to discover new powerups, thanks to the random distribution of weapons, there isn’t always that much incentive to play an entire round. That combined with unstoppable pre-boss cutscenes and the game’s overall difficulty can make repeat plays somewhat taxing, which is the opposite of what the developers were going for. The frame rate can also drop at times, which makes play feel peculiarly laggy, and as fun as combat is, it can become frustrating thanks to the shoddy in-game camera. In fact, the camera controls are too reminiscent of their old school counterparts, funny enough.
For as much fun as Heart and Slash is, it would be even more so with multiplayer. Unfortunately, this brawler is single player only. It would be twice as exciting to play through levels, collecting powerups and crafting combos if it were a collaborate experience, and there would likely be more replay value to boot.
Heart and Slash is a unique, fun-spirited experience, and it’s easy to pick up and play with a spare half an hour on your hands. But given the randomized power up system, difficulty and lack of multiplayer features, Heart and Slash may not be for everyone. If you’re itching to experiment with a wide array of weapons and a diverse-enough combo system, you can download Heart and Slash for PS4 on June 28 or download it today on Xbox One for $19.99 USD.