I hadn’t heard of Heart & Slash until PQube announced that they’d be bringing it to the UK, but I’m glad that I own a copy because it’s a fantastic title with one of the best soundtracks around.
Heart & Slash follows a cute little robot named Heart who’s fighting to protect his creator from the robot uprising. After a robot uprising (the robovolution), robots rule humanity but Heart doesn’t give up on trying to rid the world of the robot threat in the hopes that he can be re-acquainted with his creator. This isn’t a story-driven game but I like what you can gather from the world and pre-recorded messages with your creator and meetings with other robots, and it encouraged me to continue to find out how the journey would end.
Heart & Slash is, as you may have guessed, a hack and slash title where each time you die, you start the game over again – you can carry over parts used to level up your character and weapons, but these upgrades disappear once you fall in battle. You have light and heavy attacks, a dodge button and, if you have a shield, then you can block and parry. The equipment you can get changes each time you start a new game so in one playthrough you might have a steel sword, a rubber shield and boxing gloves, whilst in the next playthrough you might have a wooden shield, a fire sword and an ice sword – this means you’re constantly learning about enemies’ weaknesses and what playstyle you prefer, and it keeps things fresh and exciting. It’s far from an easy game but once you’ve had a few playthroughs, you find yourself becoming a player capable of destroying the cannon fodder enemies easy, although the optional bosses can quickly knock you down a peg or two. There’s plenty to do for what is arguably a small game, and it kept me coming back for more.
Heart & Slash aimed to capture the essence of older titles and whilst it certainly doesn’t look like the AAA titles we may be used to now, I can’t say it really reminded me of games that were out a decade or so ago either. Regardless, I adore the visuals and found it to be a stylish game that blended vivid colour with destruction to create a game that manages to drive home how far humanity has declined in a way that doesn’t make it feel oppressively bleak. Heart, Slash and other robots come across as adorable and I’m a big fan of their designs and how Heart looks like an earlier model of robot, and the claustrophobic, dark boss rooms are something I was fond of although I imagine others may not be because not only is your sight somewhat restricted, but the areas themselves can sometimes feel a tad too small for the large battles – it does keep it fast-paced and tense, though!
Composer Michael Chait, now a name I’ll eagerly look forward to seeing in upcoming games (hopefully), composed one of the catchiest soundtracks of all-time in my opinion. I bought the digital soundtrack after hearing maybe 3-4 of the games tunes out of the 15 that are included, and as I played more and listened more, I knew I wouldn’t be regretting my decision. The upbeat techno is engrossing and makes boss fights all the more intense, and it helps to create an atmosphere that the game may not have otherwise had. There’s no spoken dialogue so the music will be your main accompaniment in-game, along with the games stellar sound effects.
Heart & Slash is a brilliant title that’s more than worth the asking price (£15.99 on PSN) and one that I recommend as it truly is one of the finest indie titles you’ll ever find. It is challenging so you may wish to steer clear if trial and error isn’t your thing, but the solid gameplay and absolutely amazing OST was more than enough reason to try and try again. Heart & Slash is one of the most surprising titles I’ve played this year in that I didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did, but I’m glad I got to play it – I know I’ll be returning to it in the future.