Flat Heroes is yet another entry into the "difficult platformer" genre that has been making an overwhelming resurgence recently. Unfortunately, many of these sorts of games feel like shovelware and pumped out for a quick buck. But not Flat Heroes. Despite its incredibly simplistic graphics this is a fun well designed game.
One of the greatest flaws in these sorts of games are usually the controls. Often they are slippery and not very responsive. Sometimes it feels like developers hide their poor physics engines by making the game artificially challenging. With Flat Heroes, though, the controls are extremely fluid, tight, and responsive. Your momentum always feels correct and deaths don't feel cheap. When you die, it's your own fault and that always feels good. Jumping and changing directions in air feels intuitive, and for a game like this that is the highest of compliments.
You control a square of a solid color. Depending on the size of the level your square may be larger or smaller. The levels themselves are larger squares filled with platforms, boxes, and other obstacles to hinder your progress, allow for platform jumping, or to provide shelter from the enemies. The goal of the game is simply to avoid different kinds of projectiles for a set amount of time in order to complete that level. Alternatively, sometime you have to use your tiny little burst attacks to clear the level. At the end of every world (a world is between 15 to 20 levels), there is a boss battle, which were definitely my favorite part of the game. They are often creative, as bosses range from simply surviving for an extended period, playing a game of Snake where you have to trick the boss into hitting itself, to a Pong-style of gameplay where you bounce the boss around the screen.
The gameplay is as simple as that. In many ways it reminds me of the old Flash game N. I spent many hours a decade ago on that free little game, and Flat Heroes is very reminiscent of that experience.
The kind of enemies you encounter are mostly other shapes and simple projectile based attacks. Laser beams, missiles, falling blocks, and bouncing balls rain down upon you. Like your square, they are all very simple in design and fluidly animated. I wish there had been more creativity in the enemy designs, though. After playing a few hours you feel like you have seen it all, which actually isn't the case as new enemies do get introduced, but it just doesn't *feel* very creative. This is a minor complaint, though, as the game is designed for short bursts of play sessions and doesn't necessarily need to have elegant sprite designs to work well.
There are a myriad of modes in the game. There are two campaigns (the main campaign and a an expert version called Hero Mode), a survival mode, and a versus mode where you can play against your friends (local multiplayer only). You can also play cooperatively during either of the two campaigns.
The multiplayer is, frankly, a lot more fun than it should be. Unfortunately, all of the multiplayer modes are locked away until you progress further into the campaign, but there are free for all battles, king of the hill options, and other battle varieties. You can even play with AI. The difficulty of the AI cannot be adjusted though, which is a shame, but it still feels fun and fulfilling to play both cooperative and competitively.
The game's challenge ramps up nicely and much in the same way as Super Meat Boy and other games of this variety. Some levels will have a very specific route that requires spot on timing and other levels will be open and mostly empty where you must jump creatively to avoid bouncing missiles. The level design is surprisingly varied for how simple the game is.
Other unlockables besides multiplayer modes are the various color schemes, which you can set to something specific or have it change at random intervals. Most of the color schemes are nothing to write home about, and some are more pleasant to look at than others. But I still appreciate the options and the attention to detail.
Flat Heroes is perfect for the Nintendo Switch. I'm sure you've seen this phrase used a lot recently, and I am guilty of that myself. So let me describe what I mean. The levels are short and condensed, which is well suited for a portable system. This is the sort of game you want to whip out on the bus when there's only five stops to go. You can probably fit in a few rounds no matter where you are. The fact that you can play cooperative and competitive multiplayer on the go also works in favor of the Switch. Even on that hypothetical bus you could detach the joycons, balance the system on your bag, and play a few rounds with your travel companion. The game doesn't even require use of the shoulder buttons so you do not even need the attachable joycon wrist straps.
Overall, Flat Heroes is a fun little game that I recommend in short micro bursts. You may get bored during longer play sessions, but this is the sort of game you can return to again and again. That is, of course, if you can get past the entry barrier of the primitive and simplistic presentation style. But I have always been a gamer about fun first and foremost. I will play a simple looking fun game over an incredibly looking mediocre game any day.