I made the mistake of trying to show my daughter The Goonies this weekend. Well, I made the mistake of trying to show my daughter The Goonies after my wife had cruelly mis-sold it. Crucially, she had told my daughter it was about pirates when, more specifically, it's about the search for one particular pirate who has been dead for centuries by the time the whole thing begins. My daughter got about ten minutes in, which wasn't bad going, really. Then she started to ask when the pirates were likely to show up. She also wanted to know if there were any ghosts in the film.
We should have just played Flinthook, to be honest. In Flinthook, you play a pirate who is also - I was pretty sure of this, but now I am less certain - a ghost. They certainly look like a ghost, anyway - one of the Casper types, all squishy white sheeting and laughing eyes. A game about ghost pirates? What could be better than that? Well, get ready for Flinthook, because Flinthook starts from a solid basis in ghost pirates and just piles on one brilliant element after another until it's dangerously close to being the best thing ever.
Flinthook's a bit like Rogue Legacy. That's how it was mis-sold to me, anyway. I can see the similarities: chunky pixel art, a colour scheme that revels in purples and golds, a platform/action game in which you race through procedural dungeons, dying frequently, and gaining strength over the course of many games via the things that you collect.
But Flinthook is not that much like Rogue Legacy. Good as Rogue Legacy is, Flinthook is far, far better. Those dungeons you're raiding? They're pirate ships. Pirate ships set against the darkness of space. Those frequent deaths you're dying? They're at the hands of wonderfully slop-jowled scurvy scum, floating around and diving in to attack, or lurking, just out of reach, or hiding inside bubbles.
They come at you in waves, in rooms that feel like single-screen arenas. And while they're often surprisingly deadly, you can counter their numbers with a grappling hook that allows you to zip around the environment, leaping from one dangling anchor to the next, never really able to stay still, but always finding yourself with a few wonderfully questionable traversal options within reach. On top of that - on top of a grappling hook, right - you can slow down time in neat little bursts, to navigate a laser trip-wire, perhaps, or to still the spinning blades of an otherwise impenetrable foe.
Grappling hooks. Slow-mo. Laser trip-wires. Amazingly, Flinthook keeps getting better. You unlock cards as you level up, which you have to unwrap by mashing a button furiously. You get to mash a button furiously to open space shells, too, rainbow clams or prickly spirals that contain really special treats. You get a load-out of perks to choose between before you head into each mission, and when you actually head into each mission, you crash your way onto the enemy ship by splintering the hull and landing with a thud, riding a heavy anchor that embeds itself in the deck. This same sense of weight and consequence gives your blaster a real sense of a kick as it pops foes and sheds crates to reveal loose gold coins. There are treasure chests to open, there is decent lore to read and a series of horrid bosses to take down. When you leave a ship, completed, you first whistle for an anchor to ride out on, and then the ship explodes.
If only I was done. In truth, every few minutes with Flinthook reveals something else I love. There's a Daily Challenge mode, which is always a mode very dear to my heart. There are procedural levels built around the jumbling of rooms that feel hand-made, that feel like they have set-pieces built into them. I just looked down at the corner of the screen a few minutes ago and discovered that there's a combo system too. A combo system!
Flinthook, then: a game about a space pirate (possibly a ghost space pirate) who messes up procedural floating dungeons with the aid of a grappling hook and the ability to slow down time, all the while collecting card parks, unlocking perks, vacuuming up loot, smashing the daily leaderboards and mastering those combos. What's more - and it pains me deeply to say this - it may be better than The Goonies. Just.
Last minute update: Okay, so the lead character isn't a ghost - they're just wearing a hood. Still, how cool would it be if under the hood...they're a ghost?