I’m a sucker for Flat Heroes’ simple look and how good it feels to bounce around putting off death, but my favourite part of this minimalist Switch platformer is the moment before the levels actually start.
Flat Heroes claims to have over 300 levels, though I’m still in the first of its 10 worlds. Each level is brief but chaotic. They all begin with a short countdown, and then a quick pause before the action starts. You see the whole level before things start moving, so you get a moment to learn your playing field, but you don’t quite know what’s going to happen. As the hazards start to appear, it’s still a mystery how they’ll move.
Once the action started in the first world, rising and falling rows of red lines would explode my little square avatar, as well as homing missiles that require bobbing and weaving through the level to avoid.
The first time homing missiles came after me I was delighted, not just by their fluid movements and fun buzzy noises, but because they were such a surprise spawning from a row of peaceful, slow-moving dots. The start of each level has so much potential, and I love how the moment of rest and anticipation contrasts with the game’s fast pace.
So far it hasn’t been too tricky to learn a level’s patterns, and I’ve mastered most challenges after one or two tries. Though the actual challenges offered by each level haven’t been that tough yet, the onslaught of new patterns and their chaos can feel overwhelming. That’s why I like the brief pause before the level starts so much. It’s a restful moment, but it’s also exciting.
The start of levels in other games fill me with a different sense of anticipation. A new Spelunky run presents an unexpected level layout to learn. A new game of Fortnite brings exciting encounters and different loot. You carve your own time in anticipation of how you start exploring or where you choose to land. Flat Heroes designs this feeling of excited planning into the game, forcing you to pause, take stock of what’s next, and wonder how it’ll feel once it’s all in motion. The game makes a purposeful space for potential, for both planning and for rest. It’s a subtle touch that gives Flat Heroes a pace that’s both peaceful and intense.
I’m curious to see how the game’s four person co-op might change those feelings, both in terms of facing hazards and how it might impact my moment of respite. For now, though, I relish these quiet moments alone, however brief they might be.