Heat Signature, developed primarily by Tom Francis (or as I like to call him, Gunpoint Guy), is another resounding hit by the creator. While he has created many games in the past, Gunpoint and Heat Signature are his two signature (heh) games that really capture the absolute best of his work so far.
Heat Signature’s less story-driven than Gunpoint, with most of the lore being gained through the short dialogue trees of people who’ve left their respective factions sitting around bars. Also unlike Gunpoint, the story is not too important (though Gunpoint does have a dialogue option to admit that you lost track of the story past the second mission) and seems to be much more focused on gameplay and replayability more than anything. Most of the humor that was previously covered by dialogue in Gunpoint is put into item descriptions in Heat Signature and in the hilarious situations one gets put into while playing the game.
The story is a simple one; the region of space the game takes place in is where Sovereign (a cyberpunk-style megacorp that owns more planets than most governments and does anything to raise profits) sent a ship to years ago to see how the acid in that area was. It was the best battery acid in the galaxy, and obviously good for profits. This particular area in space is so far away that they had to use a long-range drive (which broke after use) to send them there. The abandoned engineers called themselves Foundry and built up small space stations on asteroids; eventually, more people started showing up. Sovereign showed up to get at the acid, Offworld tries to protect people, and the Glitchers just showed up one day because they tried to teleport big things big distances (teleporting big things small distances or small things big distances works, though) and ended up in the same situation the Foundry people did.
Your time in space will be spent flying around in your tiny pod, boarding ships, and hitting the innocent guards on that ship with wrenches at inhuman speed. While you can do this indiscriminately by boarding whatever ships you find out in space, you’ll probably want to take up missions to earn acid, the currency and whole reason there’s conflict in that region of space. When you get 200 acid, you can pay Sader Fiasco, the tutorial character, and main supporting character, to give you intel on your personal mission, allowing you to accept it like any other mission. Once you complete your personal mission, you’re free to retire and pass on a weapon so that it has a chance to show up on any other character you play. You always have four randomly generated characters with random traits that you can play as and swap out at any time, and each mission gives you progress towards a liberation, which unlocks more stations and gear for your characters to purchase.
Heat Signature has a top-down view at all times, giving you total vision on everything going on on the ship you’ve boarded. Your most powerful tool (aside from wrenches) is being able to pause and plan out actions. This isn’t like Transistor where you set up a queue of moves, then activate them, and instead the pause gives you infinite time to look around, think things through, swap gadgets and weapons, etc. The moment you actually do something the pause ends, but you can immediately pause again. You also get a teleporter which lets you teleport anything on the ship directly to you every 0.30 seconds. See five enemies in a room together and all you’ve got is two wrenches? You can walk into the room, smack one guy on the head, then another, pause, throw one wrench, pause, throw the other wrench, and then teleport the first wrench (which already hit someone in the face) back to you so you can use it to smack the last guy. These sorts of encounters are the game’s bread and butter, but it quickly gets complicated with shields, armor, special enemies, gadgets, and the ever-present randomness. The real fun of the game comes from using all these tools and making your own fun and solutions to different problems with different gear available. The triumphs will be as hilarious and story-worthy as the failures, or as Tom Francis put it in his video showing off daily missions, “…now I can break this window NO I CAN’T.”
The art and sound of Heat Signature really add to the game without being very necessary or technically impressive components of it. When something happens, like a gun shooting, alarm going off, or someone getting hit over the head with a wrench, you know exactly what happened thanks to the accompanying sound. Everything feels very impactful, and the designs of the different factions’ ships are all very distinct. The Glitchers have huge, blocky, cluttered ships that make it easy to walk into a room without even seeing that there’s a whole group of guards in there, while Offworld ships are extremely sleek and clean with their futuristic white and blue color scheme. The game is also never slowed down by animations. Each swing, trigger pull, and gadget activation happens the moment you click, so you’ll never have to worry about getting trapped in animations.
Considering its low price point, replayability, and most recent update (which added different enemy types, hazards, glory missions, daily challenges, traits, and a few more smaller changes.), Heat Signature is well worth picking up if you haven’t already. It’s a great game for playing for any amount of time, and has plenty of content to keep you entertained. It does what it does well, but Heat Signature will mostly be for people who can make their own fun and enjoy coming up with crazy solutions to the different situations they get put into with the few resources they have.