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Hudson Hawk (NES) artwork

Hudson Hawk (NES) review

"Lame Duck."

Hudson Hawk asset

Hey, remember that bit in the 90s super-flop film, Hudson Hawk, when Bruce Willis’ head morphed to the approximate size of his torso and a guard dog dragged him arse-first off the side of a building?

I won’t blame you too much if you don’t. It never actually happened in the movie, only in this awful Ocean Software game. Ocean, bless their assassinated-by-Infogrames hearts, were infamous for snapping up movie or arcade licenses and bringing them to home consoles with wildly fluctuating results. Give them a Rambo or an Operation Wolf and they could be relied upon to weave gold. Give them Bruce Willis’ first and only real attempt at script writing and maybe they can’t be blamed for going off on their own warped tangent and creating a game that tries its dandiest to ignore the source material.

Remember in the film how Hawk would often belt owls and nuns with softballs until they bloody well died? Remember how much time he spent in sewer systems, avoiding sentient spheres of feces and ugly men in drag who were carting around wheelbarrows armed with bombs? Remember that kangaroo he fought on that rooftop, or the time he broke in the Vatican and there was a rhinoceros chilling in the library? Hey, if I had several centuries of priceless religious tomes, I’d let a two ton biological tank rampage around them too. It seems silly not to.

As it turns out, Hudson Hawk has only the most minimal of connections with its supposed foundation material, to the point that it only really shares the following few over-branching facts:

1) You are a thief.

2) Da Vinci’s swag needs pinching.

In this outing, Hawk attempts to tend to that second point by throwing an infinite supply of softballs – which often arc over their targets rather than hit them – by solving box puzzles, and by grappling with awful jumping mechanics that supply precious little middle ground between a lethargic hop and a reckless dive.

The first level asks you to stun a few animals while setting up a basic box-ladder. You can eventually kill those foes, but they absorb a lot more punishment than the trained human guards you later encounter, who curl up and die after being brushed with a solitary softball. When Hawk isn’t meandering around slaughtering honest workers with children’s sports apparatus, the game does make a few strides towards functionality. CCTV cameras have to be avoided to sidestep game over screens, and a jaunt through the air vents has you exploring slightly non-linear paths in the hopes of finding switches to shut off deadly electrical currents or huge industrial fans. Parts of Hudson Hawk do occasionally feel like they’re part of a game about cat burglary, but the awfully oily controls and spiteful jumping mechanics work very hard to cancel out any such positives that could come from this… like when you traverse a floor that has in-built pressure pads you need to hop over to avoid setting off an alarm. Sometimes, these are spaced out and pose little real threat. Elsewhere, they’re positioned in a little line of four, with small patches of safe ground peppered in between them. Yeah, good luck with those.

So, let’s talk about a typical puzzle…

You can sneak into an early window by stacking two boxes haphazardly while employing the world’s slowest freight lift. If you fail to hop atop the boxes exactly right--and you will fail--you knock the top box off and will have to start again. So you do, in earnest, all the time dodging the nearby wiener dog that absorbs damage for fun, and then waiting for the elevator that curiously takes forever to lift a scant half an inch. You’ll perform this task a few times, not (just) because you suck, but because the longer, higher jumps require a running start so that they can be upgraded from the arthritic hops you’ll otherwise manage. How much of a run up, exactly? Well, how long’s a piece of string? Just when you feel like you have the exact requirements down, just when you can pull off the power jump nine times out of ten, the parameters seem to change.

Then you get through the window and some guy attacks you while riding a tricycle.

In a much better game, the sheer randomness that Hudson Hawk exudates would be funny. In a slightly better game, it might help commend it as an experience so awfully oddball that it’s worth a look in just so you can see what happens next. The fact is, the game is neither of these things; it’s just bad. You may be missing out on random killer nuns or arbitrary tennis players showing up out of nowhere -- in fact, no, you’re not. You’re not missing out at all. The odd glimpse of occasionally surreal enemies is simply not worth the excruciating trek it takes to reach them.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (June 14, 2013)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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