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Hook Champ (iOS) artwork

Hook Champ (iOS) review

"Give your tomb raider a fez if you like. It only costs twenty bucks."

Hook Champ (iOS) image

If you have fond memories of those distant days when the platformer ruled the gaming world then pay attention because Hook Champ is just for you!

The retro-gamer charm offensive begins at the title screen. Just listen to those wailing beeps and bops! Hear the droning chords rise and fall! Look at those beautiful blocky visuals! Itís enough to make you forget that the last twenty years ever happened! Of course these traits are no longer imposed by technical limitations; theyíre now deliberate style choices. Hook Champ wears its pixellated graphics like a badge of honour, as if it wants to convince us of its earnestness right from the title screen. Dig a little deeper and youíll find an overworld map, complete with a shop to purchase upgrades. Venture further still and youíll find levels filled with lava traps, gold coins and conveniently-placed springs. Itís all lovingly crafted in a visual style that sits somewhere between 8-bit simplicity and 16-bit elegance.

But no matter how deep you delve into the charming world of Hook Champ, you will not find a d-pad. Despite their blatant nostalgia for simpler times, RocketCat Games were smart enough to realise that they needed to bring fresh, creative ideas to the table if their game was to remain relevant in a crowded App Store. Hook Champ is symbolic of their vision: a retro-tinged platformer made unique and up-to-date by its inventive gameplay and very modern control interface.

Hook Champ casts you as an intrepid tomb raider who is equipped initially with little more than a rope and a hook. I think thereís a story behind all this tomb raiding, but in true platformer style all the plot you ever really need to be aware of is made clear in the first few seconds of every level. After some witty and amusing banter between the tomb raiders deep in the heart of a cave, the main character steals a cursed relic. Then a scarier looking version of Boo starts chasing them. This is where you step in. Your goal? ESCAPE!

I know what youíre thinking: its been done before. Using a rope to swing through a level is an idea that stretches back as far as Pitfall and almost every platformer in existence has copied the premise of being chased or hurried through a level by some malevolent force. Drop the cynicism now. Although Hook Champ borrows elements from the past, this is no tired tribute to old glories. This is a fast and furious adventure that hooks you in and doesnít let you go until youíve swung through every cave and stolen every treasure. The core appeal is the rush you feel when you manage to swing elegantly through a level without falling to the ground, evading all the traps and obstructions that the game throws in your path. Of course, this rush soon gives way to panic when you eventually fall to the ground or are slowed by obstacles. Take too long to regain your pace and death becomes inevitable. The ghost never slows down!

If it all becomes a bit too difficult then you can always cash in your coins and upgrade your abilities at the shop. Upgrades range from subtle improvements in the quality of the hook and rope to valuable power-ups like shotguns and rocket boots. There are even some more amusing diversions that showcase the gameís personality. Give your tomb raider a fez if you like. It only costs twenty bucks. The Russian hat costs three hundred, but apparently it distils an entire country and its culture into the form of a great hat. These hats donít actually do anything, other than look good.

Hook Champ is a charming adventure that delivers a stiff but rewarding challenge, however the whole thing would just not work if the control was poor. As I mentioned before, there is no d-pad to be found. To hook onto something you merely touch the screen and the hook is unleashed upwards in that direction. Hold your finger on the screen and youíll stay attached, release your finger and youíll swing off, allowing you to touch again to re-launch the hook and swing further through the stage. In addition, there are touch buttons on the bottom of the screen that become available as new abilities are purchased from the shop. The control is precise and instinctive; a model of how to achieve the accuracy and control of a d-pad while exploring the new possibilities that have been opened up by mobile devices.

Hook Champís obsession with speed lends itself to quick plays, a quality that suits the iOS format. Youíll find, however, that quick plays soon turn into longer sessions as you struggle to beat that one pesky section thatís bothering you. Swinging quickly is not easy when you have to deal with levels that become increasingly intricate. Multiple routes, obstacles and clever traps will all conspire to impede your progress. Some might moan for an update that includes checkpoints and the like. I say donít bother. Itís the challenge that keeps me coming back. Hook Champ is hard and I keep dying, but itís never unfair. I KNOW I can do it! If I just try harder, move a little faster, then maybe next timeÖ

Hook Champ (iOS) image


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Community review by JANUS2 (May 02, 2015)

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