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Hook (Arcade) artwork

Hook (Arcade) review

"Licenses you never thought would be turned into brawlers, volume 1..."

Hook (Arcade) image

Hook is an arcade title you can't ignore. You might walk past it on the way to Cadillacs & Dinosaurs, thinking that a brawler based on a Disney film couldn't be worth your time. However, you find yourself looking at it over your shoulder, wondering what hidden delights dwell within the cabinet. Well, I guess I could toss one quarter in. What's the harm? After all, it features a playable Robin Williams. And how many games star Dustin Hoffman as the final boss? Not enough, I'd say.

So you give in and roll a coin into the slot. A character roster appears, populated by a lineup of unrecognizable combatants. There you find a Peter Pan who looks nothing like Robin Williams, a well designed Rufio, and three Lost Boys you'll likely struggle to recall: Ace, Thudbutt and Pockets. You make a selection and the speaker announces "PEETAIR PAAAN!" Tinkerbell flutters across the screen, leaving behind a trail of fairy dust and a pleasant melody similar to a casino slot game. "Is this really a beat 'em up?" you think.

As level one kicks off, your intuition takes over. Foes amble onto the screen and you cut loose all the combos or cheap maneuver you can muster, while keeping a watch on your six. Peter Pan's slices dash out with lightning quickness, allowing you to move on to the next enemy in a timely fashion. To top things off, he executes an effective spin attack, sucking all of those around him in a whirlwind. It's handy for crowd control and lets you know the developers at least paid some attention to genre contemporaries when crafting this license piece.

Hook screenshotHook screenshot

Many of the genre's trappings remain intact. Hook's absent-minded goons have left spears, baseballs and boomerangs lying around for you to snag and toss. All you need to do is smash open conveniently placed barrels to find them. When sub-weapons run out, there are always environmental hazards to utilize. For instance, stage one features a few ropes to chop that drop tremendous anchors on unsuspecting marauders. Later on, you also come across totem poles with individual pieces that fly across the screen when damaged, harming anything in their path.

In response, your opponents exercise their strength in numbers. The beginning of your quest offers a reasonable helping of corsairs to battle. As you skewer and crush more pirates, though, the crowd thickens. The villainous census swells to stressful levels by the end of your journey. It's as if Hook's master plan was to manipulate you into coercing persuading a friend or two to join the action, thereby enhancing cash flow. You only other option is to bring a bag of quarters to feed the machine until you finish the game. Even then, you're looking at spending enough dough to basically buy a cheap game off a digital marketplace.

In addition to the flustering overabundance of adversaries, Hook's rogues gallery lacks diversity. There are a fair number of enemy types, to be sure, but not enough. This becomes obvious when you see the same goomba-level baddy appearing ad nauseam in three or four variant colors. To top it all off, what few opposing buccaneers Hook offers don't exude creativity as much as they should. Most of them look like your standard pirate with a couple of standout features, such as a long coat and a scimitar or a drunken waddle and flaming breath. Hell, there's one crony who doesn't resemble a pirate at all. Rather, he's dressed like a generic thug from Streets of Rage, except that he wields a mace. You'd think a brawler set in a fantasy realm would have concocted more imaginative baddies for you to scotch.

Hook screenshotHook screenshot

None of the previous paragraph's content should come as a surprise because Hook is a genre exercise. To be fair, that notion rings true for other licensed beat 'em ups as well. Instead of parading fresh material, games such as this one aim to please fans. That leads us to a series of questions: how many die hard fans of the film "Hook" pined for a brawler? Why did Irem go produce a beat 'em up instead of a platformer or a side-scroller? Who thought "Hook" was the kind of film that needed a video game tie-in?

All I'm saying is Hook is not a brilliant action game. It's derivative, and that is both its strong point and its undoing. It's intuitive, it controls well and it uses a commendable collection of genre devices. It isn't a pretentious piece, it's modest and playable, and sometimes even fun. However, the lack of innovation coupled with the high frustration factor drag the finished product down. Given what Irem had to work with, they pulled off a decent actioner, but not one you're likely to remember or care about much.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 18, 2010)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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Leroux posted October 19, 2010:

This is an interesting review. I think it's pretty much expected I'm going to comment on any beat 'em up review submitted, but this approached Hook with a certain amount of enthusiasm I didn't remember having about the game.

So I read the review a second time. Then I replayed Hook. Then I started working on my own Hook review (early going still), instead of X-Men. Then I watched the movie to jog some memories. Then I read the review again.

Ultimately, I'm not quite as big a fan. I see issues with this title -- primarily, especially repetitive enemy patterns and easily countered boss tactics -- that make it a lesser of many beat 'em ups. I'll give an example: wave after wave in Final Fight are the same characters, but often very unique: 6 El Gados at one point, 2 Bull Bills and 2 Poisons and 2 Two P's at another, then 3 El Gados, 1 Andore and 2 Bill Bulls. Each wave within a level feels very unique.

Hook isn't like that. Many of its waves are exactly the same, and even if they weren't the individual enemies do not provide contrasting enough tactics. Every time two fat pirate guys enter, it always is the same challenge (and those fat pirates guys were way too easy).

I also noticed most bosses were susceptible to the 'shadow tactic' where you're immune directly behind them. The guy who dropped the stalactite ring was neat, until you realized you could just wait and jump kick him in the face over them every time. The log swinging guy always seemed to be backing away from me. Weak sauce bosses I thought. So that's a preview of my review if I ever finish it.

But the review I liked, and if I were in a really generous mood maybe I could go as high as a seven. I'm thinking it's a pretty mediocre five, because if I get a review out for it, I don't think I'd ever see any reason to play it again. Ultimately, that jives pretty well with your conclusion of "Feed this game a quarter or two, but don't expect it to replace any of your favorite brawlers." But it doesn't land in the second-tier for me, either, I guess. You mentioned the same two cool parts I noticed though -- Pan's whirlwind at the end of a combo and the environmental hazards. Good eye there.

I didn't like a few particular lines however, where the review just veers from its ultimate conclusion. "Your brain becomes one with it." "The game blindsides you. You expect everything from it, and at the same time nothing." Those seem to go against the final image a non-groundbreaking brawler gives, or maybe I'm just not following the train of thought, but I think you lose sight of the thesis while trying to hold reader interest. The Richard Simmons shotgun line leaves me feeling more confused than anything too.

Still, good review (the review had an approach that made it seem like a 'ride' through your thoughts on the game, which I liked), and since it's probably really creepy that someone is spending this amount of time discussing Hook I am going to stop now.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted October 20, 2010:

Thank you, Leroux! You've given me things to consider, particularly the odd parts that probably should have been clarified or dropped.
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jerec posted October 20, 2010:

Never knew about a Hook beat 'em up. I remember playing an adventure game, though... years back. I never made it past getting all the bits for my pirate disguise. No internet back then and I was probably too young for that sort of game. Didn't discover Monkey Island until a bit later.

Now I want to track down that game and give it a shot.

Really like the movie, too.

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