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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 a very awkward game to judge. It's one that beckons to you even though you think in the back of your head that it will be another wretched movie-game plagued by myriad cliches and wonky controls. But you can't stop looking at the thing. No matter what you play, you find yourself stealing glances at it. You can't toss quarters into it for fear that those precious coins your mom gave you to get you of her hair will be wasted. You won't even risk one. Yet, no matter how many rounds of Street Fighter 2 or Raiden 2 you play, you can't resist Hook. The allure of a new beat 'em up, even one based on a Disney film, is just too much. That sweaty hand extends, puts a quarter into the slot. No going back now.

It asks you who you want to play as. You don't recognize most of the line up, and wouldn't unless you're very familiar with the source material. You know who Peter Pan and maybe Rufio are, but Ace, Thudbutt, and Pockets? You look over your shoulder as you select Peter Pan, still donning the green tights and looking nothing like Robin Williams. You hear “PEETAIR PAAAN” in a voice that sounds like Stephen Hawking added a Yakov Smirnoff setting to his voice synthesizer. Tinkerbell flutters across the screen with a sweep, leaving behind a trail of fairy dust and you hear that wonderful music that sounds like a casino slot game. You feel like Double Dragon took ballet lessons, then look over your shoulder again to make sure there isn't anyone there who will beat you up for playing this game.

Level one starts and you know exactly what to do. Hook follows the tried and true beat 'em up formula, making the game about as intuitive as it can get. It has little new to offer, but still offers what it should: mindless cartoon violence, button mashing, ass kicking, and perfectly functional controls. As the first pirates arrive, you know the first thing you need to do is mash buttons to make them hit the ground and start flashing. You mash the attack button. Pan dashes out with lightning quick actions, busting out a combo almost effortlessly. He spins around, sucking up those around him and throwing them into the air like a whirlwind.

You smile, realizing that a combo attack like this that can snag others around you will serve a very strategic purpose in the future. Your brain becomes one with it. You become very savvy on which pirates to hit at which time so as to snag all the other pirate around you and help clear the board faster. All of this caused by a tight-wearing 40-something. Those of the pirates that survived that day will probably not tell their friends or family who it was that kicked their rumps. The ridicule alone would be crippling.

More pirates arrive and fall victim to your paralyzing blade and mesmerizing green tights. You never thought there could be so many different kinds of pirates. If this game does offer one thing that other beat 'em ups do not, it's the opulence of pirates. That and the fact don't play as some 'roid raged vigilante with a mullet. It becomes evident just how powerful Pan really is in the first level when he cuts through a huge wall with one swipe of his blade. You begin to think that he must be something like Richard Simmons with a shotgun. His demeanor and presentation may not feel very threatening, but under the flamboyance is the heart of a cold-blooded pirate killer.

The game blindsides you. You expect everything from it, and at the same time nothing. All the little extra details added into the levels, all of which fit strongly with the Hook theme, are in tact. Idiotic pirates leave dangerous weapons like spears and bombs laying around. What's the harm in actually putting them to use? Environmental hazards are around for you to trigger and use against the pirates. Anchors hang from above waiting for you to sever their line and drop them on unsuspecting enemies. Who does that? Let's hang a giant and potentially dangerous anchor over our main walkway. Great idea!

It may be your first coin, but the HUD at the top says you only have two lives. Ridiculous amounts of pirates spill onto the screen, some with distended bellies that belch fire or others that look like grunge-era rejects armed with cutlasses. If you're worth your salt, you'll leave piles of these pirates in your wake. Otherwise, you may have to “buy your victory.” It seems that was always a surefire thing in old brawlers. Come to the arcade with enough coins and you can beat just about any game. Irem must have known this, and made Hook just a tad on the cheap side. Less lives per credit, loads of tough enemies, and even a frustrating final boss battle starring Dustin Hoffman. You learn to make every hit count, and never hesitate. It's do or die in a pirate's world.

At the very core, Hook is not original. It plays like so many other games that came out before it like Final Fight or X-Men. The only difference is the interface and the fast attacks. Many of the games in this genre like X-Men and The Simpsons were meant to be fan services. Were there any die hard Hook fans who really needed a beat 'em up? It raises many questions about this game that all lead down strange avenues. Why go with a beat 'em up and not the take the obvious approach of a platformer? Was there any need for a Hook video game? Even with there not being any need, the fact that this game is still enjoyable makes such questioning difficult. It's one of the few times playing it safe actually worked out.

Hook is not a brilliant game. It's derivative, and that is both its strong point and its undoing. The game is intuitive and it controls well, and it uses the right elements in the right ways. It doesn't try to be more than it is, and it remains modest and playable, sometimes even fun. However, the lack of innovation and the high frustration factor drag the game down. Given what Irem had to work with, they did well. Feed this game a quarter or two, but don't expect it to replace any of your favorite brawlers.

Rating: 7/10

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 20, 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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