Hook Champ

Hook Champ is a game from , originally released 31st December, 1969

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Hook Champ Hands-On Preview

Many years ago, when we were young and playing more videogames than should be allowed by federal law, we made up our mind that the best games involved a “swinging” component. No, we don’t mean games that party with like-minded couples (although that sounds like it would be a great game too). We mean games where you have to swing from ledge to ledge, timing your jumps perfectly.

We’ve played several swinging platformers like Mr. AahH! and Rope ‘n Fly for the iPhone, but they’ve been pretty narrowly focused on high scores only, and not exploration or adventure. Hook Champ aims to change that with a varied story mode that has you guiding an Indiana Jones-type character (whose specialty is a hook, not a whip) as he plunders some ancient idols.

Complicating your escape from each cavern is a creature called the Chaser, which is a large specter that will chase you all the way to the exit. If you dally too long, or miss enough jumps, you’ll get eaten alive and have your bones spat out on the dusty ground.

Your character swings faster than he runs, so most of the time you’ll want to reach the exit while barely touching the ground. The default controls let you tap anywhere to throw your grappling hook, and take your finger off the screen to fly forward. Gold coins that you can pick up along the way will help you buy better swinging gear, shotgun and rocket boosts that will blast you up or over, and even fancy new hats to replace that old fedora.

Online leaderboards are a much-appreciated gesture here, but we were initially too focused on buying more maps to unlock new areas to really get into the high-scoring mechanics. We’re sure this will change when we beat the main game, as the more gear you buy, the easier it is to replay old levels for a higher score.

We were also extremely impressed by the retro graphics, which are super-detailed pixel-art similar to the TV show Code Monkeys. Inspired by the classic platformers we loved decades ago, Hook Champ had a nearly hypnotic effect on us (must be all that swinging back and forth). Look for this game to hit the App Store this month.

More stories on Hook Champ

Exclusive: New Hook Champ Character Revealed

Hook Champ, the popular retro-style swinging platformer, is about to get its first update. Three big features will be added to the game, and we got the exclusive scoop on the first one: you’ll be able to unlock your partner Gunny as a playable character.

We spoke with Kepa Auwae, one of the developers of the game, and he said that playing as Gunny will not just be a cosmetic difference. She’ll be able to purchase a firepower advantage over Jake that allows her to fire four blasts with her shotgun, rather than just two. To level the playing field, Jake will be able to purchase “hot pants,” an item that lets him survive one encounter with the magma and shoots him up into the air.

But unlocking Gunny won’t be easy. You’ll have to beat the five regular levels before you’ll be able to play as her. Anyone who’s gotten to the final stages of the Bull level knows you’ll face miles of deadly magma before you conquer the game. But, since the hot pants will be available in the store immediately upon installing the update, players will have a slightly better chance to make it to the end.

Another addition to the in-game store will be new hats. Some will be exclusive for Gunny and some will be just for Jake.

Auwae says that the update will have two more major features that will be announced in the coming weeks. At this time they don’t have an exact date for when they will submit the update to the App Store, but it should happen in the next few weeks. Stay tuned for more details.

Hook Champ Review

Hook Champ is kind of like a mashup of Indiana Jones and Tarzan, with splendid 16-bit graphics and absurd humor to boot. We know what you’re thinking: that sounds like the greatest thing of all time. And, really, it almost is.

You play as a master cave adventurer, armed with a grappling hook and aided by a babe with a treasure map. Your goal is to collect priceless idols located in each of the 20 levels. Every stage is full of ceilings, pits, platforms, and obstacles, which you’ll navigate by using a swinging mechanic straight out of Bionic Commando. Oh, and you’re being pursued the whole time by a demon chomper whose enormous mouth will gobble you up and spit out your bones if you’re too slow.

Walking is sluggish, so you’ll be devoured in no time if you rely on that outdated form of transportation to get to the idols. Swinging is the key; it moves you quickly and is a lot of fun, too. Like many things worth the effort, the swinging mechanic in the game is easy to do but hard to master.

Swing, darn you, swing!

You can enter a shop between levels to purchase better hooks, longer ropes, a shotgun, a loot vacuum that acts as a coin magnet, and a slew of stylish hats. Each item has a humorous description. For instance, the best hook is described as, “Gold hook: Shouldn’t latch, but does. Engineers are baffled.” And they’re right: when you purchase this upgrade, the need for precise aiming diminishes noticeably.

Awesome 8-bit music similar to that of the early Mega Man games plays during the title screen and menu, but for some reason disappears during the levels. The only audio you’ll hear as you swing to victory is an old-school sound effect for latching onto a ceiling and the roar of the chomper it gets close. This seems like a major oversight, as a chiptune for each level would have really added to the game.

Watch out for the lava. Or is it magma?

We also wish there was a little more going on in Hook Champ. The graphics and engaging gameplay are reminiscent of classic Mario games, but the levels are far more barren. There are no in-level power ups, no enemies other than the chomper, and very little to interact with aside from coins and breakable blocks. Some levels have hidden jewels scattered throughout, but you can’t take time to explore with the chomper constantly on your tail.

On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons to keep coming back to levels you’ve already played. Online leaderboards show you how you stack up against the masses, and the store is full of items and upgrades requiring plenty of coins. Also, as you get better equipment and increase your swinging skills, it’s fun to replay earlier levels to see how your skills have developed.

Overall, we had a ton of fun with Hook Champ. It provides a combination of delightfully retro graphics, good-humored dialogue, and most importantly, a fun gameplay mechanic. Aside from the few issues we mentioned, what’s not to love?