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.

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