Updated: Hook Champ Review

The Hook Champ update is here, and it’s a good one. In addition to a new set of four levels, the game now features OpenFeint integration, which includes achievements and the ability to challenge your friends to beat your speed or score on any level you choose.

Also added to the game is the ability to play as your sidekick Gunny, who comes equipped with an upgradeable shotgun. You can now buy hot pants, which keep your keys from melting if you fall in lava (oh, and they protect you too). If you replay a level you’ve already played, you’ll now see a ghost of your best previous attempt swinging along with you, giving you extra motivation to speed on through. And last but not least, there are now more hats in the store.

All of which is to say that an already remarkable game has become even better. There’s still no music in the levels, and there continues to be little to distinguish most of the stages from one another, but If you haven’t downloaded this game yet, we recommend you give the Lite version a try.

Hook Champ just received the update treatment again, but nothing major was added for free this time. In the in-game store, you can now use your gold to buy new costumes and hats, more rocketjump fuel, and super-expensive Megahooks for each character. Best of all, at least to us, is the new beginning-of-level dialogue. It’s as ridiculous and hilarious as we’ve come to expect.

The biggest addition is a new downloadable character called Hookbot who costs $0.99. Purchasing him is kind of like purchasing a cheat, because when you play as him the Chaser is no longer on your tail. Demon chompers’ teeth are sensitive to metal, apparently.

But since the final levels of this game are seriously hard, Hookbot certainly makes them a little more beatable. And because the Chaser is no longer breathing down your neck, you can also take your time to explore the stages to find the hidden gems and collect all the gold. Also, Hookbot uses steam power to jump, and the steam recharges automatically, which grants unlimited jumping to patient players.

Every time we revisit this game we fall back in love with it and play it way more than we had planned. This kind of longevity is exceedingly rare on the App Store, so even though the free portion of this update is minor, we’re kicking our score of Hook Champ up to a 4. If you haven’t purchased this game yet, at least try the lite version. It’s one of the few games that belongs on the devices of all serious gamers.

In the latest update, John Gore of Minigore fame has crossed through the matrix and landed in the Hook Champ-verse. He sports a new set of four levels that are filled with dive-bombing furries that fall from the sky. Luckily, he brings his gun with unlimited bullets with him.

The cool thing about the John Gore levels is that you have to use a different strategy to succeed. Instead of swinging forward as fast as you can like in the other levels, it’s best to take some time to clear the way first. And since the chomper isn’t on your tail, you have as long as you need.

Also awesome is the new dialogue written especially for John Gore. It’s just as absurd and hat-centric as you’d expect, and includes some bits where Jake and John try to out-gravel each other vocally.

Since Mr. Gore plays more like a character in Contra, we would have liked to be able to control him with a typical D-pad and shoot button scheme, but the Hook Champ one works well enough.

Overall, this is a fine addition to an already superb game. Grab it if you haven’t.

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?

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