Updated: iHook Review

Responding to criticism of the game’s ridiculous difficulty, the developers of iHook have released an update that adds more checkpoints and more shields to each level. Do these changes make the game more playable?

Slightly. You’ll still die thousands of times, but now you usually won’t be sent back as far when you’re revived. The additional shield power-ups they’ve stuck in the levels don’t do a whole lot, since they only protect you from certain things like bombs and lasers. They don’t save you when you plow into a wall, which is how you’ll die the vast majority of the time.

What hasn’t changed with this update is the level design, and that’s the core reason the game isn’t fun in the first place. Starting very early on, each level seems created specifically to blast you into space dust at every turn. Until the game’s levels are made easier, or you’re granted some new ways to control your vehicle, we still can’t unequivocally recommend iHook.

Do you like to spend your time failing miserably, over and over again? If so, iHook is the game for you. It was designed either by people with impeccable gaming skills, or by sadists. We suspect the latter.

iHook is a top-down spaceship game in which your goal for each level is to collect fuel cells and make it to the exit. Apparently you have a lead foot, because your ship never stops accelerating. The only control you have over your vehicle is to steer it by hooking and releasing the green anchors scattered throughout the levels. Precise tapping is of utmost importance, as your ship moves in a straight line the moment you let go of an anchor. The idea is to time your taps perfectly to sail from one anchor to the next, collecting the fuel tanks as you go, in order to wind up at the level’s exit.

And in a perfect world, that’s what would happen.

He’s got a mean left hook.

But playing iHook involves much more cursing, screaming, and potential damage to your iDevice than you’d expect. What makes it so difficult is the mixing of the game’s extremely limited control scheme with its devious level design. By the fifth stage, you’re expected to expertly fling objects at buttons, navigate through tightly-spaced moving blockades, collect ever more fuel cells, and in general exhibit total control over a vehicle that fights you every step of the way.

Thankfully, the game grants you unlimited lives and semi-frequent checkpoints. Unfortunately, that doesn’t turn out to be enough. In many stages, if you miss a few fuel tanks before hitting a checkpoint, you’ll be unable to go back and pick them up because the developers didn’t choose to make the levels traversable in reverse. Starting over a level that you struggled to get to every checkpoint you reached is a major bummer.

At this time we’d like all passengers to make their way to the purple swirl.

On the plus side, iHook has appealing graphics and lots of cool gameplay dynamics. And the hook-based gameplay would probably be enjoyable if the difficulty curve were smoothed out. But any enjoyment you get from the game is gone by stage three or four, at which point playing the game becomes a struggle. To make matters worse, all of the Engrish– er, English– in the game reads as though it were fed through shoddy translation software.

If you’re willing to invest the time, you might eventually acclimate to the controls and pry your way through iHook by sheer blunt-force repetition. But that isn’t what most people consider fun. It’s a shame, because otherwise there’s a lot to like in the game.

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