Hook Champ is kind of like a mash-up of Indiana Jones and Tarzan, with splendid 16-bit graphics and absurd humor. And for some of you, that may sound like the greatest thing of all time. And for those of you who feel that way…well, it comes close.
You play as a master cave adventurer, armed with a grappling hook and aided by a young lady 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 navigate by using a swinging mechanic straight out of Bionic Commando. Oh, and you're being pursued the whole time by a demon whose enormous mouth will gobble you up and spit out your bones if you're too slow.
Walking is sluggish, so you're demon food in no time if you rely on that outdated form of transportation. Swinging is the key; it moves you quickly and is a lot of fun, too. And Hook Champ's swinging mechanic is easy to learn but hard to master.
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 in the game--the gold hook--is described as, "Shouldn't latch, but does. Engineers are baffled." And it's true--when you purchase this upgrade, the need for precise aiming diminishes noticeably. Campy-but-appropriate 8-bit music similar to that of the early Mega Man games plays during the title screen and menu, but for some reason, it disappears during the levels. The only audio you hear as you swing to victory is an old-school sound effect for latching onto a ceiling and the roar of the chomping demon as it gets close. This seems like a major oversight, as an 8-bit-like theme song for each level would have really added to the game.
While the characters and animations are reminiscent of classic 8-bit games, Hook Champ would have also probably benefitted from having a little more going on in its otherwise barren-looking levels. There are no power-ups to pick up within the levels, no enemies other than the chomping demon, and very little to interact with aside from coins and breakable blocks. Some levels have hidden jewels, but you can't take the time to explore with the demon 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 how you stack up against other players, and the store is full of items and upgrades that require 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 or issue online challenges through the third-party online ranking system OpenFeint.
Overall, Hook Champ is a lot of fun. Despite its issues, it provides a combination of delightfully retro graphics, humorous dialogue, and, most importantly, a very fun gameplay mechanic.
This review was provided by GameSpot mobile content partner SlideToPlay.com.