Ah, the grappling hook. Long has it been a staple of both cartoons and video games alike. And with good reason too. In large part, grappling hooks are cool (Batman and Link have a lot to say about this). But they are not fool-proof either.
Look no further than the lame grappling hook that a certain Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle had to use after censors took away his nun-chucks. With this in mind, the addition of a grappling hook element to Mikey Shorts was not a guaranteed swish for developer BeaverTap Games. They would have to work at it to make sure that their new game, Mikey Hooks, would live up to the potential of the grappling hook.
In this sequel to Mikey Shorts, Mikey Hooks takes the fun, fast-paced platforming formula of the original and adds in the ability to snag onto strategically placed blocks to help you swing your way through levels. The goal is still as it was in the first game -- you have to get to the end of a platforming level, while thinking fast and avoiding danger. The controls, which were a highlight of the first game, remain drum tight in this follow up as well.
All of the running, jumping, sliding, and grappling that you do in Mikey Hooks feels sharp and satisfying. The new physics built around the titular grappling hook are well programmed, letting you tap the jump button while in the air to latch onto blocks and then selecting when you want to let go in order to get your distance just right.
The levels in Mikey Hooks are also solid, with the action flowing at a very well-balanced pace. As you rush through a level, it never feels like you're just on auto pilot, even when you're doing really well. If you mess up, you're gonna die. But it's pretty easy and satisfying to get into a rhythm and cruise your way through.
So why does Mikey look so distressed? I guess everyone deals with swinging over a pit of spikes in their own way. But he's got no reason to be down on himself for the gameplay, that's for sure. In addition to a story mode that should take you only an hour or two to complete, there's a race mode where you can take on bots to see if you can beat them to the end of a level.
Trying to beat these guys forces you to get a little reckless in looking for the fastest route to the finish line. Pulling off a crazy maneuver and getting the lead is a lot of fun. I think I might have enjoyed this mode more than the story mode, though I haven't spend as much time with it yet.
One thing that puzzles me about Mikey Hooks is the look. I would have thought that after the success of Mikey Shorts, the look would have been polished up a little bit from the original's ultra basic, I Wanna Be the Guy-style bare bones aesthetic. Now, I'm not saying that this game should have had all new art or super slick animations, but I would have expected more of a denser world, populated with more characters and detail.
As well as this plays, it still feels like a great experiment, rather than a fully realized game. Then again, maybe great experiments are all you really need for satisfying mobile apps these days.
Like its predecessor, Mikey Hooks is a solid title that's full of lots of fun platforming action. For the price, it's certainly worth adding to your library if you are looking for some fast-paced fun. And most importantly, it does right by the grappling hook.