If adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones; meanwhile – on the other hand – if adventure’s cousin were to have a middle name, it would probably end up being Mikey Hooks (out now, $1.99). BeaverTap Games – the same people who formerly brought you Mikey Shorts (our review) is back once more, this time with an extremely well programmed platforming experience that swings. In this case I do mean swinging in a most literal sense, with Mikey now having the ability to latch onto special blocks in a manner that recalls the mighty Grapple Beam from the Metroid franchise.
While I would like to commend BeaverTap Games for apparently including iCade support in Mikey Hooks, as it is a peripheral that’s far too often neglected by developers, this is the rare game where it’s utterly unneeded. Under normal circumstances iOS platforming titles are known for either having straight up bad controls, or inputs that are considering barely competent enough to get the job done (while still leaving you wishing you had actual buttons). However, I am absolutely bursting with joy to report that the controls in Mikey Hooks are – even in light of the highly demanding stages the game tosses out later on – impeccably up to the task at hand.
On the bottom left hand side of the screen are the left and right direction buttons, whose purposes need no explaining, and on the bottom right hand side are the jump and slide buttons. With the slide button Mikey can both slip through low spaced tunnels, a la Megaman, as well as destroy any dangerous blue robots determined to putter about in annoying places. A single press of the jump button will see Mikey leap through the air, much as the name suggests, but it’s when the button is pressed twice that the title’s namesake mechanic comes into play.
Mikey’s grapple will attach itself to a hookable block whenever the jump button is repressed midair, at least so long as there is something nearby that you can actually swing from. For your convenience these swinging blocks will light up to both let you know if you’re close enough to grab them, as well as letting you know which block – at any given moment – will specifically be latched onto. Letting go of the jump button will cause Mikey to unhook the block and continue forward logically with whatever momentum arc he was swinging forward with at the time of release.
It’s a real good thing – as I previously mentioned – that these controls are all impeccably top notch, for Mikey Hooks doesn’t ever don the kids gloves when it comes to level design. BeaverTap Games’ latest offering will regularly ask you to do things such as immediately leaping the second you reach the end of a sliding tunnel – then directing your descent so that you safely go down a narrow spike lined chute – after which throwing your grapple out at the last second to stop yourself from falling completely into a bottomless abyss, all while enemies buzz about. Add on top of this the fact that you’re graded exclusively on the basis of how quickly you can lead Mikey through each level, and you’re left with a game that would have been utterly unplayable with controls even an iota less precise.
In addition to the game’s 24 challenging story levels, Mikey Hooks also features a number of ultra challenging race levels that will really put one’s platforming prowess to the test. In these levels players will have to truly memorize every inch of a track, and the placement of every enemy, if they wish to cross the finish line before the three ghost robots chasing after them. In a turn more or less never seen in iOS games before – so as to better enable players to iteratively refine their path – there exists a full ghost recording of the player’s previous run attempt, a feature that also carries over to replay attempts on story stages as well.
For those who don’t like looking at plain generic style Mikey all day long, there is a bevy of disguise parts – all of which can be mixed and matched – with which to customize the hero to your heart’s delight. All one needs to do, in order to unlock these various bits of heroic apparel, is to save up the coins that lie about utterly everywhere on each of Mikey Hooks’ many story mode stages. While the game does have an IAP option – which can only be purchased a single time – it does nothing to help with the acquisition of these story mode coins, instead it unlocks the title’s cheat menu and retro-pixelated alternate graphics mode.
Speaking of graphics, one of the only real complaints I can levy against Mikey Hooks is that the entire game – despite everything else it does profoundly right – is actually rather drab appearing. The other actual gripe I would bring up is the more problematic of the two, which is the fact that Mikey Hooks is – unless you replay every level to three star perfection – an extremely short title. However, even if Mikey Hooks can easily be completed in a mere two hours – a runtime that many similarly priced apps far out offer – these are still the best two hours of platform jumping that you will ever see in a game deliberately made for the iOS market.
iFanzine Verdict: Mikey Hooks is an iOS game that, even though it features support for the iCade, actually has what might be the most sublimely precise controls ever before seen in a touch screen platformer. It’s a good thing too, since the game features diabolical level design the likes of which would have been utterly untenable with the onscreen controls featured in most lesser platforming apps. Not content to stop there, the developers have furthermore added a ghost replay of your previous run to help players better iterate their way to three-star successes in Mikey Hook’s 24 levels. The only real downsides to this stellar package are the somewhat lackluster graphics, and the fact that Mikey Hooks is definitely far shorter than many other similarly priced apps (apps that generally don’t have controls half as divine as these).