Not enough games feature grappling hooks. Obviously, there’s Bionic Commando (I mean the NES original and the two Rearmed games – forget about the wonky reboot), plus Metroid Prime; other than those, I honestly can’t think of many other titles out there that involve grappling onto stuff. Which is a shame because, if done right, the ability to grapple can be a wonderful tool in a platformer. Case in point: Mikey Hooks, the sequel to last year’s Mikey Shorts.
Playing as the former Mr. Shorts, Mikey has now added a grappling hook to his ensemble, while thankfully still keeping his shorts on. In a fast-paced and simple platformer for iOS, players must (predictably) reach the end of 24 levels to save Mikey’s friends. Controls are simple, with left/right, jump and slide buttons. Pressing jump twice will attach a grapple rope to the nearest grappling point (if there’s one available, and there usually is), while the slide is used for travelling under low ceilings, and also for defeating particular enemies.
It all sounds very simple and, in truth, it is. It’s to BeaverTap’s credit that they’ve delivered a platformer that works incredibly well on a touch-screen device. The controls are accurate and are some of the best I’ve used on mobile devices, the physics are tight and the levels are well designed to make the most of Mikey’s abilities. Obstacles mainly come in the form of enemies littered throughout the levels; yellow bots that have spikes on their sides but can be used as platforms, blue bots that have spiky tops but can be slid into, and red bots that are covered in spikes and have to be avoided. Then, of course, you have areas with spikes that you really don’t want to land on, and bottomless pits – it’s all standard platform fare.
The levels are also full of coins, which can be exchanged for customisable heads, eyes, faces and hooks in the shop. Sadly, it’s just for cosmetic purposes, but there are a ton of disguises available for purchase. I personally like the sausage links rope and bacon mouth, because you can’t get enough meat these days.
Mikey Hook’s 24 levels are split over six worlds, and each level is around a minute long, making for a truly bite-sized slice of portable platforming. It does look like BeaverTap will release more levels but, for now at least, you’re ticket to extended replay value is to find the Golden Shorts hidden away on each level, and collect all the coins. Without the tricky to find Golden Shorts, there would be very little difficulty in finishing every level (I finished every level with a three-star time rank in less than an hour, but I wonder if only having one life instead of three would lead to a more challenging game). There are also Leaderboards for level completion times, which is fine if that’s your bag. Meanwhile, a Race Mode adds another 12 levels to the game, wherein you must race three ghosts to the end of the stage.
There is only one form of in-app purchase in Mikey Hooks, and that’s a Bonus Menu that adds Double Coins, Retro Graphics, a Large Coin Magnet and Extra Hearts. Because of the game’s lack of challenge, you really won’t need to invest in this bonus IAP – especially as you need to pay for this game in the first place.
You’ve no doubt guessed from the screenshots that Mikey Hooks is very much a retro-styled game, with simply-drawn and colourful pixel art. It’s functional and nothing to write home about, but still retains a sense of uniqueness. As you can imagine, the whole thing is backed by some chip-tunage in the form of world-specific tracks that are catchy without being annoying. As usual for a mobile game, sound effects are stock platformer noises, but thankfully they aren’t too annoying.
VERDICT: This is the type of platformer that works well on mobile devices. The controls are spot on and the levels are short enough for quick bursts of play. I would have liked to see a bit more variety in the levels and some actual challenge, but there’s a foundation here that BeaverTap Games can easily work on for future Mikey games. You’ll probably be done with Mikey Hooks in an hour or two, but in that short time-frame you’ll be playing one of the better platform games available on the App Store.
GOOD. A game that scores 7/10 is worthy of note, but unworthy of fanfare. It does many things well, but only a few of them incredibly well and, despite a handful of good qualities, fresh ideas and solid mechanics, it fails to overwhelm.