Worthy sequel that builds on the original formula
Speedrunners Mike Meade and Mike Gaughen have one of the most amazing stories in iOS gaming and now are quickly building a portfolio of epic games. As fans of the Rocketcat's Hook series, they were two strangers fighting for the top spot on the leaderboards. They met on the Touch Arcade forums and decided to launch their own game, Mikey Shorts — something between a tribute release and the game they would love to play themselves.
Fast forward one year and you have Mikey Hooks, a sequel loyal to the 'speedrun' platforming genre that keeps fresh all the good things from original plus some nice tweaks. The most obvious from the title is the hooks — which are not like the ones from Hook Champ you would expect. True to the floaty movements in Mikey Shorts, the grappling hook works like a slow elevator and not so much like a swing. To give you an example, it's more like Batman's pistol than Tarzan's liana. For better or worse, this is only available at certain points during the level where you have to save a pit or spike walls. Oh yes, because Mikey can now get hurt.
Improve something great
Along with environmental hazards such as spikes, levels have flying ninja stars and electric lines that need to be avoided. There are also enemies; three loveable robots that come colour-coded depending on the location of the spikes.
The easy blue ones can be destroyed with the slide movement (blue button), the yellow are flat on the top and can be used as an improvised platform while the red ones must be avoided, as they're all covered in spikes. That's a quick paragraph on evil robot evolution for you.
The additions of the hook points and the hazards are a great welcome to the perfectly laid out levels, which continue to be designed to the millimetre with the high score person in mind. Every obstacle, gap and step has been placed there for a reason, showing the obvious testing that has gone into it. If there was something to criticise is that everything is planned, everything is expected. Even that last world that looks overwhelming on the first attempt is there to be finished under a minute or so.
For a second game, BeaverTap Games has done a great job polishing secondary aspects. To begin with, iCloud sync between devices works, which not everyone gets right or dares to implement. The sub-goals like coin collection open a shop for customising your character without need to spend any extra. There is a single in-app-purchase option if you want to unlock upgrades such as a coin doubler, a coin magnet, extra life drawer and a retro graphic skin. Not essential by any mean but a nice complement if you decide you want to support Mikey Hooks with more than paying to download it.
What feels a little limited are the 24 levels included in the game. You can finish Mikey Hooks in just one sitting, which might disappoint casual users. The more hardcore crowd will be fine trying to beat scores endlessly, memorising every element to save some microseconds on that timer. For the more competitive ones there’s a race mode with slightly longer levels where you compete against the CPU (three of the spiky enemies), although I still found more rewarding the replaying aspect to beat my own ghost.
Just like Mikey Shorts, Hooks demonstrates that touch controls aren't something crazy and that short levels leaning less on exploration and more on skill are a very good fit for mobile. If you wonder why other developers keep making Temple Run clones and not Mikey clones… well that's because they are afraid of not being to pull it off.