By Scott Ramage / May 11th, 2019
|Developer||Tuwi Michael Nannings|
|Release Date||February 25th, 2019|
|Platform||PC (Steam), Android|
Let’s talk for a moment about game development. Even when making something relatively simple, it can be unexpectedly and unfathomably difficult to get a project from start to finish. That hasn’t stopped Tuwi Michael Nannings, a one-man development crew, from churning out eight games in less than five months, one of those being a puzzle game called Hookshot. And no, there won’t be any Legend of Zelda or basketball jokes in this review.
Hookshot’s premise is incredibly simple. Move a square or circle through a closed course, past some obstacles, then touch the end level gem. Touching any spikes destroys the square or circle and respawns it at the start of the level. The square can only move in the four cardinal directions while the circle can move in any direction, with a single button press tossing it in a straight line to wherever it’s aiming. The player doesn’t aim at all; the line rotates automatically. I’m not sure why the player couldn’t control the aiming, as waiting for the line to move into position while controlling the circle is a bit too slow. Even considering this was released as a mobile game about eight months earlier, the controls end up being too simple and the game becomes dull quickly.
Simplicity doesn’t just stop with the premise and the controls, though. Hookshot doesn’t even have a title screen. Instead it has a mostly monochrome level select menu and some options scattered at the bottom of the screen. The levels themselves are even more bare bones, using flat colors and basic shapes for everything. The most risque levels are bold enough to use a slight gradient instead of a solid color for a background. It all looks like placeholder graphics for when the finished models and textures are ready, but it’s the finished game. Thomas Was Alone was another game that used simple shapes and graphics, but it didn’t also sacrifice style in the process.
The description for Hookshot says it’s a “fun and challenging game.” I disagree. Most levels took me less than twenty seconds to get through, with some not even hitting the ten-second mark. Things don’t ramp up until the game is almost over, and even then it’s not difficult in the slightest. The game’s idea of challenge is including basic obstacles that either don’t take much thought to get past, or aren’t planned out well and backfire completely. Some levels have the square turn into a circle and back for each move. Some have moving platforms, or platforms which disappear when touched. Spikes or switches to open blocked paths are common, as are glowing walls that launch the square or circle across the stage. When these were laid out in what’s supposed to be a more complex sequence, I would just launch the square or circle right through the middle of it and bypass the whole thing. The only challenge I found was when I realized spikes can reach through moving platforms and hit the square or circle, even when they clearly don’t touch each other.
Sound-wise, I don’t know what I could possibly add. Much like the visuals, the sound effects and music come off as placeholders, put in until the real effects and music are ready. You know what Hookshot does have? Achievements. This game’s reason for existing, at least on PC, is to farm Steam achievements. All the achievements are tied to beating a level. This is only slightly better than games which hand out achievements for every second the game is open. That’s not much of a positive though, since it took me longer to write this review than it did to complete every level in Hookshot. I finished the game’s 24 stages in under 15 minutes, at which point the screen cut to an ad for two other Nannings-made titles.
Hookshot comes off as an attempt to ween money out of people who value Steam achievements way too much. It thinks it’s way more clever than it actually is, to the point the “SUCCESS!” text at the end of every level feels condescending. For a game loaded with achievements, I felt no sense of achievement or joy in completing it. I almost gave this a slightly higher rating for not being buggy, but given the game’s limited scope that would be like rewarding a bridge for not collapsing when a pigeon landed on it. At its normal $2 asking price, I couldn’t possibly recommend it.
Review copy provided by publisher.
HookshotNanningsGamesPCTuwi Michael Nannings