Cyber Hook is a first-person platformer action game where you’re trying to move towards the goal as fast as possible. Thanks to your handy hook, that helps you keep your momentum, you can often zoom through levels in a manner of seconds, that is if you get the hang of the mechanics. What seems like a sure-fire hit pulls most of the speed and feel of the game off well, but ultimately misses the mark.
While you’re swinging through the halls of cyberspace you’ll be dodging obstacles, making huge leaps of faith, and of course, using your hook to propel yourself to safety. There are multiple ways to get through each level, but there’s often a clear path or way that the game wants you to go. A lack of clear visual indication and path design can sometimes lead you in off-directions and I felt like the visual design did more to wow with neon colors than lead me properly to the finish line.
This is a score-chasing game through and through. You can often finish a level in no-time-flat, but going back and achieving three points for each level is where the true challenge lies. There’s a bit of a story involving you being stuck in cyberspace, but ultimately, the goal is simple, and getting there fast is the hard part. You’ll need enough points to unlock the next world, so it’s not a matter of just getting through, as you’ll have to spend some time actually perfecting the controls to really nail lower times and earn more points.
Within the eighty or so levels, your main tool, the hook, is undeniably fun. Swinging like a blue and red hero in spandex, you’ll grapple and pull yourself around until you let go of the line. This propels you forward and is the way to add additional momentum to your jumps. When you’re in a groove, it feels flawless and effortless. When you miss a swing and fall to your demise or feel like you are aiming aimlessly for a ceiling or ledge to attach to, everything feels off. It’s mostly you, of course, but for anyone with a fear of heights, it’s a bad experience like your stomach dropping and it makes you anxious to try again.
Knowing how the angle of the hook and trajectory works in tandem is essential, but I personally felt like I never truly got the rhythm or pacing down. Thankfully, there was an ability that allowed me to slow-down time to get a precise grab or be able to shoot and take out turrets that threaten you through runs, and while this alleviated my lack in abilities, the game’s pacing felt off there, too. It’s a weird mix of gameplay mechanics, and where it really becomes a problem is later in the game.
Once you’re past the first batches of levels, the game starts throwing curveballs at you, and fast. Once instant kill surfaces come into play, indicators of which way to go seem too little too late. Tight spaces where touching either the walls or the floor means death is more nervewracking than fun, and where a swinging good time was a certainty in the earlier levels, these levels just seem like a matter of luck and it almost wants you to say “no thanks, I’m good” after enough torture. It’s a shame because the potential of the mechanics if they were to take a more exploratory approach, would be great fun and accessible to anyone, whereas it seems like it’s trying to appeal more to hardcore gamers looking for an extreme challenge.
The graphics in Cyber Hook are a Tron-like neon-lit wireframe look, and for all intents and purposes, it fits quite well. Each platform has a glossy sheen to it and even though you don’t have much time to pay attention to the details available, you’re going to see the same types of blocks over and over again. The arenas are set up inside of a Synthwave-feeling environment with a gorgeously rendered cyber sunset, and the music fits well to the action and graphics. They certainly wear the inspirations for the design of the game on their sleeve, and it pays homage to those 80s arcade games quite well.
At the end of the day, Cyber Hook can manage to be a really fun game, depending on whether you’re looking for a challenge or not. The swinging, when executed properly, feels natural and effortless, and those moments are where the game truly shines. The rest of the game, especially the intentionally frustrating design of some levels where death is a single misstep away, can really suck the fun out of a game that I feel successfully expands on a cool traversal mechanic.
Cyber Hook is available now for the Nintendo Switch and on Steam.