Cyber Hook is a retro wave aesthetic platformer developed by Blazing Stick and published by Grafitti Games. You’ve woken up in a retro eighties music lovers wet dream, and you’re given the cyber hook, a nifty little grappling hook to get from A to B. Next thing you know you’ve lost six hours of your life to three levels over and over again, and you have no intention of stopping. Let’s swing into the Cyber Hook PC Review.
You wake up in a neon dream. A floating computer screen tells you he’s there to help you escape out of this place and back to the real world, so he gives you a Cyber Hook, a great little tool that lets you grapple to certain objects in the environment and propel yourself towards the exit door. Once he’s done teaching you the basics, he informs you that you need to collect crystals to stop NUMERO, a hostile entity, from finding you and destroying both of you.
It’s a bare-bones story but the joy of Cyber Hook was never to be found in a plot, in actuality I found it fun and focused that a game like Cyber Hook would bother with a plot at all, however loose it might be. It does lend you just enough structure to feel like blasting through these levels has a point to it, something that can sometimes be lost to other devs in games with a simple focus like this one.
Cyber Hook is about one thing. Get from the start to the end gate as quickly as possible, in any way you can. Starting off you’ll find the mechanics quite simple; hook onto the block, hold grab to reel yourself in, jump to let go. You get a double jump, you can slow downtime to help you aim (also gives a noticeable range extension on the hook when time is slowed) and there’s a wall running mechanic that is honestly very seldom needed or even used, but the game never really requires wall running anyway so you can almost forget it’s there and the other mechanics make for a perfect blend.
A great feature that surprised me was that running on a flat surface will consistently increase your speed, and fairly rapidly as well. It’s surprising that in a game about using the cyber hook to propel and throw yourself, that simply running becomes a preferable method of transport.
These are the basics. Soon you learn a few more advanced things; pull yourself over the ground at the start to get an immediate speed boost, stay low to keep speed as moving upwards will drain your momentum, hook your way around entire set pieces to cut huge amounts of time off of each run. The more you play a level the more you’ll adapt, you may abandon a strategy, then alter the first one again and find it’s even faster, and you’ll do this five or six times before settling on a general game plan that simply requires honing your skills.
This all combines together to form the most technical, electrically charged, intense platformer you’ve ever played. Imagine the web-swinging mechanic from the Spiderman games. Felt great to chain web swings together perfectly to boost yourself at huge speeds around New York City, didn’t it? Now imagine that mechanic turned up to 11, requiring a huge amount of technical precision, reaction speeds and fine momentum control to properly place every hook and swing accordingly.
Nothing is on autopilot; the controls are so unbelievably precise and polished but everything is your doing. If you’re fast enough, precise enough, and honestly downright stubborn enough to repeat the same level fifty times (that’s no exaggeration, but most levels are thirty seconds long for the best ranking and each death gives an immediate reset, so there’s no downtime) Cyber Hook is in my opinion, the most technically demanding and satisfying platformer I have ever played, nothing even comes close.
Outside of this, I would argue Cyber Hook isn’t for a casual audience. And by this I mean the game is incredible in filling its niche, but the joy of it comes from mastery and repetition in getting that time lower and lower. Cyber Hook can get fiendishly difficult to get max rank on some of its later levels, and requires a steady hand and a good strategy. One incredible feature is that you can check the leaderboards and watch all the replays of the top players if you feel bold enough to copy their strategies, but be warned; the skill ceiling is insanely high in this game. Some strategies are so hard to replicate the average player would need dozens if not hundreds of hours to reach the level of precision to pull them off, and I am definitely bog average compared to the top players.
There are roughly seventy levels to choose from and the only pitfall the game has is that some levels (though not many) seem to be designed against the rules of momentum and flow you develop and to achieve that coveted max rank time you need to either understand the level’s gimmick or just have a crazy amount of skill to make it all flow together. If you’re stuck, watch the top four or five runs to see what the strategy is, then adapt it down to your skill level. Otherwise, you’ll never find the flow yourself in some of those levels.
If Cyber Hook had all these mechanics but was boringly detailed, I likely would have never wanted to play it. Look at these screenshots, the aesthetic of this game is frankly gorgeous and makes the game pop in a way other art styles wouldn’t have. However, it feeds back into the gameplay as well, as different coloured blocks do different things; blue blocks can be hooked, yellow blocks can’t. Red blocks will kill you if touched and can’t be hooked, but purple blocks can be hooked but will kill you if touched. Also, green blocks are obstacles you need to shoot to destroy.
This isn’t an innovation of gameplay obviously, but look at the way the different colours pop in the neon aesthetic of the game; each block is immediately and starkly contrasted against others so you know exactly what you’re looking at the second it comes into view. This is absolutely vital for a game that moves at Mach 7 for most of its time with you, the graphics may seem like a cool aesthetic on the surface but underneath its also immediate sensory information, clearly shown. One look at a map and you’re already identifying obstacles and creating a mental path of how to move forward, giving a feeling of professional love and care to how this game was crafted, you feel like the art style was intentionally chosen to enhance the gameplay.
Cyber Hook has a very satisfying sound design, but to be honest the feedback is all visual. The sounds are there for immersion rather than to convey anything, and they do a good enough job. Nothing is jarring or out of place, and everything feels good to listen to but in terms of audio nothing blows me away. One notable thing though is the counting noise made as your score goes up the leaderboard at the end of a level, whoever designed that I salute you as hearing that counter tick up after a speedy run is pure dopamine.
The game seems to only have a handful of tracks that play during the game, and it would be nicer to have a few more different tracks. I found myself wanting to insert my own music into the game so I could do these incredible feats to my own pumped-up music, though in hindsight due to the very short level lengths you’d only get into an intro of a track before the level was over. Can’t have everything I guess.
Cyber Hook PC Review – Verdict
I f**king love this game. You may not like the look or sound of it, and we’re all into different things. This definitely isn’t for everyone. I’ve already had comments of people watching me play it saying ‘I couldn’t do the same level over and over, it would just massively frustrate me’ and that’s a perfectly valid point. If you’re a casual gamer who likes plot and multiple mechanics with some variety of gameplay, this ain’t for you. If however, you’re looking for a game that requires incredible skill, strategizing, depth to the mechanics and rewards you for sinking hours upon into perfecting something, then stop whatever you’re doing and buy Cyber Hook on steam right now. As you read this I’ll likely already be playing it again.
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