Title: Cyber Hook
Developer: Blazing Stick
Release Date: June 24, 2021
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Graffiti Games
Games that embody design philosophies encouraging speedrunning are few and far between. While having a clear audience at the forefront of presentation is wise, speedrunning, in particular, is a steep niche that requires rigorous passion and dedication from the developers to truly blossom.
Cyber Hook is one such title that is heavily intentioned for players to take advantage of its replay value, growing more adept over time. However, at its core, it’s an absolute blast for the right crowd, as hours can pass by in seemingly a blink of an eye when trying to get the best times possible regardless of noticeable design flaws.
Cyber Hook has a vague premise, but it’s really just there to superficially push events forward, which isn’t an issue for this type of game. While being void of context for the predicament, there’s some humor in the story delivery. As the player character awakens and ventures to escape the strange area, a peculiar robot offers a helping hand with learning gameplay mechanics.
This robot occasionally references slightly more involved affairs regarding the narrative behind the scenes and hidden intricacies revolving around the mechanics. Still, it willingly avoids divulging on imparting any of this information during tutorials. This approach is unique because the story is clearly not the highlight and doesn’t take itself seriously, but it leaves vague breadcrumbs for those intrigued enough to feed on.
Moving on, though, because what players are really here for is the parkour action. Cyber Hook is heavily based on momentum and diligence. It is a fast-paced first-person romp where both reactive tendencies and memorization of stage layouts must be mastered to attain the level of success players desire. In addition, completing the game requires players to receive a certain amount of crystals obtained by finishing stages in the allotted times.
Part of the beauty of Cyber Hook is that while, yes, there is an endpoint once having collected the requisite amount of crystals, players can dedicate their time to speedrunning levels for more crystals even if they do not necessarily need them for progression. The optional nature of not having to accomplish everything within a level shows an ample degree of confidence from the developers in the game’s fundamental design. One can mostly pick and choose which stages they want to conquer and which they would rather minimally squeeze by.
Controls feature only a few mechanics, which is vital for a title requiring acute precision, thereby not much room to get lost. Players can run forward, which is obvious, but the longer one runs, the longer their speed and momentum build up. The lack of a standardized and constant run speed regardless of how long one is consistently moving on the ground makes it imperative to not blindly hold forward since altering course once momentum has accumulated high enough is an arduous task.
Momentum and jumping are inextricably linked, as utilizing the latter with high momentum lead to lengthy joyrides across the map. Speaking of movement, it’s almost humorous. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten this far into the review without even mentioning why the game is even called Cyber Hook in the first place; the reason being the major gimmick to progression is using the grappling hook the player character possesses.
This tool is what the entirety of progression is based on, and mastering its timing is key to success. In fact, using the grappling hook effectively allows skipping entire segments of stages, which is certainly intentional in some cases seeing as the time requirements for some crystals are quite demanding. Still, the fulfillment that arises from successfully leaping and swinging across large areas of the map is unparalleled. Even if the act of this ‘sequence breaking’ is imaginary, the positivity associated with it is genuine through and through.
In regards to difficulty, Cyber Hook is expectedly difficult. The later stages become undeniably frustrating, which is par for the course for this genre. Still, some stages level little room for human error of any kind, making the experience largely unfun. Some may find enjoyment from this, but these stages require intensive practice and resolve while being a significant step up from previous levels.
Additionally, the delivery of stages felt somewhat haphazard in terms of difficulty, as some felt far easier than those that came right after. In essence, the division of stages made little to no sense with approachability. There were times where I would easily beat a stage and then struggle for roughly half an hour on the following one. This also happened frequently and wasn’t one-note, so it was an omnipresent conundrum I grew inwardly perplexed at. Finally, there is an optional gyroscope functionality that I can’t even imagine playing with but is there for those who desire it. I played with a Pro Controller and found it comfortable and natural.
Cyber Hook uses its mechanics to provide a fast-paced and compelling speed-running experience. However, the balance of difficulty doesn’t work in execution as frustrating requirements lead to shorter play sessions. Still, this Switch version manages to offer a high level of enjoyment thanks to responsive controls and the addictive drive to clear challenges that are just out of reach. It’s a good thing you’re equipped with a hook.
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