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App of the Day: Super Quickhook

Swinging done right.

When I were a lad all the best games had Super in the title. So even before Super Quickhook's retro sprites and chiptunes have worked their simple charms, there's something nostalgic to it. But the aesthetics are as far as it goes.

Super Quickhook looks like a classic from yesteryear, but it's a modern thoroughbred of the one-touch school. Its long and diverse missions, as well as two superb endless modes, are structured around doing one thing really well - swinging on a hook. Don't all rush at once.

For Super Quickhook, this single skill is refined and built around with real focus, and more than a little imagination. Tapping in the upper right of the screen shoots out your grappling hook, diagonally upwards in the direction the character's facing. When the hook catches, the character holds on to the rope for as long as your finger's still on the screen. So: release to jump.

Super Quickhook's cartoon physics are utterly convincing, wedding its predictable arcs and momentum to the player's wavering aim and release. The movements are given a little spice by smart effects, like a brief ghost trail after an especially well-timed release, but it's the nuances of angle and swing timings that give it layers of possibilities.

By the later levels, grapple-resistant spikes are introduced and used to mark out precisely-designed and very tough zigzag assault courses.

Such a capable system allows Super Quickhook's environments to be multi-threaded, with various routes open to those who can haul themselves up or fall down at the right moment. But it's not as sedate as all that. Super Quickhook gives you total control over your character's speed, but it rarely lets you stop moving - after the first few levels it's essential to keep airborne, and be capable of making long swings at a moment's notice.

Some old-school roots show through here, too - its levels are designed around a classic Nintendo principle. First it shows a new obstacle in a simple context, and then it begins building gauntlets out of them. Super Quickhook's environments are constructed from repeating building blocks and formations, which is why the endless modes are so good, but its trick is to never stop adding to the overall pile. And as it's doing this, the environments create an adventure - from early vibrant woodlands to sparse mountains, through ruins and fungus-encrusted undergrounds, over erupting fields of fire and finally into a dark and deadly temple. The fact you can buy a fedora from the in-game shop is just the icing on the cake.

Super Quickhook's most enduring mode, however, is Avalanche - one of the two unlockable endless runs. This is a randomly generated level where, after a short time, an avalanche starts coming from the left, so the aim is to go right as far and as fast as possible. This is quickhooking at its purest, a breathless sprint that tests everything you can do and always manages to stay one step ahead. On its own it would be merely brilliant. With the addition of a Duel mode, which lets you challenge mates asynchronously on the same Avalanche course, this is a competitive essential.

Super Quickhook has a great predecessor, Hook Champ, and a great sequel, Hook Worlds. But in this middle entry the hooking is at its purest. Its adventure mode is brilliantly done, and the in-game shop and unlockables always have a little reward for plentiful play, but in Avalanche mode developer Rocketcat Games found the purest context for its near-perfect mechanic. And when Super Quickhook is just left to swing, it soars.

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