HellKid: Hook & Jump Review

Game Review: HellKid: Hook & Jump
Release: February 4th, 2010
Genre: Side Scroller, Action
Developer: Justnine Co. Ltd
Available Platforms: iPhone and iPod Touch (OS 2.2.1 or later required)
Players: 1
MSRP: $0.99 (66% discount currently available)
ESRB Rating: Rated 4+
Website: HellKid

HellKid: Hook & Jump is a 2 dimensional side-scroller for the iPhone and iPod Touch that just recently hit the App Store and promises to deliver a fantastic “pick up and play” style of mobile gaming.

In HellKid, you are playing as the main character, Devi, who appears to be trapped in a netherworld filled with flames and despair.  The goal, to collect enough souls throughout the game to become human.  The “souls” come in 2 flavors, blue and golden, and span 12 levels in the “Valley of Soul” mode which increases in difficulty and speed as you move along.  There is a second mode, “Valley of Despair” which is a hard and endless mode that features the same type of game play.  This mode is unlocked after reaching level 5 in the “Valley of Soul” mode which isn’t as easy as it sounds.

The general game play involves helping Devi along his quest by using hooks and jumps with the touch screen.  To jump, you simply tap the screen and to hook you have to hold your finger on the screen, which proves to be necessary in order to make longer jumps.  Various golden souls are setup in patterns that force you to really think about your hook release points if you want to maximize the number you are collecting.  Golden souls come in groups, and will reward you with Good, Great, Excellent and Awesome scores depending on how difficult the patterns are.

The one thing that struck me about this game from the first time I played it is how fun and easy it is to just pick up and play.  It is not an easy game by any means, but keeps you coming back for “just one more game” or to try and top your personal best.  The game play is very smooth in all aspects and has the ability to pause (up to 3 times in a single game) in case you need to step away which I like.  I also noticed that while playing once, I received a phone call (I played on the iPhone) and the game paused on its own.  That was a nice thing to see, as some apps I have used in the past just exit out without the ability to pick back up where I had left off.  In terms of game play, it truly could not be any simpler.  Run (automatically), jump and hook.  The real challenge is gathering the souls while dealing with the ever-increasing speed as you progress and timing the jumps just right to keep going.

Account creation (for leaderboards, etc.) was a snap, and done within the game in the matter of just a few seconds.  The game also features things like online and local leaderboards as well as Facebook and Twitter integration which I found to be pretty nice.  You can share your top score as a Tweet or a Facebook update, and through the leaderboards see where you stack up against everyone else (in my case, not good…I think I was 39th last I checked).  HellKid has some Achievements to work towards as well, which I really enjoy.  It could be that I am a console gamer so I appreciate having Achievements and Trophies to work towards in a game.  It almost adds an element of re-playability, which I think they nailed with HellKid.  The local statistics that are kept are very nice also.  What levels you have cleared and how many times you have cleared them, your total score, total time played and over a dozen more statistics are available.  I was actually pretty pleasantly surprised at how deep such a simple game like this is.

I really only noticed two things that I felt could be improved, and they are fairly minor.  First, if you are right handed and use your thumb (I am assuming most people would do this), your thumb tends to “block” the bottom right of the screen.  I know that sounds fairly obvious (where else would you tap after all?) but I found when I first started playing that it would cause me to miss the “gaps” that you have to jump over in certain situations.  I personally got past this by shifting my thumb over a little more to the left, but I have large hands so it was not that difficult.  I suppose you could also use your left thumb to tap the screen, but that just felt too awkward to me.

The second thing that is a minor annoyance to me are some of the patterns.  I am sure it is by design, but many of the patterns seem like traps to bait you into jumping to your demise.  Yes, I know…if I was better at the game and had quicker reflexes (damn you old age *shaking my fist at the skies*), I could probably react quicker and not die.  Maybe it is part of the game…who knows…but many times I find myself following a pattern to gather souls only to realize that the last jump I took to get the most souls possible was a mistake, ending in the game being over.

If I had to make one request to the developers it would be to include a “checkpoint” after a certain level, say level 4 or 6.  It is fairly easy to get up to 5, but past that takes a little luck and quick reflexes.  I get the point of a cumulative reward type game, but that seems to be covered in the endless mode (Valley of Despair).

All in all, I love this app.  I have found myself oddly addicted to it and play it whenever I get a free minute here and there.  It’s easy enough to just pick up, and quick enough that you don’t have to dedicate a ton of time to it for some action.  The depth of stats and integration with social networks just adds to the fun, and shows me that Justnine really gets it, and frankly that is refreshing.  Heck, how many major console games are lacking in leaderboards, stats and online integration?  For $0.99 (at a current 66% discount), this application is a no-brainer recommendation from me.  True story, I told my 13 year old daughter, who has an iPod Touch, about it and she has been hooked (hahaha PUN!) on it ever since.  Overall I give HellKid: Hook & Jump a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

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