Friday, August 2, 2019

COIN-OP REVIEW: Hook (1992)

Did you know the guys behind R-Type and Image Fight also gave us the ONLY Final Fight wannabe starring Robin Williams to ever make its way into an arcade? 


By: Jimbo X

I’ve watched Hook a couple of times, but to be honest, there’s only a couple of things I recall about it. First, there’s the part where Robin Williams gets knocked off the plank and a whole bunch of rainbow-haired mermaids start kissin’ on him — I recall that one vividly because it gave me what I can only describe as whatever you’d call the eight-year-old equivalent of a stiffy. The part where Robin and the Lost Boys have the food fight also made an impression on me, mainly because I have an inexplicable predilection for neon-hued, PlayDoh like comestibles. But mostly, the movie makes me wonder what it would be like to have Tinkerbell fly up my booty hole, and once that thought’s firmly in mind, forget being able to focus on anything else.

Now, Hook did indeed get quite a few video game ports, and I feel as if each version of the game was drastically different. Furthermore, no matter which system you played the game on — be it the NES, the Game Gear or the Game Boy — the game itself sucked out loud, which is a shame, really, considering the movie had all the makings of a halfway decent action platformer.

But lost in the pantheon of gaming nostalgia, however, is the fact that one fairly decent Hook game did indeed get made — and, believe it or not, it came in the form of an arcade game from Irem, the same muddafukkas who gave us R-Type and Image Fight.

Now, back in my gilded youth not once did I see a Hook arcade machine in the wild, and I didn’t even know that such a game existed until a couple of years back. Even more surprising, they actually produced it as a side-scrolling beat-em-up in the vein of The Simpsons and X-Men, complete with a four-player co-op mode. Oh, that’s right, you’re not just limited to playing as Robin Williams, they give you no less than FOUR different Lost Boys to choose from — I can only imagine the fights that ensued from people bickering over who got to be Thud Butt.

I thought about giving you a stage-by-stage recap regarding what to expect out of the game, but I figured that was old-hat … besides, there’s only so many different ways you can say “OK, now in this part, you kick this guy’s ass too” before it becomes a chore. So instead, I reckoned I’d tell you kids about my six favorite things from the game … or, at least, the six aspects of the game that stood out to me most while I played through it recently.

Come on, you know how cool that would've been if it had landed.

THE INTERACTIVE ENVIRONMENTS!

One of the really cool things about Hook that’s apparent from the get-go is that the designers really wanted to give players some neat shit to fuck around with throughout the levels. In most arcade side-scrolling-beat-em-ups, the environmental effects are limited to maybe making the occasional exploding barrel go ka-boom, but in Hook, there’s all kinds of ambiance to muck around with. For example, instead of just bopping a motherfucker over the head with a sword, you can LITERALLY dump a boiling hot cauldron on his testicles, or send a chandelier crashing on his noggin, or even set off an elaborate, Rube Goldberg-like device that ultimately concludes with LOTS of assholes getting shot with arrows. Yes, it’s not a wholly unique feature for the genre, but no matter how you look at it, you have to admit Hook does a WAY better job with the concept than most of its contemporaries.

So it's kinda' like Braveheart, except better.

THE FUCKING MACE WEAPON!

In Hook you start off with this really crappy looking wooden sword (or maybe it’s a real sword, but the animators didn’t know how to draw it properly.). Actually, it’s a weapon you’re stuck with indefinitely, but from time to time you do have the ability to briefly take advantage of dropped enemy weapons, virtually all of which have better range and deal out more damage than your piddly little default melee attack. While most of those weapons, like the spear and baseball, are use-once-and-destroy items, the game does include one limited exception in the form of this BAD ASS mace weapon that actually feels like it has some weight to it when you clobber a motherfucker raw with it. Of course, this being an IREM game, they had to make things hard on us by also making it a weapon that you lose the use of the MOMENT an enemy gets a shot in, so needless to say, your overall playtime with this particular weapon equipped is gonna’ be very, very short.

I take it this was a deleted scene from the director's cut ...

THE TOTALLY INEXPLICABLE PENGUINS!

The guys who made this game felt compelled to take a LOT of liberties with the source material. For example, does anybody remember that part in the movie where Robin Williams got attacked by scurvy-addled ruffians who blew Molotov cocktail breathe on him, or the part where he had to fight TWO red and green Captain Hooks at the same time? Alas, while the game did manage to get in a couple of neat homages to the actual movie (for example, the afore-mentioned rainbow haired mermaids make a cameo, and in the final boss fight, Robin Williams’ son is likewise dressed up like a mini-Dustin Hoffman), where it REALLY gets groovy is when they say “Fuck it, let’s just do whatever we want to fill space,” and nothing displays that creative, anarchic attittude better than the sequences of the game where — for no reason whatsoever — the tropical setting all of a sudden turns into an arctic wasteland, complete with a bunch of emperor penguins marching all over the place. Even weirder, there’s not just ONE arctic tundra level in the game, but a transitional layout that is used SEVERAL times throughout the game!

Needless to say, anybody who can make icecicles fall on you by shaking his dick once is somebody you DEFINITELY don't want to fuck with.

THAT SCARY ASS STAGE FOUR END-BOSS!

Speaking of the arctic tundra backdrop, that just so happens to be where stage four ends. And if you thought Robin Williams’ fight to the death with a giant retard swinging a telephone pole from the proceeding level was a brass-balled bastardization of the movie, just wait ‘til you go toe-to-toe with the top baddy here — this scrawny, Dhalsim-like SNOW WIZARD with a terrifying child-molestor laugh who can kick you from halfway across the screen and, periodically, tries to entrap you in a prison of icicles. All I can say is if Steven Spielberg put that in the REAL movie, we’d probably still be talking about how it ruined our collective childhoods to this day.

Congratulations, asshole — that's what you just spent $15 in quarters to see.

HOW GODDAMN HARD THE LAST LEVEL IS!

Look, by now, we all know that classic, old-school arcade beat-em-ups were designed to do one thing, and one thing only — eat all your fucking quarters. That’s why they always incorporated a multiplayer component (to double, quadruple or even sextuple their income) and why they ALWAYS made the final stage an absolute gang bang of bad guys so you’d HAVE to keep pumping change into the machine every 20 seconds. I’ve seen a lot of shameless offenders in my day, but even by early 1990s genre standards Hook is an especially egregious example. Seriously, you’d have to spend about $20 to get through the final boss fight against Captain Hook here, because you’re LITERALLY going to be dying every half minute or so. That’s ‘cause not only do you have to fight that cheap-ass, peg-legged motherfucker, you also have to do battle with a NEVER-ENDING stream of lackeys, including these purple-clad assholes who can jump up in the air and spin like buzzsaws and there ain’t Jack Shit you can do defensively to stop them. And if that wasn’t irritating enough, throughout all of this, fuckin’ Smee keeps shooting goddamn exploding cannonballs at you every five seconds, which have a blast radius large enough to impact a good 75 percent of the screen space NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE STANDING. Just beating this fucker on an emulator made me frustrated as all get-out; I can only IMAGINE the furor it inspired back in the day, when Little Johnny had to wipe out four months’ worth of allowance just to see this game’s basic-ass ending cutscene.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure this is the only arcade beat-em-up in which one of the face buttons LITERALLY performs sodomy.

THE NUT PUNCHING ATTACK!

And lastly, I wanted to touch upon what is EASILY the best thing about Hook, and it’s not even close — the fact that it’s one of the few beat-em-ups ever made that includes a BLATANT testicle bashing attack. Oh, I am not kidding, folks, as soon as you knock down an opponent, you can mash the stab button and Robin Williams goes into an animation cycle where he keeps dropping a Dusty Rhodes’ Bionic Elbow on his foe’s balls, and it’s pretty much the greatest thing you’ll ever see in a video game. In the grand pantheon of early ‘90s beat-em-ups, this HAS to be one of the most satisfying attacks you’ll ever witness; indeed, it kind of makes you wonder what kind of material we would’ve gotten had other Robin Williams’ movies gotten the belt scroller treatment. Although at this point, I’m still wondering if I would have preferred a quasi-3D brawler a’la Fighting Force on the PS1 based on Flubber, or a 2D, Guardian Heroes-like side-scroller on the Saturn patterned after Jack. I mean, The Birdcage pretty much has a two-player beat-em-up component built into its core concept already, didn’t it?

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