Every so often a game is released that everyone feels the need to imitate. Portal not only featured a revolutionary gameplay concept, it was darn funny as well. This spawned games inspired by Portal‘s gameplay and games inspired by its humor. Grappling Hook is a game that flagrantly apes both, and still manages to be decent fun.
Grappling Hook is an indie PC/Mac/Linux game based around its titular hook. Your goal is to traverse each level of the game using an energy-based grappling hook gun that allows you to grab and pull yourself towards special green surfaces at high speed. Along the way you must collect all floating access codes to unlock each level-end teleporter. As one might expect from such a game, the levels are designed to provide some significant impedance between you and your goals. Blocks will try to crush you, lasers will try to blast you, electricity will try to fry you and gravity’s ever-present tug will often be your literal downfall.
This is Grappling Hook‘s main draw, its level design, not so much the grappling as one may think. The game attempts to throw occasional inside jokes and Portal-esque taunts at you. These mostly fall flat. The graphics don’t quite pull off a Tron-like virtual reality look and end up looking a bit boring, clinical and sometimes even ugly. The level design, however, is brilliant. Taking a simple gameplay mechanic like a grappling hook, and building such varied and clever levels around it must have been a daunting task. The developer, Christian Teister, pulled it off quite brilliantly. The levels aren’t perfect in every respect, but I feel confident in saying Valve should hire Christian and put him on the level design team for Portal 2.
Grappling Hook‘s creativity lies solely in its level design, and yet that’s all a game like this truly needs at its core. It includes an achievement system and a level editor for armchair architects. Unless you demand an epic story and jaw-dropping graphics, you’ll find some great and challenging gameplay in Grappling Hook. The price of $14.95 USD feels a little steep for about 3 hours of gameplay, but I still recommend it.