Hook (Game Gear)

The Game Gear hasn’t been getting much love lately. Well, technically the whole site hasn’t been getting much love lately. It makes a bit of sense at least. The Game Gear is the smallest of all my collections with only about 10 games in it currently. That’s actually a shame because I really love the Game Gear. Even if it ate batteries faster than anything else I’ve ever owned. So today, we’re going to take a whack at a game I loved to play as a kid but never managed to beat, Hook.

Hook, as the name suggests, is a movie tie in game with the 1991 Robin Williams movie of the same name. For those who have never seen it, it is a live action sequel of sorts to Peter Pan. In this version, Peter has married the grand-daughter of Wendy from the original story. In doing so, he has left Neverland behind, grown up into a workaholic corporate lawyer, and become a somewhat neglectful father of two. His new lifestyle has caused him to forget all about his past adventures as Peter Pan, which would be fine, if it weren’t also causing strain on his marriage and family life in the present. Even though he’s in a bit of a rough patch in his life, he never once thinks of possibly returning to Neverland. However, that doesn’t stop Neverland from coming to him, as one night his old nemesis Captain Hook comes to kidnap his two kids right out of their beds. Peter must remember who he once was and become the Peter Pan of the stories if he wants to save his kids. It’s actually a fantastic movie, and one of my favorites when I was growing up. So let’s see what the game version has to offer!

Gameplay

The game begins with Peter and his two kids, Jack and Maggie, standing by the window of Wendy’s old room. It’s time for bed, but the kids have questions for their father. Is Grandmother Wendy the same Wendy from the stories? Are the stories even real? Of course they are, but Peter has grown up and forgotten all about them. Instead, he insists that they’re just stories and they should stop thinking about it and go to sleep.

Naturally, the children don’t like that answer and insist that the stories must be real. This just makes Peter angry, yell at the kids to stop asking questions, and tell them again to just go to bed. How are they ever going to grow up if they can’t tell fact from fiction?

Getting the final word in, he sends them to bed telling them they’ll understand what he means when they grow up. However, the silhouette of a pirate ship in front of the moon implies they’ll learn a very different lesson tonight.

Later that night, Peter discovers the children are missing from their beds. Left behind is a note instructing him to come to Neverland if he wants to save them. Signed by Captain Hook himself.

Having forgotten all about Neverland, he thinks it’s some kind of joke the kids are playing on him, and starts yelling for them to come out. But no one comes. Instead, Tinkerbell shows up, sad to see that Peter has forgotten all about her, but willing to help him anyway.

The important thing is that Peter needs to save his kids, and she is here to help. This catches Peter’s attention, but he is still hesitant. He has forgotten all about his time as Peter Pan, and more importantly, he has forgotten how to fly.

Not wanting to waste any more time, Tink gives up arguing with him and simply knocks him out. She then wraps him up in a makeshift hammock and carries him to Neverland, he can figure out the rest once he gets there.

Once they arrive in Neverland, Tink brings him to the Lost Boys. Even though he has changed quite a bit since he left, she assures them that this is in fact Peter Pan. Most importantly, she needs their help reminding him how to be Peter Pan so he can save his kids.

The Lost Boys are skeptical. They’re willing to help, but only if he really is Peter Pan. Tink starts to defend him, but Rufio, the current leader of the Lost Boys, shows up to voice his objection. There is no way this person can be Peter Pan.

When Peter Pan left Neverland, he handed his magic sword over to Rufio, and that makes him Peter Pan now. So if Tink and Peter want the Lost Boys’ help, he needs to defeat Rufio first.

Even though this is all still training, Peter sure looks the part now in Pan’s classic green outfit. And while he might be lacking Pan’s magic sword, the regular sword he has on him is doing the job just fine against these Lost Boys. Likewise, he has yet to be remember how to fly properly, but he sure can jump pretty high.

Death Count: 02

However, there is a noticeable lag between the time you press the button and the time Peter actually swings his sword. Because of this, even a couple of hungry fish are strong enough to take down the mighty Peter Pan.

I think the problem is that the animation has a complete backswing, which causes there to be a full 15 frames between when the button is pressed and when the attack is registered. So we’re going to have to get used to attacking slightly earlier than we world normally expect. Unfortunately, that doesn’t help us any with the Lost Boys jumping down from high ledges, as Peter completely lacks any ability to attack upwards.

Death Count: 03

Thankfully, Tink is waiting just up ahead to lend us a hand. We might not be able to fly on our own, but with a good helping of Pixie Dust, we can fly for a short period of time. Sadly, the ability to fly is simply no match for Lost Boys on skateboards…

One good thing the game does have going for it though is the fact that you get unlimited continues. You need to start the stage over again after a continue, but the stages are all so short that it might as well be infinite lives.

Death Count: 05

And with how quickly we keep dying, we might be using quite a few of those infinite lives before we make it to Captain Hook…

Death Count: 06

Luckily, the stage is incredibly short and Rufio is just up ahead ready to fight us. Most likely resulting in our death, of course.

Rufio is the first boss though, so the strategy for defeating him is pretty simple. All we have to do is wait for him to wind up for his attack, and then get our attack in first. Looks like we’re not the only ones suffering from input lag in this game.

With Rufio defeated, he admits that we are in fact Peter Pan and hands over the magic sword. Thanks to this training, Peter also remembers being Peter Pan and is ready to fight Captain Hook to get his kids back.

In between stages, we get to see Peter’s progress around Neverland and over to Captain Hooks ship. It would seem that Peter has taken the rather illogical approach of going completely counterclockwise around the entire island rather than simply head 20 feet west to the ship. Maybe he’s trying to take him by surprise?

Anyway, the next stage is a forest stage and there are a few things we learn right at the beginning. First, Pan’s magic sword is actually quite powerful, capable of sending an energy wave out of it that can attack enemies from a distance. This will really help to counter the input lag. Also we discover a leaf which adds an additional point of health to our life meter, which we are very grateful for.

Death Count: 08

As we jump through the trees, we quickly learn a very sad truth about this game. That magic sword has a very limited lifespan on it. As soon as we are hit even once, it loses its powers. That would be fine, except that it’s not a full health ability, it’s actually a onetime power up. After respawning from a death, the power is gone and can only be reacquired if we find the magic sword again somewhere in the world.

Death Count: 09

Without the power of the magic sword, we’ll have to be extra careful to avoid the pirates and archers in the forest as we jump from tree to tree. More importantly, we’ll have to simply pay attention that we actually land on a tree branch, because some of these trees are apparently too tall to fall out of.

Eventually, we make it to a set of trees that have apparently been hollowed out by a very strange forest person. This forest person will pop in and out of the various holes in the trees at random, and it’s up to Peter to find him and attack him before he goes back into hiding. Curiously, there are also several phantom boxing gloves that might pop out of the holes instead, so we need to be on guard.

Thankfully, this is a very easy battle. After hitting him a few times, he’ll go fly off into the distance, never to be seen again. It looks like we also managed to rescue a Lost Boy in the process. I wasn’t aware the Lost Boys had been kidnapped as well as Peter’s own kids, but apparently they have and we’ll have to rescue them along the way to rescuing Peter’s kids.

Death Count: 10

As we continue our way around the island, we find ourselves on the side of a cliff and we need to find a way to reach the top. This would be so easy if Peter could remember how to fly, but he can’t, so we’ll have to take the long way up. Along the way, we’ll have to fight more pirates of course, but we also encounter the first regular enemy that doesn’t die from a single hit. These barrel riding pirates just get right back up and try to run Peter over again.

Death Count: 13

In addition to the enemies becoming stronger, and in this stage having the high ground advantage, we also start to notice that the hit detection is a bit questionable at best. I swear I was nowhere near some of the enemies and it still registered that I was hit.

About half way up the Cliffside, we actually manage to find Pan’s magic sword again. This certainly make the rest of the journey up a bit easier. Especially against enemies on different levels than we are. Just jump up and shoot the beam at them.

Shortly after that, we find Tink waiting for us. With her help, we can simply fly the rest of the way up the cliff where we find another Lost Boy waiting for us to rescue him.

Death Count: 14

We may have reached the top of the cliff, but now we have to pass across the waterfall to get to the other side. This is made much easier with Tink’s help. But we still have quite a few pirates stationed all across the waterfall to contend with.

Death Count: 15

After failing to simply fly high over everyone and running out of Pixie Dust, we try flying low under everyone, and that seems to be the better way to go. Not only does Tink fly ahead and wait to refill our Pixie Dust flying this route, but we also manage to find a Power Leaf to increase our health down here.

Death Count: 16

Once we make it across the waterfall, Tink is waiting for us once again to help us fly up and over a rather steep cliff side. With her help, this is a simple task. Unfortunately, it looks like someone is floating sticks of dynamite down on us from above with balloons. We’ll have to be careful passing through this section or Peter Pan might just get blown to bits.

Death Count: 17

If we manage to make it through the falling dynamite alive, we find ourselves at the edge of a cliff with no option but a leap of faith down into the unknown. Turns out we’re jumping right into the lagoon and quickly get eaten alive by more hungry fish.

Death Count: 19

This section feels impossible. We’re almost guaranteed to take damage just jumping into the water because we can’t see where the fish are before we jump. But then once we’re in the water, the hit boxes are too big and we get hit by fish that look like they’re nowhere near us. The above image for example, in the next frame registers a hit. Both of those fish look far enough away that neither one of them should be able to hit Peter right now.

Death Count: 22

Between how tall Peter is, the auto scroll, the attack lag, and having to swim, everything just rolls up into this impossible little stretch of water that we keep dying in over and over AND OVER again.

Death Count: 25

Eventually we find a strategy that works for us, though it is a bit cowardly for Peter Pan. Rather than swimming in the center, we instead swim so low that only the very top of Peter’s head can be seen on screen. Swimming this low, only the lowest swimming fish are any problem at all.

Death Count: 28

After what felt like forever, we finally manage to climb out of the water at the far bank of the lagoon. Sadly, our trouble aren’t over yet. On the other side, we find Tink once again waiting for us, and for good reason. The floor has become overgrown with thorns, so we can’t walk on it. If that isn’t bad enough, there is also a pirate here that is throwing his swords at us like boomerangs while we try to stay in the air.

Thankfully, it only takes a couple of hit for him to go down. If we simply rush him, we might get lucky and kill him before he manages to kill us. In doing so, we manage to save yet another Lost Boy that for some reason was kidnapped by pirates.

Death Count: 29

This brings us to the snow covered mountains on the north side of the island. Here, there are tons of sharp spike pits for Peter Pan to fall into, as well as a large assortment of pirates roaming the jagged hills. On the plus side, there is a very easy to grab extra life very near to the beginning of the stage. Not that lives matter much, but it’s still encouraging to have the extra lives.

Death Count: 31

As the level continues, we even manage to find an additional Power Leaf, bringing our max health up to 5 hits before death. Then shortly after we find a second extra life for this level. We’re really racking up those infinite lives now!

Death Count: 33

Anyway, we eventually make our way through the mountain range and find that bastard that that dropping bombs on us in the last level. This time he has defended himself beneath the spiked floors of the mountain in a place where Peter can’t reach him. From there, he’s just sending bomb and bomb floating up to blow Peter Pan to pieces.

After a few attempts, we finally come up with a strategy to deal with this guy. By staying to the sides, we can lure the balloons away from the center platform. Then we can jump over them and pop the balloons, sending the dynamite falling down onto the pirate’s head.

A few rounds of this, and that pirate is done for good. Once again, we manage to rescue a Lost Boy we didn’t even realize was missing. Actually, didn’t we save this exact Lost Boy several times already? Does he just keep getting kidnapped again after we save him?

According to the map, we’re about halfway around the island now, only a few more stages to go. For this next stage, we’re actually going to mix things up. Instead of the typical platforming we’ve been doing so far, it’s actually an auto scrolling flying stage.

Death Count: 34

There aren’t any enemies to encounter in this stage. In fact, the only dangers we encounter are a few of those dynamite balloons, and that’s it. Instead, this stage is all about conserving your Pixie Dust. If you use it the whole time, you’ll never make it from one Tink Checkpoint to the next. So it’s best to land on the branches and jump across them whenever possible.

Before the stage is done, we do manage to find Peter’s magic sword once again, but with no enemies to fight, it’s kind of pointless for this stage. So with little trouble we make it to the end and rescue another Lost Boy.

Considering we were half way across the island, I would have thought we had at least one or two more stages before we reach Captain Hook’s ship. But it turns out that isn’t the case. That flight over the woods actually managed to bring us all the way from the far side of the island straight over to Captain Hook’s ship docked at the coast. Now we just need to navigate it and find Peter’s kids.

As it turns out, navigating through the ship might be rather difficult. I’m not sure how any of the regular crew can possibly do it. The floor is lined with sharp spikes around every turn. Not only that, but there are large areas of the ship that are devoid of nearly any floor. Peter can only navigate through them with the help of Tink’s Pixie Dust, so how are the pirates doing it?

Death Count: 35

There is however one hall that stands out above the rest in the ship. This narrow hall is lined top and bottom with spikes and has no platforms at all in the room other than immediately in front of the exits. The only way the pirates can navigate this hall is by riding on top of wooden barrels. Which is good for them, but bad for us, because we don’t have enough Pixie Dust to deal with them AND stay off the spikes.

Death Count: 36

In fact, this room is completely impossible to make it through without running out of Pixie Dust. Going in a straight line from one Tinkerbell to the next, Peter has just barely not enough to make it from one to the next safely.

Thankfully, we come up with a solution rather quickly. If we fly up as close to the spiked ceiling as we can, stop flying and allow ourselves to fall down, then start flying again in time to avoid the spikes, we manage to add a few feet to Peter’s flying distance and get him through the hall mostly healthy.

Death Count: 37

Having made our way through the ship, it looks like we’ve managed to make it all the way to the ship’s bow where Captain Hook is waiting to duel with Peter Pan. Unfortunately, he has the high ground, and victory is his.

We’re not giving up that quickly though, a simple strategy to beat him quickly falls into place. Captain Hook manages to block most of the attacks we swing at him. However, a quick succession of jump attacks seems to be enough to get through his defenses. After a few hits he is knocked off the bow and victory is ours.

With that, Jack and Maggie are saved and we can finally return home. Suddenly, a sword comes flying out of nowhere and stabs Rufio in the back, killing him. It looks like our fight with Captain Hook isn’t quite over yet.

Death Count: 40

This time, Hook is capable of launching his hook at us in complete defiance of physics to attack us from across the ship. He is also even more capable now of defending our attacks. If that’s not bad enough already, he ALSO has more health now than he did a minute ago, somehow.

Death Count: 43

The basic concept of this fight should be easy. Avoid the hook projectile and attack when his guard is down. However, actually putting this into practice is very difficult. It’s made even more difficult by the fact that after using a continue, we no longer have our two extra health, so that just makes the fight even harder.

Death Count: 49

After hitting Hook a few times, he will abandon his new attacks and go back to the sword attacks he used previously. This means that we too can go back to our attack pattern of chain jump attacking in order to defeat him.

Finally, Captain Hook is defeated, this time for good. We also managed to save Jack and Maggie. There are also those two Lost Boys that we rescued multiple times each, apparently they’re the only ones left.

Now that this horrible experience is over, Peter tells the Lost Boys that he is never coming back and then flies off into the air back to London with Tink and his kids.

Back home, Tink is still pumped from the adventure they just had and is ready to go on another one. Peter on the other hand is officially done. He had fun, but now he knows that “Life is the biggest adventure.”

Verdict

Gameplay – 4 / 10

Let’s get this out of the way real quick. The hit detection is terrible. The enemies don’t appear to be anywhere near you when it says you were hit. Combine that with the input lag, and this game starts to boarder on unplayable.

Now, looking past those huge mistakes, the game itself would have otherwise been a fairly enjoyable action platformer. The controls are simple to pick up. The levels are straight forward, with a few hidden items thrown in. And once you get the enemy patterns down, it’s easy to complete the levels. I would have liked it if the magic sword stayed with you for full health, similar to the Master Sword’s ability from the Legend of Zelda series. That would have easily compensated for the input lag and hit detection. But sadly, that isn’t the case.

Graphics – 8 / 10

The Game Gear didn’t have much screen real estate to work with. With that in mind, I think they did a good job with what they had available. The sprites are about as big and detailed as they can be while still being playable. Likewise, the environments themselves feel unique and well laid out. There were a few spots where obstacles showed up from off screen without enough time to react to, but those were a surprisingly rare occurrence considering the limited draw distance of the screen. All in all, I think they did a pretty good job with the game’s graphics.

Audio – 8 / 10

The songs were nice, and after having recently watched the movie again, I actually recognized a few of them. So in that regard they did a pretty good job, especially considering the Game Gear couldn’t handle much.

Story – 6 / 10

The story of the game loosely follows the story of the movie, which is exactly what you want from a movie tie in game. However, it glosses over most of the conflict in the movie and leaves the game’s story quite thin. But it tried, so I guess I’ll give it an ok score for story.

Total Playtime – 1h 06m

Even with my multiple deaths, this is a very short game. In fact, there is a Let’s Play I saw where the player beat the whole game in under 30 minutes, cut scenes included. That’s to be expected with the Game Gear, since it would go through a full set of batteries in around 2 hours. Even so, I never managed to beat it as a kid because of the difficulty in doing so. For that reason alone, a save feature of some kind would have been appreciated. Even using an emulator it took me multiple sessions to beat. But that had more to do with me walking away in frustration than anything else. Thank god for save states.

Total Deaths – 49 Deaths

This is simply way too many deaths for a game that should have been so simple. Many of these can be blamed on my poor performance, but a large number of them I blame on the game’s terrible hit detection and input lag. This was especially true for that damn swimming section and those fish. I swear they missed me every time, but the game always said otherwise. This game would have been SO much easier if those were fixed. If there is one good thing to be said about the number of deaths though, it’s that the game’s unlimited continues was a much appreciated addition.

Overall Score – 6 / 10

Not to beat a dead horse at this point, but the terrible hit detection and input lag really dragged this game down. They artificially inflate the difficulty so much that at some point you don’t even want to finish the game. Considering how short the game is, that is actually an impressive feat. If it weren’t for those shortcomings, this would actually be a fun and relatively easy game. In fact, it’s a game I would gladly play multiple times if only it weren’t borderline broken. I even went into this play though wanting to really like the game. I had hoped I was simply remembering the game to be harder than it was because I was so young the last time I played. Sadly, the game is exactly as hard and broken as I remembered it. If there is any hope left to hold onto, it’s the knowledge that the game came out on nearly every system available at the time, so maybe one of the other versions is better. But for the Game Gear version, I feel like it might be benefiting from my love of the movie to earn some of the score I’m giving it. Final word, go watch the movie, but maybe pass on the Game Gear version of the game.

You were so close to a great game, but threw it away with bad hit detection and input lag…

I hope you enjoyed Hook (Game Gear). If you did, like and follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Also leave your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. If you’re feeling real generous, you can even Donate to help me keep the site going. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.