The App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch may be packed with terrible "Bejeweled" clones and flashlight simulators, but there are also quite a few gems to be found among the rough. "Hook Champ," for example, is an incredibly innovative and addictive release from a three-man development studio known as Rocketcat Games. The title mixes the swing mechanics from a game like "Bionic Commando" with an old school art style, and adds in some very modern and innovative controls, and thanks to a strong online community, has managed to create a popular new IP from scratch. It comes as no surprise that the Independent Game Festival nominated "Hook Champ" as a finalist in the Best Mobile Game category.
While Rocketcat plans on supporting "Hook Champ" for the foreseeable future (the next update will add a new set of levels and a new playable character, based on another iPhone hit, "Minigore"), they've already started work on their next game. They don't have an official title just yet, they've been calling it "Avalanche Game" as a placeholder, so we'll stick with that for now. I spoke with Kepa Auwae, who is in charge of the design, writing and future planning for Rocketcat, to get an inside look at how "Avalanche Game" is coming along.
Building On 'Canabalt'
From the start, Rocketcat planned on "Hook Champ" being a single, never-ending, randomly-created level. They weren't able to figure out how to make randomly-created maps fun, though, so they ditched the idea and went with unique maps. It was around that time that "Canabalt" released and showed the gaming world that a randomly-generated platforming game could be fun and addictive. Therefore it became a big inspiration for "Avalanche Game," though Rocketcat is looking to make things a little more complex than the single-button platformer.
"'Canabalt' is a little limited 'cause it's just rooftops, but we're going to do a cross-country jaunt. In the main mode, where you're running away from the avalanche, you're going to start on a meadow, and then it'll be totally random where you can go across grassy fields with ruins on them or caverns made out of ice."
The Dawn Of The 16-Bit Era
The art in "Hook Champ" is pretty reminiscent of the 8-bit NES days, but "Avalanche Game" is hoping to boost the complexity on that front, as well. As a point of comparison, on the left we have the hero of "Hook Champ," and on the right we see how he's been improved for "Avalanche Game."
Kepa mentioned the art style, saying that "the inspiration is going to be 'Super Mario World' for the Super Nintendo. We think that'll be more of a crowd pleaser."
Time Trials Return!
Speaking of crowd-pleasers, the community behind "Hook Champ" has become extremely focused on the time trial aspects of the game, and Kepa was sure to include those elements in "Avalanche Game," as well. While the main mode will be a never-ending, randomly-created map, players will be able to unlock individual, unique maps (based on the different settings in "Avalanche Game") with a set beginning, middle and end. Kepa calls this "Race Mode" and it should serve to please those time trial addicts.
While the gameplay should remain pretty familiar to "Hook Champ" vets (the hook returns, natch), "Avalanche Game" features a few changes to the formula. Players will be able to unlock boosted jumps and special attacks by collecting food scattered about the level, which means you won't need to constantly purchase upgrades to last longer. There's even a ceiling-running ability, which should make some of the trickier cave sequences a bit more manageable.
'Hook Champ' Updates Still Coming
With all this work on "Avalanche Game," Rocketcat won't be forgetting to add new "Hook Champ" content (albeit at a slightly slower pace). Said Kepa, "We're still going to do a level pack every time we make a new game. We're going to do a big, outdoor, snowy level for 'Avalanche Game.'"
In terms of when you can expect "Avalanche Game" to hit the App Store, Kepa pegs the wait at around "a couple months," though he's quick to say that it may take longer, depending on issues that arise.
We'll continue covering the progress of "Avalanche Game," so keep checking back as the title gets close to release.