Ever since Spider-Man 2 on the PS2, I’ve been fascinated with swinging mechanics in video games. Grappling hooks, actual webs, everything in between has always been a particular interest for me. I like the way they feel, I’m obsessed with how they interact with the world, with the way that monument travels and is held between each swing. Good swinging mechanics make me feel invested in the world, and almost always drown out any other flaws in a game for me. So when I saw Cyberhook, I was intrigued. Could they capture that special feeling of a good swinging mechanic? Could they make something that feels fantastic to play?
And as it turns out, developer Blazing Stick did! They made it feel fantastic to play. Once you shoot out your grappling hook, there’s a brief moment of pause, of terror that you might have missed the shot, but once the hook connects and you start swinging the joy is palpable. It’s so satisfying, there’s no better way of putting it. The game introduces new mechanics throughout the first few levels, allowing the player to slowly settle into the game and work out how to use everything. You’ll get the ability to slow time, allowing for easier aiming, you’ll get the ability to shoot and destroy certain objects, allowing for shortcuts and some extremely interesting options. Everything blends together and nothing feels out of place, which is the major concern with diluting your core premise with other mechanics. In terms of difficulty, the game ramps up steadily, with it always feeling fair to play and never feeling like you’re being kicked while you’re down. You’ll never feel like something isn’t your fault, and you’ll know that next time you need to not repeat the same mistake again. You’ll be playing the levels over and over again trying to shave mere seconds off your time and improve.
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, however. While visually the game looks great, to begin with, it starts to look extremely similar quite quickly. Luckily, thanks to the fact this is a game about speedrunning, you’re never really stood still long enough to care. It’s neon-soaked through and through, and it may just not appeal to certain people and their visual styles. The game also has great, catchy music that suits the atmosphere to a tee, and that’ll have you humming for days.
In terms of story, there’s not much to it. You’ve been sucked into a virtual world and you can swing about and that’s around it. However, in lieu of a story, the game has leaderboards that had me going back to levels over and over again. You’ll get obsessive over trying to beat your prior times, trying to climb that leaderboard slowly until you make the upper echelons. The music isn’t much to write home about, with tunes that service the game but aren’t really memorable. It’s annoying, seeing as there’s a lot of potential with the environment to play around with sound. It’s just generic, honestly, and to a certain extent, that’s the worst thing a game can have.
Cyberhook feels great to play. The swinging is fluid and has momentum to it, the slow-motion mechanics are useful while not being overpowered and every other mechanic is implemented really well. While visually it can be quite same-y from time to time, in terms of gameplay the game is utterly fantastic. It’s totally worth playing, the type of game that you’ll be saying “just one more go” and suddenly find out that it is now five hours later and you’re still going. With a demo available for free, you really have no excuse to not at least try out this game and get hooked (heh, get it?) on the amazing gameplay.
While the visual style can get rather samey after a long time playing and the music isn't great, Cyberhook is a fantastic spiritual successor to Mirrors Edge, one that actively tries to include new gameplay mechanics and techniques to create a great speedrunning experience.