The History of Hook Champ
Although the team would find its fame with pick-up-and-play action games, Rocketcat Games originally had other ambitions in mind. The company was formed in 2009 when three online friends who had little prior experience in game development decided on a whim to give it a try. The trio were fans of first-person shooters in particular, but felt the genre had stagnated over the years. At least initially, their plan was to do something about that. The first game the team designed was called Rocketcat, but it ended up not coming together properly and was scrapped. At the very least, they were able to salvage a company name and mascot from the project.
The next project went a little smoother in that it was actually completed, but it came with its own hardships. Hook Champ was a side-scrolling action game that centered its core mechanics around swinging through caves and ruins. The game’s development took approximately four months, with the team working on the game on the weekends while maintaining other jobs during the week. The game was designed for iOS as it was somewhat easier for a small developer to enter that market at the time when compared to most other platforms. This decision informed the mechanics of Hook Champ, as Rocketcat felt that precision jumping was a little tricky with touch controls.
Key sources of inspiration for the game include Pixeljam’s web game classic Dino Run, Capcom’s Bionic Commando, and SEGA’s Sonic the Hedgehog. The ever-present sense of danger closing in on you is a key element of Dino Run, while the influence of the swinging mechanics of Bionic Commando and Sonic’s focus on multi-tiered stages and speed are also quite clear in Hook Champ. It was also felt by the time that the swinging mechanics made for a quicker and more enjoyable game.
The game released in October 2009 and found a steady following among mobile gaming fans. It was included in a number of Best of 2009 lists and was a finalist in the Best iPhone Game category at the 2010 Independent Game Festival. Clearly big believers in striking while the iron was hot, the Rocketcat team put out two sequels in the year that followed: Super QuickHook and Hook Worlds. The success of this trio of releases gave Rocketcat the funds and fame needed to go full-time into game development. With more time and resources available, the three friends moved on to more ambitious projects, but the trilogy of grappling hook games that put them on the map remained cherished mobile classics for many.
Hook Champ received a number of updates following its release that added more content such as new characters and hats. The small size of the Rocketcat Games team made it harder and harder to keep the game working with all of the new hardware and software configurations that arrived in the years after its release, however. It eventually stopped working altogether until it was updated and revived as part of the GameClub library.