Kickin’ It Old School – Hook (NES)

Like most movies from my childhood, Hook holds a special place in my heart. The adventure of a grown-up Peter Pan is still fun and heartwarming, and I still sit and watch it, quoting each the line the whole way through. It’s a timeless classic and I love it, but why is the NES game so damn bad?

Hook (NES, 1991)

This is like a sick joke Ocean played on kids who liked the movie. So, when you start the game you get a message from Tinkerbell, who is huge and takes up most of the screen. The message reads:

PETER, MY NAME IS
TINK…

YOUR CHILDREN
HAVE BEEN TAKEN
BY CAPTAIN HOOK

ONLY YOU CAN
RESCUE THEM FROM
HIS SHIP…

FOR YOU ARE
PETER PAN…

That’s pretty much what the text looks like; big, bold, blocky letters. And “Tink” (What’s the deal with that anyway? Did they get the rights to “Peter Pan” but not “Tinkerbell”?) floats around the screen, but instead of being in the background, she’s in front of the words, so you can’t really see what she’s supposed to be saying until she gets her ass out of the way. That just has to be some kind of mistake on someone’s part, there’s no way anyone could have seen that and thought, “Yea, that looks good. Let’s go with that.”

Anyway, after that you come to a map screen, where you pick a direction on a compass to go to a level. Only “Pirate Forest” and “Ghost Mine” are available at the start. Yea, those definitely remind me of the movie. We’ll try Pirate Forest first. Tink has another message for you when you pick a level, but I don’t care to read or transcribe it, so let’s just get to the action.

The graphics don’t look too bad, everything is pretty detailed and colorful. Except for your character, who I guess is supposed to be Peter Pan but looks more like Joe Pesci, and he’s really pale. The enemies are mostly pirates, with some snakes thrown in there for good measure. Then there’s this guy with a huge white beard floating around. Who was that supposed to be, God? Yea, remember in the movie when Peter Pan went in the Pirate Forest and fought God? I sure don’t.

And speaking of fighting, you’re better off just running through the level instead of fighting anyone. You get this pathetic little knife, really no bigger than a Swiss Army knife, and you have to be standing in just the right spot to hit anyone with it. A few times it goes straight through the pirate, and the pirate doesn’t get hit. And it seems you won’t hit the enemy if he attacks at the same time. The enemies will hit you though, and at least 3 times before you can get another shot in. And water hurts you too, only you bounce on it instead of you fall in. Maybe that’s what water does in Neverland.

The object of the level isn’t really to get to the end, it’s to collect a whole bunch of things, like fruit, marbles and thimbles. There is an exit, but you can’t leave until you collect everything, or collect enough of one thing; I don’t really know. The game certainly doesn’t explain it to you. Unless it did in the instruction book, but 1) I don’t have it, and 2) no one read those things anyway. Maybe that’s what “Tink” told us to do in her little opening message.

So once you pick up enough knick-knacks, you beat the level, and a few more levels open up to you. I went for the Ghost Mine next, just to see what that was like. It was basically filled with what you’d expect a ghost mine to be filled with: ghosts, pirate zombies, spiders and a dragon. Yea, a dragon. Remember in the movie when Peter Pan fought a dragon in a ghost mine? I hate you, game. You are ruining my childhood.

There are many other levels, each having less to do with the actual movie than the last. That’s the worst thing about this; it has little to do with the movie. It’s really just another Peter Pan game. Why trick me into believing it’s a game made from one of my favorite movies? Sure, a couple characters make a cameo or two, like Rufio, but that’s really it. It should at least try to follow the plot of the movie, instead of making us fight God and a dragon.

The Super Nintendo version, on the other hand is much better. It follows the movie more (not exactly, but it still follows it), features more characters from the movie, and also features songs from the movie on its soundtrack (I didn’t mention the music in the NES game because I don’t want to be reminded of it…let’s just say it’s grating on the senses). That one was developed by Ukiyotei instead of Ocean, and that’s probably why it was better. The NES game was probably only put out to convince kids to make the switch to the SNES.

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