Menu

HackyZack Review — A Footbag Life

There’s something to be said for the unassuming charm of a slightly obtuse puzzle platformer, where traversal can be slowed to a crawl and each and every move takes consideration. Perhaps we take progression for granted in the typical platformer, where often a test of reflexes prevails over anything else. When the knowledge of how we traverse forward is removed from the fold and the player is instead forced to define it, you get an experience that compels cerebrally rather than through obligatory bells and whistles.

 

HackyZack is a puzzle platformer that could be roughly broken down into two cups of the former and one of the latter. Holding true to the titular pun, your character is a mere peripheral to the feats of flight each level relies on. Whatever projectile rests at your feet at the start of the level must be volleyed to the finish line, obstacles be damned. It sounds simple, and at its core, it is. I was immediately reminded of the supplementary snail shell punting in the Fancy Pants Adventure titles and there’s an inherent limit to the game’s scope that aligns it with the ethos of Flash engine puzzlers. Nonetheless, this is hardly to the game’s detriment as it allows puzzle design alone to be the title’s focus, and leaves minimal room for padding to get in the way.

 

HackyZack’s arrangement is no more impenetrable than a puzzle book, each brain-tweezer stands alone and occupies a single fixed-screen. Nonetheless, it distinguishes itself and poses a persistent challenge to players by orienting gameplay around a constant juggling act. Players must account for both the projectile’s trajectory and their own 24/7. If either darts off-screen the level must be repeated. This is introduced through a few softball levels in the first world but quickly proves uniquely demanding.

Hacky sack becomes one-man soccer with an American Gladiator twist quickly

Controlling the ball’s kickoff trajectory with the same analog stick as your player’s movement can result in some minor frustration, but nuance between player movement and projectile aim can quickly be understood. Additionally, levels only run about thirty-seconds apiece once you’ve figured them out, making the inevitable need to repeat them an easy pill to swallow. The difficulty curve can be a bit all over the place, but each piece of the puzzle is fully-defined in its purpose, never making a sequence misleading or unfair. The game is also a bit generous with level unlocks rarely restricting players to a single puzzle that requires immediate completion.

 

Each of the six worlds introduces a new gameplay mechanic and applies it to stages of varying difficulty that nonetheless gradually complicate matters. My favorite was World 3, the “Self-Destruction” level set that positions layers of Arkanoid style bricks ahead of your projectile’s destination. This is a double-edged sword by design, as the same projectile can do you in by knocking platforms out from under you.

 

The panicked multitasking that ensues level-to-level is subject to minimal diminishing returns. Different types of projectiles and even multiple projectiles at once are introduced additionally and pose unique threats to players. I never quite hit a wall in my playthrough, but levels are always clever and will gladly outpace player reflexes. The subtext present in each world being titled after a personal stressor is fleeting, but it fits the respective challenges that unfold. More than that, it maps an endearingly good-natured spirit to how the game designs its puzzles. Challenge can approach blistering highs, but is never fodder for rage-quitting and is additionally brought down to earth by a pointedly empathetic tone.

Self-destruction is right; Courtesy of Steam

HackyZack’s general presentation is restrained but resoundingly warm. A unique piece of soaring downtempo instrumentation underlies each chapter of the game. Its tone is so relentlessly soothing it’d probably accompany Enya’s teatime, but textures are varied and subtly daring enough to make for intriguing relistens as you meet your doom repeatedly. Graphically, backgrounds are static and graphics are content to just be likable rather than revolutionary, but the simple color palette is measured enough to avoid becoming garish.

 

Rather than overloading the game with flashy spectacle, HackyZack makes sure no element grates and environments are efficient enough for chaos to result from mere mechanics. The frantic movement asked of your character throughout offers very straightforward gratification beneficial to speed-runs and impulse play. Though I was never quite blown away by HackyZack’s core campaign, I was consistently enticed to return to it. For a week’s length, I possessed the sort of casual addiction to it mobile games are said to induce, only now supplemented with inspired gameplay.

 

Beyond the four-hour affair at the center, an additional “Target Mode” is offered as you pick-up collectibles in-game (a substantially greater challenge than merely getting to the end). These reuse the level designs from the main campaign, but instead reward kicking your “sack” (be it beach ball or fire projectile) across the environment as a means of striking multiple targets. It’s a less cynical redesign than it may appear, and it’s a tough battle to get to it in the first place as scoring the collectables that unlock these levels makes for the most challenging platforming in the game.

 

HackyZack’s modest content stacks on-top of itself, expanding the game’s length organically without becoming wholly redundant. So long as the intuitive mechanics central to the game have won you over, it’s a smooth, entirely enjoyable playthrough. There’s nothing outright objectionable about the game, excepting how simple its pleasures are. In terms of emotionally attuned puzzle platforming, its puzzles are a range of breezy foothills compared to Celeste Mountain, but this reduced sense of scale provides its own innate charm. HackyZack could perhaps be best described as a masterfully crafted puzzle book, enhanced by an impossibly cozy soundtrack and a sturdy control scheme. HackyZack may fit a bit too comfortably into the same category as puzzle platformers of its ilk, but it offers the tandem joy in spades. Regardless, it offers a much less demeaning way of putting your Hacky Sack skills to the test.

This version of HackyZack was played and reviewed on the PS4. A code was provided to us for review purposes.

There’s something to be said for the unassuming charm of a slightly obtuse puzzle platformer, where traversal can be slowed to a crawl and each and every move takes consideration. Perhaps we take progression for granted in the typical platformer, where often a test of reflexes prevails over anything else. When the knowledge of how we traverse forward is removed from the fold and the player is instead forced to define it, you get an experience that compels cerebrally rather than through obligatory bells and whistles.   HackyZack is a puzzle platformer that could be roughly broken down into two…

0

User Rating: No Ratings Yet !
7/10

Summary

HackyZack has little ambition beyond offering a fair few hours of clever puzzle-platforming packaged with a serene soundtrack and likable visuals, in that regard it excels.

No comments

Leave a Reply

Newsletter

PlayStation Logo

Sony Reportedly Wrestling With Expensive PlayStation 5 Parts, Uncertain Retail Price

Sony’s silence on their next-generation system has tested the patience of gamers hungry for more information, and this new report from Bloomberg may contextualize the absence of PS5 updates. Due…

February 16, 2020, 132
Pokimane

Pokimane Donates $50,000 to UC Irvine for Esports Scholarship

Pokimane (Imane Anys), a well-known Twitch streamer and YouTube personality, donated $50,000 to University of California Irvine according to an announcement by the university this past Thursday, February 13, to…

February 15, 2020, 216
FF7 Remake Opening Cinematic

Final Fantasy VII Remake’s Opening Movie Will Give You Goosebumps

Despite a lengthy development time and a handful of delays, Final Fantasy VII Remake will finally land in the hands of eager gamers on April 10. With only two months…

February 14, 2020, 95
Stardew Valley 2

Two New Games in the Works from Stardew Valley Creator

Just last month, farming simulation sensation Stardew Valley hit a 10 million units sold milestone, today the game’s creator Eric Barone (Concerned Ape) shared a little tidbit about his future ambitions.…

February 12, 2020, 107
Image of Skellboy Title Menu. Has the text "Skellboy" over a grassy backdrop

Skellboy Review – Malnourished

Skellboy is an action-adventure game that sees you taking control of a freshly risen-from-the-grave skeleton who, of course, is tasked with saving a world in peril. Developed by small studio…

February 10, 2020, 186
The Last of Us: Joel teaching Ellie to shoot

Top 10 Games of the 2010s

Welcome, finally, to the top ten games of the 2010s. It has been a long decade with tons of beloved games making everlasting changes to our hearts, minds, and memories.…

February 9, 2020, 168
An in-game screenshot of Monster Energy Supercross 3, showcasing a rider ahead of the rest in order to win a Holeshot.

Monster Energy Supercross 3 Review – All KTMs Suck

“Metal heavy, soft at the core.”   Ahh, this feels like a late Christmas gift. Last year, Milestone’s Monster Energy Supercross 2 was a pleasant surprise to play, as it got me…

February 7, 2020, 562
Gameplay still from The Pedestrian showing a platforming sequence taking place along the railway

The Pedestrian Review – As Above, so Below

There’s something unanimously humbling about exiting the New York City underground subways, where subterranean confines with claustrophobic depths give way to another world entirely. Skies with no end reign above…

February 7, 2020, 184
Apex Legends Season 4

Apex Legends Season 4 Is Here With Assimilation

Apex Legends Season 4: Assimilation is live, replacing the just-finished Season 3 of the battle royale shooter by Respawn Entertainment. The newest update features a reworked version of Season 3’s map,…

February 5, 2020, 195
Toy Story

Kingdom Hearts All-In-One Physical Copy Releases March 17

In a press release on Wednesday, Square Enix announced that Kingdom Hearts All-In-One Package will be getting a physical release for PlayStation 4 in North America on March 17. The package…

February 5, 2020, 191