Energy Hook was announced late last year with an impressive video and an irresistable pitch: pull off stunts and tricks as you swing through the skies of a somewhat-submerged metropolis in a game designed by Jamie Fristrom, who perfected the art of rope swinging in the excellent Spider-Man 2. He made it clear at the time he was eying Kickstarter to get the funding going, and then… nothing. A series of delays ended up pushing the campaign back, but as of today Energy Hook has finally made its Kickstarter debut.
It’s off to an excellent start, too, raking in $12,000 and nailing its first stretch goal in under a day. Energy Hook has gotten a load of well-deserved press, based both on it looking like a ton of fun and due to the game’s pedigree. Everyone loved the swinging in Spider-Man 2, and how much fun it was to just zip around the city and slingshot through the air or between buildings. The gameplay mechanic was explored once, in one game that came out 9 years (!!!) ago, and then left by the wayside. It’s about time it got revived and updated, and fans have been showing their appreciation all day. Personally, I broke my Kickstarter rule of only backing for the cheapest option that gets the final game in order to play the beta, and am having a hard time resisting the temptation to go alpha. (Of course, I could justify it by claiming it necessary for an early hands-on article. Hmmm…)
There is one aspect of this campaign that’s stirred up a bit of controversy, though, and that’s the developer’s decision to make the funding goal $1.00. The reason for this is given on the Kickstarter’s front page- the alpha just needs a bit of polish and could go as a finished game. Yes, it would be short on features, levels, and general graphic flair, but if the 30-day run netted $500 then at least he’d have an idea of consumer interest and could invest an appropriate level of time into the game’s completion. The stretch goals are laid out so that, as one after another gets knocked down, more features, music, levels, and game mechanics get added, until eventually Energy Hook becomes the game Jamie Fistrom dreams of it being rather than the playable but unfinished alpha of its current state. It’s an interesting variant on the standard Kickstarter funding process, and one that’s stirred up emotions in those thinking its an abuse of the system. Calling them the Technically Correct Police would be rude, so it’s probably best not to do that.
The problem seems to be with the idea of using Kickstarter to fund a game that doesn’t need funding. The $1.00 goal is gaming the system to ensure a payoff, and using Kickstarter as more of a presell platform than an actual development tool. This is, apparently, bad, and it doesn’t help that Penny Arcade is doing something similar at the same time. And why doesn’t Zach Braff just invest all his own money in his movie, anyway? Kickstarter, you used to be cool!
Energy Hook looks awesome, and with proper funding will be even more so. If the campaign ended to day then we’d have already enabled “leaderboards, trophies, and gear customization”. Linux support plus the ability to retract the line to zip into the air is next, and should hopefully be cleared over the weekend, and the current version of Energy Hook looks to be on track to expand in all sorts of ways as the campaign’s month flies by. Personally, I’m hoping the $130,000 “Hire an artist” goal is met, because while the game looks fun those textures are the opposite of pretty. The point is that Energy Hook needs its funding as much as any traditionally-presented game, book, movie, comic, or amazing glowing plant on the site, and at some point once 100% is cleared, all further donations simply become pre-orders.