Think you know your urban legends, boils and ghouls? Think again. All Christine wants is to spend a romantic weekend alone with Patrick and her enormous 1950s bouffant. (Sweet!) She thinks she has the perfect place; her parents' old cabin, deep within the woods. What could go wrong, so far from civilization? Well, as it turns out, a little bit more than replacing the key to the front door. Where is Patrick? What's happened to the interior of the cabin? And is Christine as alone as she thinks she is? Turn off the lights, turn up the volume, and get really close to the monitor to experience this scary and stylish retelling of *grabs you by the shoulders and shrieks* Campfire Legends: The Hookman! Aiiiieeeeeeeeeeee!
The Hookman is more of a traditional point-and-click title than a hidden-object game. While you'll find yourself rooting through various locales to find objects, every single one you dig up has a purpose. You'll hunt down supplies to repair a radio, look for pieces of a torn-up memo, find the misses pieces you need to complete a stone puzzle... no hunting for six roses, a rubber duck, and the ace of spades for you, no sir! It's strictly logical item finding in everyday scenarios. (Well, minus a forbidding crypt or two.) While hidden-object enthusiasts may be disappointed to this no-nonsense approach to the genre, those of us who prefer logical item placement and a good story to giving our eyes a workout will embrace it with open arms.
A magnifying glass when you move over an area means you can click for a close up view, and adding an item to your inventory is as simple as clicking to pick it up. When you've assembled all the items you need, indicated by the list at the bottom of the screen, you can simply drop them from your inventory onto the puzzle you're working on to use them. While most puzzles are as simple as using the correct items in the correct order, there are a few that can test your brain's mettle. Fortunately, the fireflies you can find throughout the game not only point you towards a missing item, but can also be used to get hints on puzzles or skip them entirely.
A big part of what makes The Hookman so enjoyable is how well made it is. Not only is the voice-acting above standard, but the art here is absolutely beautiful, with detailed environments that sends prickles up your spine even as you admire them. The characters themselves, while occasionally looking a little rubbery, are actually quite expressive, and it leads to the terror and frustration on their faces being that much more palpable. Special attention is also paid to sound effects and music, which greatly enhance the atmosphere... Oh! What was that creaking sound?... I'm sure it's nothing. Hey, why don't you go explore the woods without a flashlight while I take a shower with the window open? Everything I need to know about life I learned from old '80s horror movies!
Analysis: Oh, Christine. How effortlessly you embody every bobble-headed horror heroine in ever horror movie, ever. You'll find she does a lot of questionable things simply because the story would end if she didn't. Hey, Christine! Wanna check out that strange crypt, all alone and defenseless? Sure ya do, atta girl! While more realistic, a game about a girl who stays put in a safely, brightly lit area until help arrives wouldn't be terribly exciting. The Hookman manages to succeed by evoking the sort of delightfully cheesy, spooky thrill a lot of us will be familiar with from the sleepovers and camp outs of our childhood. (And is even more delightful for those of us who grew up with a little show called Are You Afraid Of The Dark?)
And when the game does decide to scare you, it can be pretty effective about it. Granted, The Hookman tends to resort to loud, startling visuals or sounds to make you jump, but it also doesn't neglect the more subtle routes either. Shadows flicker by in the background. Crows take flight suddenly overhead. Something surfaces from beneath the shallow waters of the lake shore and the monster standing RIGHT BEHIND YOU REACHES OUT AND GRABS YOUR NECK, ayieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeegh!... fine, fine, I'll stop. Sheesh.
But the biggest problem most people will probably have is the length of the game. Weighing in at around four hours for your average gamer, The Hookman is perfect for a night of creepy adventure, but probably won't last much longer. If you demand a lot of time or replay value for your buck, The Hookman may not be the game for you. And while most of us will see the ending coming a mile away, given the details of the original legend the story is loosely based upon, it still feels abrupt and a little unsatisfying after all the build-up.
Also be sure to check out the sequel to The Hookman: Campfire Legends: The Babysitter
As the first title in a planned trilogy, The Hookman sets the bar high for future Campfire Legends games and establishes the series as one to watch for fans of scary adventure games. A little bit corny, The Hookman is best enjoyed with a sense of humour and a love of old urban legends. With more love and polish put into it than other similar titles on the shelf, it's easily worth a look for anyone who can't resist a good scary story and can take a bit of cheese with a smile.