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El Gancho – Review

El Gancho lets you play as a cute dinosaur with a grapple hook. Of course I was intrigued! It was one of two grapple hook based platformers I was able to play at the same time and maybe that has tainted this review somewhat. I found myself comparing the two directly and El Gancho came out worse by some margin. That said, there is definitely an audience for this game as there’s some chaotic fun to be had.

Different levels have a different colour hue but little else changes.

Your dino (called a Coco) has walk and jump but really, traversal is primarily by lazer hook. The hook can almost stretch the entire screen length and can attach to any rockface bottom or side. This allows you to swing at huge lengths so long as you get used to the control scheme. Left stick moves, right stick aims but the jump, gun (its not very good and has limited bullets) and swing are all shoulder trigger buttons. I found this tricky to get used to first off but it made sense over time. I did find that El Gancho didn’t always pick up my presses though – especially with the lazer hook. It doesn’t say there is a cooldown anywhere but sometimes it felt there was one with the rate of missed inputs.

Each level is procedurally generated and places 4 or 5 coco’s to be collected. You don’t have to kill anything or collect the tons of food in a level but doing so raises your score. Different food collection eventually also earns you back 1HP too so its worthwhile since there’s no time limits for anything either. There is a simplicity with it being you against the level but that soon grows to frustration when the levels feel not very well put together. Coco’s are often all placed next to each other. Level’s often have giant gaps in them and everything is placed in a corner or just one side. It feels really lopsided and not built to use El Gancho’s main selling points – swinging. When you swing , a golden shower (giggle) tail swings behind you and that’s how you kill enemies. I have to say, it rarely let me really bask in its glory. Boss levels are then a crazy step up in difficulty but they are laid out in a way that uses all of these skills that other levels don’t. It jars.

It’s meant to be a golden tail but it looks like its wet…

What makes this more annoying is that there is a separate challenge mode where levels are built by humans. The experience is so much better and it made me realise just how much this game needed some levels built for the game, not randomly generated. Replayability is only worth it if its fun to play. On the flipside, you can unlock other coco’s to play as and I found myself playing with the double jump one most as levels felt more designed for this character in mind.

So I came away intrigued but disappointed. There’s some good ideas here but they are saddled with RNG levels that don’t take into account the gimmicks of the game so well. I have a review for Grapple Dog, the other grapple hook platformer I’m currently playing for review coming up hopefully at the end of the week and that game is utterly stunning so far. My recommendation is to go for that instead unless you really dig that retro Spectrum/Amiga vibe.

Review copy provided by developer.

El Gancho
Final Thoughts
Some nice ideas squashed by RNG levels and difficulty jumps that feel odd.
A very long grapple hook makes for instant fun!
Coco's are cute and each one has its own skill, making things replayable.
Challenge mode is where its at.
RNG levels rarely feel well put together.
Difficulty spikes are very tough and leftfield.
The soundtrack goes from excellent to "oh no there's only one song and it loops so fast" within the first 5 minutes.
Input lag.
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