A game about racing to the finish, Super Hiking League DX is a perfect example of simple design but difficult to master gameplay. With a presentation that looks, feels, and sounds, like a new NES game, this competitive platformer gets addicting the more you play.
Starting from the bottom of the screen, the player is tasked with reaching the gem at the top before your opponent. Along the way are jumps, enemies to impede your progress, and of course, your opponents can get in your way just as much as you can get into theirs. The control scheme is simple but effective: A jumps, X is attack, and Y unleashes the grapple rope. The rope is easily the standout feature of this game and gimmick in which all gameplay is based. A mix between Bionic Commando’s grapple arm and Spider-Man webslinging, this bungee cord is used to reach new heights, faster. Using skillfully timed momentum, it is possible to slingshot yourself with impressive results. Managing the swing, momentum, and the release timing is tricky and requires practice to understand. In fact, since this system is so important, there are three variations of the control: automatic, mixed, and advanced. It is worth experimenting with each option to find the type that works best for you.
For the most part, I found that the default option, automatic, is enough to get the job done when facing the lower difficulty levels. However, if you want even the smallest chance at beating a staff ghost in the Time mode, you will pretty much need to be a master using the advanced option. Time mode is like the time trial mode in any racing game; you want to surpass the skill of the embedded ghost which plays with perfect skill. In my stream below, I try a few stages and don’t even come close to reaching the end in time. In fact, it took me about double the amount of time to finish! This is the mode that dedicated, skilled players should enjoy.
The Arcade mode is one stage after the other, each growing slightly more complex than the last. Instead of simply clicking a stage from a menu, the player navigates a hub world that unlocks the next stage by dissolving a nearby wall. Sometimes the player will need to use the grapple rope to reach that next stage too. Unfortunately, I think this hub world is a little more creative than it should be as sometimes finding that next stage can be disorienting and makes backtracking longer and tedious. The quasi-Tron-like environment is kind of neat though, as the main character is thrown into this world after an island is destroyed from an NPC that sort of looks like Death, black hood and all. New characters also become unlocked after completing a handful of stages too. Unfortunately, they all play the same regardless of their physical appearance.
The NES-style visuals look great and are complimented by the outstanding soundtrack. It really does look and sound like a new retro 8-bit title and there are even visual customization options found in the main menu. The red outlined version, which is clearly a nod to Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, is pretty darn cool, as one example. Each chiptune is well done and don’t think I have enjoyed a retro soundtrack this much since Shovel Knight.
Super Hiking League DX is one of those charming, short-burst arcade style games that puts a dumb smile on your face when you need something to play for ten minutes. The bungee rope mechanic is cool (it even doubles as a weapon) and the retro presentation is pleasantly charming. Single or local multiplayer, this is a hike you will want to take.
Also Try: the Sayonara Umihara Kawase series (or Yumi’s Odd Odyssey on 3DS)
Don’t Forget About: the final boss battle in the original Disney’s Duck Tales on NES
Wait For It: the next Bionic Commando