In my Monster Hunter World: Iceborne review, I joked that adding a grappling hook is one of the easiest ways to improve almost any combat system. It wasn't until this year, when I got properly invested in Iceborne on PC, that I learned just how right I was. But it was only after blasting through Iceborne and recently moving onto Persona 5 Royal that I realized 2020 is absolutely filled with kickass games with kickass grappling hooks. This can only mean someone's been reading my dream journal again, because quite frankly, I'm in heaven.
In addition to the PC release of Iceborne and the long-awaited Western release of Persona 5 Royal, we've also seen Doom Eternal and Ori and the Will of the Wisps this year, two more games with fantastic grappling capabilities. I'm also holding out hope that Hollow Knight: Silksong, the grappling hook-equipped sequel to my favorite game of all time, will be announced for late 2020. And those are just five games off the top of my head. I've also been playing a lot of Loader in Risk of Rain 2, I'll definitely use a grappling hook when I return to Terraria for its final update, and I can't forget Journey to the Savage Planet's admirable contribution to grappling technology.
This may seem like a weird thing to focus on, but I've loved using grappling hooks in games since 2004, when I discovered Spider-Man 2. There's just something innately satisfying about lashing myself to an anchor, feeling the inertia and arc of my swing, and using it to launch into the next movement. It's pure, kinetic magic. In fact, I loved the idea so much that as a kid that I once built a makeshift grappling hook - out of a handheld rake and some nylon rope, obviously - and used it to climb trees. Sadly, I'm too big and far too lazy for that now, so video games are my best bet.
Reaching new heights
My lifelong fascination aside, there's no denying that the ability to grapple onto enemies and/or terrain can spice up a lot of games. Look at Iceborne, which lets you wound a monster's weak zones after latching onto them with the clutch claw. This is a natural fit for Monster Hunter's combat and crafting systems because breaking specific monster parts increases your chance of getting the parts you need to craft gear. The clutch claw is a fun and flashy way to give players more control over that process, and it also unlocks new strategic options like running monsters into walls or hazards.
Other games use grappling hooks purely as a means of getting around but, even then, the implications are often much wider. In Ori and the Will of the Wisps, for instance, you can grapple to specific tether points or to sticky walls. This is an essential part of exploration in many areas, and it lets you chain other abilities like the launch and triple-jump. More interestingly, you can unlock the ability to grapple to enemies, and that's when the platforming really opens up. I'll never forget the thrill of baiting enemies near high ledges, knocking them upward, grappling to them, and then launching off in order to reach secret pickups. Like every other ability in Ori's latest, there's so much more to the grapple than there first seems to be.
Compare that to Doom Eternal, which added the meat hook to the Super Shotgun. Ori's grappling hook is about navigating levels, but the meat hook is all about managing battlefields by grappling onto far-off enemies to swing away from dangerous areas or to close gaps. Once you upgrade it, you can also use it as a long-range way to temporarily light enemies on fire, causing them to drop armor. If you pull yourself toward an enemy ignited by the meat hook, you can then blow them to bits with the Super Shotgun for even more armor. That is grade-A video game fun, right there: light a demon on fire, pull yourself to it, and then use them to paper the walls.
In addition to using grappling hooks, the other running theme here is adding them to existing formulas. Doom, Ori, Iceborne, and Persona 5 Royal are all sequels or expansions of some kind, and all of them changed things up with the addition of a grappling hook-type mechanic. The dungeons in Persona 5 Royal are clear examples of how this can expand exploration. They have new and intuitive shortcuts and secrets which make full use of your new gadget, and by leveling the Faith Confidant of newcomer Kasumi Yoshizawa, you can even use your hook to ambush enemies from a distance. This gives the game's dungeon-crawling even more energy and personality, which I didn't think was possible. I can't wait to see what Persona 5 Scramble does with its grappling hook, which is pretty much how I'm feeling about this year as a whole. I've hit a pocket of games which feel like they were built specifically for me, and I hope it never ends.