I was genuinely surprised to find myself playing Hacky Zack for review; not because it’s not worth my time (far from it) but because as a child I truly hated playing with a real-life hacky sack. I would spend ages practicing on my own in order to be able to join my friend’s valiant high score attempts at lunch hour in school but to no avail. I was relegated to ridicule due to my ineptitude and retired in disgrace. Would Spaceboy Games’ interpretation of the titular past time lead to my redemption? Well yes and no.
You play as Zack, a person so skilled with the hacky sack that it perpetually shames me having control over him. Your task is to manipulate balls across floating platforms, past instant death traps and successfully land it in the end zone. At your disposal are Zack’s double jump, wall climb and incredible juggling skills. These juggling skills don’t come easy, after the first few learner levels the difficulty certainly ramps up and you’ll find yourself dying and I mean Supermeatboy levels of dying. There is no story here, just the challenge.
That said Hacky Zack doesn’t gloat on your death, the screen reloads almost instantly with you back at the start ready to have another shot. Sometimes I found myself doing the same level 20 times over before finally pulling off the perfect set of tricks to get the goal only to realise that just a few minutes had past.
There are often multiple ways to finish a level and alternative paths. You can either choose to take levels methodically, stopping to control the ball and continuing through the level or go hell for leather. I certainly recommend the former for those who wish to complete the level quickly but trying to get through in one smooth motion brings the greatest satisfaction. To make the levels even more difficult you collect stickers, which unlock time new challenge modes including time trials. These are conveniently placed in hard to reach places and add to the complexity and longevity of the game.
If you had a chance to play a few indies on the Switch, then you will recognize the classical 8bit presentation that Spaceboy games chose to take. The colors really pop on the screen and the title menus are nicely presented. I really like this approach as I feel it gives the developers more of a chance to get their foot in the door as well as primarily focus on gameplay. The music is a nice compilation of trance like music that fits with the surreal vibrant design.
My main issue with this game is the controls. It becomes really difficult in the later stages to control both your character as he’s jumping from platform to wall and controlling the ball. The joycon’s lack of a dedicated D Pad really shows and the analogue controls just don’t sit well with me. Having tried it with an 8bitdo controller I found it significantly more responsive which does knock back a title that is best suited as a pick up and go game. I never felt like I was becoming the master of the game often getting to the end of a level with luck rather than skill. The game offers a several different controls options but none of them seemed to fit well for me, which is a shame as it just built on my frustration.
Hacky Zack offers a new take on precision platforming, which for the most part works, and I believe, has a place in this rapidly filling genre on the switch. It’s a really great game for on the go or you have a few minutes to spare.
Coffee was given a copy of the game for review.