Game preservation is a problem. When games go out of production, hardware decays, titles get removed from digital storefronts, etc. there’s not a lot of recourse for players to return to titles they once loved. This is a particularly big issue for mobile games, since Apple has proven on multiple occasions that they do not care about games on their store, much less old ones.
Thankfully, there’s some folks out there who recognize this and have have decided to do something about it. GameClub is a new developer that just announced last week their dedication to “bringing awesome premium games back to mobile.” Although they’re only in their early access phase, they’ve already proven they’re up for task. Here’s what you need to know about GameClub, including instructions on how to get into their early access program.
There’s only one game available through GameClub as of this writing, and it’s a great one. Hook Champ from Rocketcat Games feels like a mix between Bionic Commando, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Indiana Jones in all the right ways. This game was what put Rocketcat Games on the map as a top tier mobile developer, and since then, they’ve gone on to make other fantastic titles like Punch Quest, Wayward Souls, and Death Road to Canada.
GameClub isn’t just stopping at one classic revival though. On their twitter account, they’ve already teased that they plan to put out Sword of Fargoal next week. They’re also actively taking suggestions from folks who send them games they’d like to see revived.
How does Hook Champ play?
When Hook Champ initially released in 2009, the iPhone 3GS was the top-of-the-line Apple hardware to play it on. Smartphones have changed considerably since then, so a crucial component of making an old game like this remain fun today is making sure it looks and feels as good as it did a decade ago on a three inch screen.
I can’t even imagine how difficult something like this might be to do, but so far GameClub has made it look easy. Hook Champ runs astonishingly well on my iPhone XR (check out the video above to see what I mean). Almost everything feels smooth and uses the full, wide screen of modern phones. If someone didn’t know any better, there’s practically nothing about this updated version of Hook Champ that would lead someone to believe it was an old game.
Having said all that, I do want to point out that I said “almost.” As you can see in the video, Hook Champ’s level select menu doesn’t display in wide screen. Also, I’ve had an issue with the game where it doesn’t pause when I lock my phone. Instead, I have to hit pause before locking to make sure the game stops. These are really nit picky things though. GameClub is in early access, after all, and these issues do not affect the game’s core, which remains fantastic in this modernized form.
How to join
If you want to get in on GameClub, it’s actually not that hard to do. Their website is currently taking sign ups for their beta program. All you have to do is put in your email address and wait for them to send you an invite.
Once you get the invite, you need to make sure you have Testflight installed on your device before clicking a download link in the email to try out Hook Champ. My understanding is that—as more games get added to GameClub’s catalog—they’ll send out more invites to test the games they’re reviving.
Not just old games
Currently, the plan for GameClub seems to be focused on bringing old classics back from the dead. Their website suggests they'll be looking to do more than just that in the future, though. In addition to bringing back old favorites, GameClub also promises to launch “new titles we know you’re going to love.”
What this means exactly is hard to say, but I have a feeling GameClub has a plan. They see their company as a way to revitalize premium mobile gaming on the App Store, and I hope they can do it. Premium games aren't totally absent in the modern mobile gaming landscape, but they seem like their numbers are dwindling. Meanwhile, the tide of free-to-play keeps swelling and getting more and more exploitative by the day. If GameClub can help restore some balance to mobile gaming by carve out a haven for premium mobile developers on the App Store, we all win. I'm excited to see where they go from here.