June 18, 2010 at 09:56 PM EDT

With all due respect to cars, guns, and cars that fire guns, there’s only one thing I care about when it comes to videogames: Is There A Freaking Grappling Hook? The mere presence of a grappling hook (or its sibling-clone, the plasma grappling laser) is an easy indicator that the game is A) awesome, B) too awesome for words, or C) so awesome you’ll go to the hospital with awesome-poisoning. You’ve got the classic franchises, like Legend of Zelda (hookshot) or Metroid (grapple beam). You’ve got the stealth masterpieces, like Wild 9. Adding a grappling hook to a game series is the equivalent of adding steroids to a vegan diet: Just Cause was a meh GTA rip-off, but Just Cause 2 is a meh GTA rip-off with an awesome grappling hook. And now, you have Super QuickHook, released today for the iPhone from the makers of Hook Champ, which might just be the ultimate grappling hook game.

Apparently, the grappling hook was a real thing with an actual real-world purpose once upon a time, or so Wikipedia claims. But starting with Bionic Commando, the grapple has achieved a kind of digital immortality. I didn’t play Bionic Commando, since a certain set of parents didn’t see the obvious redeeming intellectual value in owning a Nintendo Entertainment System.

But a few months ago, I downloaded Hook Champ, created by the designers at RocketCat Games. The gameplay is simple: you swing a grappling hook forward through a cave. The graphics are retro-fabulous. You can customize your character with literally dozens of hats. (My favorite: the Plutocrat, a top hat which comes with a monocle.) It’s difficult to call an iPhone game a masterpiece, since iPhone games mainly exist to prevent boredom. So let me just say that Hook Champ the best anti-boredom medicine you can purchase legally. (At one point, I had a few top scores on the global Hook Champ rankings, but I fell out of practice, and all the young turks came along and swept all my records away. I’m like the Roger Maris of Hook Champ.)

Super QuickHook is RocketCat’s spiritual sequel to Hook Champ. Whereas Hook Champ aped the style of early NES games, QuickHook looks more like an SNES sidescroller (right down to the addition of “Super” to the title, an adorably semi-translated marketing trend; anyone remember “Super Star Wars?”) The synth-retro music sounds like lost childhood afternoons huddled around a TV set holding a controller with less than 12 buttons. You are guaranteed to smile.

PopWatchers, do you agree with me that the grappling hook is the greatest single device of the videogame era? And are there any grappling masterpieces I’m forgetting about? Are chained Blades of Exile in God of War actually just grappling hooks with knives on the end?

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