Hohokum Review (PS4)
This strangely named game is in essence rather strange. It’s also very colourful, whimsical and musical. Hohokum is a unique collaborative effort between developers Honeyslug (you may have played their rather fun mini-game fest ‘Frobisher Says’ on the Vita) and artist Richard Hogg. It’s a playful game of relaxing exploration and mild puzzle solving.
In Hohokum you take control of a snake-like creature as you explore strange and colourful worlds. Although each one differs to the last in terms of art and soundtrack, they are mostly on the same vein. You might say it’s an elaborate game of hide and seek as each level poses you with a different set of challenges in order to find your other snake-like friends who are hidden here and there. But explaining exactly what these challenges and puzzles might entail would completely ruin what Hohokum seems to be about – exploration.
The levels, their ingredients and inhabitants will react to you in various ways as you fly around them. Hovering over a flower might make it bloom or you might pick up someone and drop them off somewhere else to trigger another part of level. It’s up to you to explore and see how things react to you. Essentially there is little more to the gameplay than that. It does sometimes utilise this in inventive ways but it’s mostly quite simple. And that’s fine. The simplicity of the game allows for a relaxed experience that I think the creators were aiming for. There’s no overly complex or head scratchingly confusing puzzles, no difficult boss fights or precise timing button execution. It’s a floaty, whimsical, ambient experience that’s a pleasure for the eyes and ears. An art game I can almost hear some people grumbling. And well, yes, it is. A very good one at that.
The different worlds of Hohokum filled me with joy. The theme park world and the kite flying one in particular had me smiling all the way through. The theme park was filled with dozens upon dozens of vibrant little characters all waving and dancing, jumping on your back as you fly past and joining you on your adventure. It was levels like this that really reminded me of LocoRoco Cocoreccho, a short network game on PSN that is often described as an interactive screensaver. The kite level looked fantastic and seeing my little dudes flying their weird and wonderful kites atop little green islands in the sky was almost magical. And you’re free to traverse these worlds at will as well. You don’t need to complete one before moving on to the next. Portals exist in each level that will transport you somewhere else. Some of these worlds you enter will simply act as a hub to another handful of proper worlds. That freedom of exploration is important to what Hohokum is.
For me there are three main elements at play in Hohokum. First off there’s the wonderful vibrant art from Richard Hogg. It’s beautifully colourful and full of character. The first time I saw the game previewed (at E3 I think it was), I was immediately interested. The art style just grabbed me and I was so content cruising the games levels as though I’m taking a gliding tour through someone’s doodle book. After looking into Richard Hogg’s artwork further I realised I’ve had a picture of his saved on my computer for some time. If I could marry this guy’s work I would.
Secondly there’s the music and sound effects. I put the two together because they do actually go hand in hand in that typical way that a lot of music/rhythm games do (see Lumines or Vib Ribbon). Various interactions with the levels will add little sounds to the background track, enhancing it. And the background tracks are immense, I truly put this down as the best soundtrack I’ve heard since Hotline Miami. It’s beautifully ambient and features artists from record label Ghostly International such as Tycho and Com Truise. If you’d like to listen to the soundtrack this website is kindly streaming it. As with the games visuals, I’m equally content putting the Vita down and just listening to the music. Although, it is much more fun to combine the two as they go wonderfully hand in hand. And as mentioned earlier your little interactions with the level adds to the track as well. I have to say I found the sound effects to be expertly done; it’s not often I find myself thinking about the quality of a games sound effects but I did in this case.
Thirdly there is the gameplay itself. More specifically the controls and movement of your…snake. There are few controls to the game and few mechanics. This simplicity allows for a relaxing game experience in which you mostly fly around the level, sometimes going fast and rarely going slow. I’m a fan of good player controls in games, when movement feels smooth and…well, just right. Games like Pixeljunk Shooter, Eden and Journey spring to mind with this. Some games you find yourself just moving/flying/driving about not really doing anything, just enjoying the mechanics at hand.
There’s obviously more to the gameplay than just flying around and there’s of course more to the game than the three aforementioned elements. But it’s these three elements whether solo or combined make the game a highly enjoyable and relaxing experience. It’s certainly not going to be a game for everyone but it undoubtedly resonated with me.
4.5 hokokohohokums out of 5.