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'Hohokum' invites players to explore its strange world

Hohokum (PS4)

Rating:
Star5
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Star
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Released earlier today, Hohokum is undoubtedly the strangest, most lavishly colored game we've played this year. Developed by Honeyslug in collaboration with Richard Hogg, this bizarre title is a Sony exclusive, and is now available for the PlayStation 3, PS4 and PS Vita. Even as a new release, we're already considering this to be one of PSN's gems, but is its unique style enough for Hohokum to survive among the other indie titles, or will its colors begin to run when faced with competition?

Long Mover teams up with others during the game's first area
Long Mover teams up with others during the game's first areaImage captured by Will Holden, featured game is owned by SCEA

The game begins by immediately placing players into its world without any sort of tutorial or instruction to guide them. In fact, players may not even realize that they are already in control of their character when they enter the first area. We can't remember the last time we started a game without even a single clear objective. This experience, coupled with the game's artistic presentation, gave us an almost nostalgic feeling for when we were incredibly young, just learning how video games worked. Perhaps that sounds a bit too dramatic, but there's no denying that something special happened at the start of Hohokum, causing us to quickly leave our questions regarding our goals or direction behind. This game forces the player to explore its world on their own and invites them to move throughout its space in any way they please as they figure out where they are and where to go next.

Hohokum puts players in control of a serpent-like creature named Long Mover (a reference to The Mighty Boosh). This colorful being smoothly makes its way through the game's gorgeously stylized world, activating various objects by gliding into them. Some of these points may bounce Long Mover around, cause it to speed up or activate like switches, leading the way to new areas to explore. The game seldomly indicates what kind of object you are about to run into, further emphasizing its themes of exploration and experimentation. Long Mover itself controls with the left analogue stick, as per usual. The 'X' button will cause it to speed up, while circle slows it down. The shoulder buttons will have Long Mover slithering from side to side, giving it a speed boost. Using the DualShock 4's touchpad will cause the creature to move more sporadically, its body quivering as it goes. Doing this will also activate the controller's built-in speaker, which sounds almost like a counterpoint to the game's more mellow tones. Long Mover's color also changes depending on which direction it's facing, something that the controller recreates with its lightbar as a nice little added touch.

One of the reasons we found Hohokum so appealing was its relaxed nature. There's no score, no time limits and no constant reminders of what you're supposed to be doing. The only exception appears in the pause menu, where creatures will state how many eyes have been opened (this sounds a bit less ominous once you've played the game). Still, the game isn't completely aimless. Yes, players are allowed to explore the levels and hop from area to area as they please, but there are specific things to examine and puzzles to solve throughout the game. Given the fact that Hohokum never directly tells the player what to do, there may be plenty of instances where the player will be faced with a puzzle and not even realize it. Most of these tasks are pretty simple and intuitive, and never did we feel like the game was forcing us to solve a puzzle as some arbitrary means of progressing.

Gameplay aside, Hohokum's visuals helped to keep us enthralled as we played. The vibrant colors and imaginative worlds that have been crafted within each area made us feel as though we were flying through someone else's imagination. There's a childlike quality to the game's design, which unabashedly conveys the sense of silliness and innocence one would gather from looking through a kid's sketchbook. Complimenting the game's visuals is its music, the ever-changing score rewarding each interaction with its dulcet tones. Figuring out the depth of Hohokum's dynamic soundtrack could be a task in itself and it's easy to get lost in trying to find new ways to alter the compositions.

Regardless of what we thought of Hohokum's gameplay and style, some people may find themselves losing interest rather quickly. While we loved the unique approach to game design, those looking for a concrete story or a more grounded experience will find this title lacking. Others may not be interested in exploring the world's colorful landscapes without a set task to complete or goal to reach (many areas exist simply to move around in and don't necessarily feature any puzzle elements), and could consider this adventure to be an aimless waste of time. Clearly, Hohokum isn't a game for everyone. This is definitely one title that can't be easily recommended through a text review alone, though we can say that if you're looking for a relaxing, surreal and truly unique experience that isn't afraid to step away from some modern gaming conventions, then Hohokum may be perfect for you.

Pros:

+ Gorgeous graphics and creative artwork

+ Simplistic level design allows for more exploration

+ Plenty of little details to discover

Cons:

- The game's appeal may be lost on many people

- Objectives and goals usually aren't clear

This review was made possible with a download code provided by SCE of America.