I’m going to be perfectly blunt: I’m giving Hohokum a 7.5 because I haven’t the slightest idea what it really is, but it’s pretty, wildly creative, and oddly compelling. I’d be perfectly happy leaving it at that but hey, this is supposed to be a professional review. I suppose I should expound a bit. The only difficulty will be in describing the premise of the game in question (I’m not sure there is one), and trying to convince readers they should give it a try, despite my lack of description. I feel like my hands are tied because the game is just so…um…avant-garde.
The visuals really are special, though. This is one of those immensely pleasing visual presentations that make your eyes pop. Vibrant, often soothing graphics permeate to the core, as you’re continually greeted with attractive – albeit abstract – depictions of a fantasy world that sends one groping for adjectives. This is an endlessly imaginative little quest that always seems to give you something new. You don’t have to worry about repetitive environments are uninspired images here, as remarkable creativity can be found around every corner. It’s smooth, fluid and very slick.
The soundtrack blends nicely with that singular graphical display. There’s a solid assortment of musical tracks that accompany every movement. The effects are subtle and add a semblance of mystique to a game that’s already rife with a mysterious, inexplicable aura. It’s great that no two worlds are the same, and you’re always given a fresh set of tracks and effects; this results in an experience that always feels fresh. Technically, Hohokum is a game that demands your attention, and it does so without bludgeoning you over the head with insistent, flashy effects. The entire thing is just very cathartic.
Well, it’s cathartic provided you’ve got the requisite patience, and you don’t mind being tossed into an exceedingly strange universe without any direction whatsoever. If you’re not a fan of hand-holding, this is the game for you. If you want to explore, discover and conquer without any artificial aids, you’ve found interactive nirvana. You can’t expect a deep narrative and it’d be difficult to extract any sort of concrete message from this game, but that’s okay. It’s a freeform puzzler of sorts, and it relies on its clever design and vibrant presentation to keep you coming back for more.
Nobody is going to tell you how to do anything; you just have to move around and figure things out. Each world presents you with a wide variety of environmental puzzles that require a very flexible mind. Control is relatively simple – always fluid and responsive – and you don’t have to worry about technical gameplay mishaps like a wonky camera or silly AI. No, this is all about your interaction with a wonderfully colorful and surprisingly challenging backdrop. It’s surreal without being too non-representational and it rewards those with an inquisitive brain.
Of course, balance is a key part of any piece of entertainment and in this case, I think the pendulum swings a bit too far in one direction. It’s great that we’re not being accosted with constant tutorials and direction but at the same time, we could use at least some clue. There are times when the game’s unique allure begins to wear off, just because you’re at a complete loss. “What the hell do I do know?” will be an all-too-common lament and that’s unfortunate. If they had merely provided some subtle form of assistance, it would’ve greatly enhanced the overall experience. I do appreciate the concept, but there’s a limit…
There’s just so much nonsense flitting about in every world that you can’t rely on logic and common sense. In fact, such things should be banished from your head when sitting down to play Hohokum. This means you just have to rove around, fiddling with things and attempting to solve whatever it is you’re supposed to solve. There are even secondary objectives but for the most part, you just want to locate and free all these colorful serpents. That could be viewed as the core goal but even that isn’t constant, as the game seems almost aimless at times. You’re just meandering through this wacky environment, trying to make sense of a world that doesn’t want to make sense.
It can be frustrating when you don’t know what to do, and there’s a distinct lack of depth as well. There really isn’t much to the game once you’ve figured things out, and that’s somewhat disappointing. There’s so much promise here that you wish the developers had spent more time fleshing out deeper, more involved puzzle situations, and giving you more distinctly unique challenges in each world. Like I said, there’s not a lot of repetition involved but still, I think a lot more could’ve been done with this vibrant, freewheeling, puzzle-solving concept. Combined with the great graphics and effective electro soundtrack, the foundation is rock solid.
Then again, it’s important to remember that you won’t find anything even remotely similar. You can’t compare this game to anything that’s currently available and chances are, you won’t see another game in the future that’s comparable, either. This one stands alone, and it can fly high on the wings of boundless wonder and awe. You’re often sucked into these blissfully chaotic worlds, and each of the 17 levels has its very own appeal. Your senses will appreciate this intriguing ride, that’s for sure. You just have to accept that there’s virtually no direction or assistance, and you have to make things happen. It can be very rewarding if you’re up for it.
Hohokum can feel like a chore at times but for the most part, this is an original, inspired piece of interactive art. Perhaps that’s the best way to describe it. No world has a clear focus, which can be a drag, but you’re always drawn in by the unparalleled visual presentation that has a bizarre caressing quality. There’s just so much to like, and the fact that it can be tedious and irritating clashes with its soothing nature. Despite this clash, though, I think it’s fair to say that you’re in for a definite treat, provided you approach this experience with an open mind.
The Good: Beautiful, sultry graphics throughout. A fitting, well-implemented soundtrack. Fantastic creative diversity and cleverly designed environmental puzzles. Freedom to explore and conquer on your own. Can be immensely rewarding and immersive.
The Bad: Not enough depth. Lack of direction drags the production down, often making it feel aimless. Pacing takes a hit now and then.
The Ugly: “Such an attractive game shouldn’t get so frustrating.”
8/19/2014 Ben Dutka