Platforms PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
Publisher Sony Developer Honeyslug
Genre Art Platform Played PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3
The argument for video games to be classified as interactive art has raged for many years, with both sides debating whether or not the interactive medium should be classified as such. While this has been happening, titles like The Unfinished Swan, Journey, and even upcoming titles like Rime, have been offering amazing abstract adventures that have left a beautiful impression on those who have had the pleasure to experience them. Yet almost no title has offered an abstract artistic experience quite like Honeyslug’s Cross-Buy/Cross-Save artistic title, Hohokum.
Hohokum is an experience that is difficult to describe, one that cannot simply be defined by previous genres within the industry. Hohokum is a unique experience of its own, one that is as hard to explain in the literal sense as it is visually. Controlling a multi-coloured serpent known as the ‘Long Mover’, players must glide through a variety of environments. Why, you may ask? Well, that’s open to interpretation. Personally, my quest was to find and rescue my fellow ‘Long Movers’ from whatever trouble may have befell upon them. The main reasoning behind this exploratory adventure is never defined; it just simply exists as a means to an end.
This main premise may throw many players off, as Hohokum is more about exploration and interacting with the world to see what happens, rather than an experience with a beginning, middle, and end. With no true right or wrong way to play, the game leaves the player to interpret what is happening on screen in their own way. The open nature of the story being told here is intriguing; to some, however, there may even be no story at all. Hohokum is what you decide it is.
Controlling the ‘Long Mover’ allows you to gracefully glide through the air of this unknown world, picking up people and interacting with the environment as you go. During a wedding, I was delivering drinks to the attendees, even moving the bride and the groom to the very top of their ceremony, before setting fireworks into the night-sky. During my mountain adventure, I was collecting individuals and delivering them to the hilltops, bringing with them their own kites, allowing them to fly them in the beautiful blue sky above. These are just a handful of the unexplained adventures players will experience, with these tasks needed to unlock your colourful serpent friends.
Once these serpents are discovered, I was greeted with these small graphic, novel-esque scenes, which in a (mostly) humorous manner explained how the serpents found themselves in these peculiar predicaments. These scenes were short, but they offered a charming explanation of the events, and it gave me the feeling of truly interacting and altering the world around me.
Developer Honeyslug has created Hohokum to become that relaxing title you experience to wind down; one you can enter, interact, and enjoy without much thought or frustration. For the most part, Hohokum delivers this experience, with most of the interactive levels eventually completed without much thought, and instead simply due to the fact that you tried every possible option. These offer an enjoyable adventure as you see the world react to your presence; though problems do appear during the handful of levels that require an outside-the-box frame of mind, mainly due to the fact that these tasks are not clearly defined because of the lack of communication between the developer and the player. Where most games will subtly direct you to the problem that needs your attention, Hohokum avoids this, and instead expects the player to possess a similar thought process to the developer; which leads to some frustrations that contradict Hohokum‘s main focus – relaxation.
The problem is you never quite know if you’re making forward progress at all. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy games that rely on outside-the-box thinking; where you must utilise the defined tools and restrictions to complete the task. However, when those are not defined and the task is unknown, frustrations occur. These moments where the unique nature of the world, coupled with the lack of explanation as to the limitations and rules of Hohokum’s universe, offer a frustrating time. Playing with the world around me in order to progress is an interesting idea, but in the end, Hohokum is a game where I must progress. Interacting with the world and seeing the consequences is a great experience, but you can only do that for so long before you feel stuck behind a wall that you didn’t even know existed, with no means to progress.
Honeyslug has nailed the sense of atmosphere throughout Hohokum, each level being detailed with a vibrant array of colours and unique presentational qualities. Each environment is vastly different from the last; from the bamboo forest, to the underwater journey. Although these locales couldn’t be more far apart, they all feel like they fit together in this unknown world. This is due to the whimsical and addictive soundtrack that accompanies Hohokum, providing a relaxing vibe throughout each location. These beautiful abstract levels also have a relationship with the music, similar to the platformer Sound Shapes. Interacting with the world will affect the music, further emphasising your ability to alter the world around you. The feeling of power during Hohokum was something I loved, making every one of my actions feel significant.
Hohokum’s other major problem is due to the difficulty of navigation between levels. Each level is connected to each other with portals; these portals can be used to switch locations at any time. The problem is the layout of these levels is confusing; trying to find one level in particular – or trying to find which level you haven’t completed – is a nightmare. There is no map to help make this experience easier, and there is no standard number of portals in each level. The convoluted level navigation leave you spending a lot more time searching for your next level than you should be.
Hohokum is one of the most unique experiences of 2014, with an atmospheric soundtrack and vibrant visuals that will make the experience a treat. Hohokum is at its best when it allows you to interact with the world, gliding through the unique land as you play Hohokum the way you want to play it. Unfortunately, when Hohokum tries to provide challenging puzzles, the lack of explanation and confusing level navigation design end up replacing the feeling of relaxation, with frustration.
- Vibrant visuals
- Whimsical soundtrack
- Interacting with the world
- Confusing level navigation
- Difficult puzzles bring forth frustration
The Score: 7.0