E3 2012: Hokra hands-on
One of the first games I had the chance to play at this year's E3 was a lovely little indie title called Hokra. The game, which was being shown off at the IndieCade booth, can best be described as a minimalist sports title. And as was very appropriately pointed out by GameZone's own Lance Liebl, Hokra almost has a very slight shooter element to it, as well.
Hokra is a game for four players. Participants are divided into teams of two, and their goal is to take a ball — or pixel — and score it into their respective goals. Each team has two goals, and they are color-coded to match the players' sprites. Hokra's visual design is made up entirely of pixels, so it has a completely non-threatening and entirely calm aesthetic to it. The game really looks great, and the minimalist art style creates one big abstract sports game. The sound is also very simple, and composer Nathan Tompkins was quick to point out that he didn't want to create a chiptune-heavy soundtrack because the game wasn't really a traditional 8-bit title.
A match in Hokra is won by the team that manages to fill its goals' pixels. Running to the goal with the ball or "kicking" it into it helps fill in the large collection of pixels. Controls are simple, and given Hokra's design, I really wouldn't have it any other way. You move around the screen using the analog stick, and if you have the ball in your possession, you can pass it to your partner or attempt to score by pressing the A button on the Xbox 360 controller. If you're not in possession of the ball, you can sprint by tapping the A button. What this essentially means is that if you've got the ball, you'll move slower than your opponents.
As defense, you have the opportunity to steal the ball from whoever has it. Successfully stealing the ball can be a lot deeper than you might initially think. Case in point: You can sprint toward the person with the ball by tapping A and succeed in taking it for yourself, but as soon as you do, you'll need to stop pressing A, because you'll end up kicking the ball away. Hokra poses a wonderful little system that takes some technique and finesse to master, but it's incredibly rewarding and just plain fun.
As much fun as the gameplay may be, the social aspect of Hokra is also a total blast. I was playing alongside fellow GameZone writer Vito Gesualdi, and together we were taking on another duo. These two guys were primed and ready, and they gave us a good fight. That said, my partner and I gave each other a better fight. Shouts of "You suck!" and "Don't steal the ball from me!" were uttered throughout, and they were a hell of a lot more prominent than the typical "Pass it over here!" and "Good shot!" crap you hear in traditional sports games. Hokra is a game where you team up to beat another pair, but you still can't help but point out your partner's stupid mistakes, and the game is awesome because of that.
I'm not going to lie; I had so much fun playing Hokra and talking to developer Ramiro Corbetta that I completely forgot to ask about the game's release info. That said, the fact that I played it using an Xbox 360 controller could indicate a possible PC or Xbox 360 launch down the road. I'll be sure to get the full scoop straight from Corbetta, but until I do, I would like to point out that I had a total blast playing Hokra. The gameplay was ridiculously fun, and the presentation was absolutely pleasant. Now that I'm away from it, I realize that I need more Hokra in my life. Here's hoping I get to play it again very soon.
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