Hohokum preview: Hopefully more than an elaborate screensaver
Hohokum is one of the first games I’ve played that had me genuinely asking whether it’s a game or not.
Flower? That’s a game.
The Walking Dead? Definitely a game.
Gone Home? A really great game.
Proteus? I say it’s a game!
But during my first few minutes with Hohokum, I navigated a vibrant world as a colorful snake. Catchy music played, and when I passed by the people in the background, they hopped on for a ride. The animations were adorable, everything looked and sounded great, and I was enjoying zipping around. Then reality started to creep in as I started to hit the edges of the world and realized I had no idea what I was doing.
Was I actually supposed to be doing anything? Was the goal to just soak up the atmosphere? Is Hohokum stoner gaming at its finest?
Then, suddenly, something happened. I found some platforms where characters hopped off my back and hopped onto a pedestal. After that I delivered one character, who, through a bubble over their head, indicated they wanted to find a shoe. I found the floating island with a shoe and they seemed to appreciate it.
I hit an electrified gate and all of my travelers fried and fell off. An obstacle! Danger! Goals! This was starting to feel like a real video game.
It turns out Hohokum is quite goal-oriented. A Sony representative told me that each level actually has a bunch of things to do and different mechanics for accomplishing them. The game just doesn’t go out of its way to guide you, which is nice once you realize what it's trying to do. If you get stuck, it seems just zipping around and zoning out for a bit is a viable option too.
As I progressed, I started finding characters that doubled as pieces for a rollercoaster in the center of the level. I never finished building it, but I really wanted to. I was compelled to poke and prod at each object in the environment and actually figure out what its purpose was.
On the other hand, knowing that a character wanted to go to a particular island but not knowing where it was left me with only one option -- I had to laboriously comb the level from left-to-right and top-to-bottom to find what I was looking for. In those moments, where Hohokum stopped being chill and started becoming busywork, I got a little worried about where the final product will land.
All in all, though, Hohokum is a beautiful and catchy game. I’d love to pop on some headphones, lounge in front of my PS4 or in bed with my Vita, and zone out with it for a while. It’s definitely a game, but what really mattered was that Hohokum put a smile on my face.
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