You probably wouldn’t be surprised if I told you that Hohokum is a beautiful game to look at, or that its soundtrack is catchy and fun. It probably wouldn’t be a shocker if I said that it’s a fun game to lose yourself in, zipping around the environments and taking in the scenery. After all, the game has been criticized, both pre and post-release, for being little more than a playable screensaver.
You might even say it’s for a particular crowd — the kind that plays Rez under the influence, who doesn’t mind wasting an hour wandering around in Proteus, and thinks Journey is the pinnacle of gaming. You wouldn’t be entirely off-base, but you might be surprised to learn that Hohokum is much more of an adventure than it initially lets on.
Hohokum could be described as the arthouse puzzle/adventure reinvention of Snake. In it, you take control of an eye with a long, multicolored tail, flying freely through a 2D environment. You can turn, speed up, and slow down, and that’s the extent of your abilities. That said, the game gets a ton of mileage out of your character snaking across objects and creatures in the background. Nearly everything you touch is changed, and that basic level of interactivity manages to fuel an entire adventure in some very creative ways.
There’s a great sense of exploration and experimentation, with each level carrying a unique theme and story. Pass by attendants at a theme park and they’ll hop on your back, jumping off to stop at their favorite rides. Simple interactions like that lead to you eventually assembling a rollercoaster and finding another one of your snake-shaped friends. Each world hides one of your buddies, and the story of how they got stuck there. Your ultimate goal is to release them all.
Part of what makes it so enjoyable is your ability to freely bounce between many different worlds. All the levels are connected to each other through a series of portals, and finding each one allows you to revisit it at any time via a hub world. Most of the puzzles are built on an intuitive framework, generally requiring you to simply pay attention to the background, explore, and try interacting with everything. That said, when you’re stuck it’s nice to have well over a dozen other levels to zip off to and explore.
Hohokum isn’t some grand journey with a profound statement at the end, but rather a series of smaller adventures that bounce between adorable, funny, sad, and poignant. It’s about seeing each of the little episodes through to their end, and when it’s all over it doesn’t amount to some stunning climax. That might not sit well with everyone, but Hohokum surprises with the adventures you do go on. By the end I had time-traveled, explored a cave full of treasure, hosted a wedding, and saved a monkey from the back of a bullet-hell spewing elephant.
Even better was that I was able to play it how I wanted, bouncing between my PS4 and Vita thanks to cross-buy and cross-save. The cross-save feature is really nice, allowing you to jump between platforms at a moments notice and pick up right where you left off. Perhaps my favorite part, though, is that no matter what I played it on, Hohokum looked and played identically. Unlike so many other games, taking it on the go doesn’t come with a series of downsides.
Hohokum is a delight. I enjoyed it from beginning to end, and plan to go back for every last collectible and trophy, zipping around its colorful world for at least a couple more hours. More importantly it’s a real game, with satisfying goals and puzzles to solve. Sure, it may be a bit abstract, but I have no problem recommending it to anyone who loves a good adventure/puzzle game. No psychedelic drugs required.
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