There’s been a trend that has unfortunately plagued modern gaming. Back in the day, games that were difficult didn’t pretend to be otherwise. They didn’t spoon-feed the player.
In the modern age, you might have guessed that the advent of technology would make this trend more prevalent. But games have, for the most part, gone the exact other way. Most games feature almost too many hints and tutorials leading you through your first baby steps into the environment and experience of the game. While some might think this is a necessary step to appeal to a wider audience, it takes away from the fun that comes from exploring and understanding the game mechanics by yourself. Make no mistake, occasionally games need to tell you just what the heck is going on, but they don’t need to overload you with hints and tips.
As soon as you begin the game, instead of presenting you with a long wall of text or hints popping up from every corner of the screen, Hohokum puts you straight into the action. You are dropped into a fantastical environment with a serpentine being that you control, and as you drag it around, you collide into flower petals, sea sponges and other elements in your environment. Examining how your interactions with these elements affect the surrounding environment is where the heart of Hohokum lies. Each level is basically a set of puzzles, and you need to figure out exactly how you need to interact with the different elements that are present in that particular stage to solve it. You might need to push, pull, bump or flip different things in the stage in the correct order to form the solution.
The Game Play:
This abstract, unconventional gameplay is a double-edged sword for Hohokum. On the one hand, its distinctive play style and environments give it a unique character, but at the same time it also can alienate some gamers. While you might wonder and cherish the beautiful tapestry of the levels as you flow through them, not knowing what to do next can be an annoyance. Once you’re stuck, you’re basically relegated to slipping and sliding through the entire level, traversing each small inch of screen real estate to see if you can make something happen. What do you do with the people that are frolicking in the background? Do you break all of the pots that are on the ledge, or do you save some in case you might need it later? What is the purpose of this puzzle? These and many other questions like these will be asked often by gamers as they try to make their way through the various stages.
There is one thing that is clear in the stages though. Above everything else, you have to free your fellow serpents. They are freed by completing the puzzles. Each stage also has some secondary objectives, but players may or may not choose to complete these, depending on how much anguish they’ve suffered while finishing a particular level. To its credit, Hohokum doesn’t encourage you to make speed runs through the puzzles. Even though it indicates to you once you’ve finished the primary objective for a level, you might still be encouraged to flow around the level and just take in the beauty of the different colors and patterns that emerge as your serpent slides around.
What Impressed Me:
It’s quite a unique game, and the visual design is fitting for a game like this. Each level is filled with a completely different thematic design, and no two levels look similar. There are abstract elements and weird-looking creatures floating all over the stages. There are brightly lit, kaleidoscopic stages, and some stages have minimalistic lighting, the elements of which light up subjectively as your serpent interacts with them. It all feels like a fairy tale, and the music matches the mood perfectly. The upbeat soundtrack and the sounds that pop up when you touch different things in a level keep the proceedings interesting and fun.
You can spend your time sliding around 17 different worlds in Hohokum, all of which are accessible from the get-go. Once you’ve finished every level, you might want to go back and visit one that you found particularly enchanting, and try to finish some of the bonus objectives. While it isn’t the easiest game to figure out, it is immensely rewarding once you manage to put together a complex solution that involves many different elements. While the missing narrative might make your journey through the different worlds seem a bit pointless, it doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s still a fun ride.
While Hohokum might not be the most accessible puzzle game of all time, it is definitely one of the most unique. Beautiful visuals, fantastic music and complex puzzles make this game quite a lot of fun if you’re willing to put in the time. When you’re sliding around a psychedelic level, lighting lamps and brushing off flower petals, you won’t really care if there is a point to the entire process.