I remember seeing Hohokum announced for the PS4 before the consoles inevitable release. It was charming to watch in action, but I couldn’t help but feel confused as to what the game was actually about. Here was a tadpole-like creature that was going around weird but colourful worlds in a seemingly random fashion. Needless to say, I had to give the game a go, so when I got it as a part of Playstation Plus many months ago, I decided to finally sit down with Hohokum and see what it was all about.
The game starts off in an abstract black circular area. You proceed to move your “tadpole” around the black circular area whilst button prompts come up showing you how to move your tadpole through the world. Pressing X speeds up your character, whilst O slows it down, and Square closes your tadpoles eye. That’s it, simple controls for a seemingly simple game.
During this black section you’re also introduced to your main characters friends. These other “tadpoles” all have unique shapes and colours, and when you go near them, you find that they follow your every move. This makes for some simply stunning art when you have the ability to move them all around in spiral and gorgeous patterns.
Eventually, the game start proper when an incident tears apart the fabric of your black world, and in doing so, makes you lose your 18 friends, and so the adventure starts proper. You go into the only hole left behind, and discover a hub world full of awesome abstract creatures, with all manner of obstacles that lovingly animate with your characters touch. There’s easter eggs galore all over this first land too, with statues adorning a lot of the stage hinting at a history where the inhabitants of this land hated the tadpoles. It’s all for naught though, as the entire game of Hohokum allows you to interpret anything you see anyway you want, as it never actually explicitly tells you anything. It occasionally hints at little story tidbits throughout, but this is purely to prod your imagination into conjuring up fantastic stories.
Once you’ve explored the first world enough, you’ll notice that you can create these portals to other realm by hovering over specific groups of circles. Each portal you enter will take you to a brand new and seemingly random world. It’s in the exploration of these worlds that you truly start to realise how damn charming Hohokum really is. Every abstract interpretation of real-life animals and activities looks and feels different, with each dimension also seemingly having different rules to follow. In one area you may meet an “elephant” that for all intents and purposes acts and behaves like one, but otherwise look nothing like a real life one. These abstract representations are at first confusing, but eventually, endearing. I found myself towards the end of the game enjoying soaking up every new creature and person I saw, taking in this weird and wonderful world in all it’s glory, and not wanting it to end.
Each world will have a new puzzle to solve, which will always involve interacting with the environment in weird and wonderful ways. One world for example is a theme park, with multiple people spread throughout. When you hover over them, they jump on your back, ready to be put somewhere around the theme park, maybe on a ride, or even in a cannon to shoot them anywhere randomly. Once mini-puzzles are solved (like starting a ride back up), bigger pieces of the puzzle are given, which in turn finally reveals one of your missing friends from the start of the game.
These puzzles are the bread and butter of Hohokum, and contribute to the games seemingly impossible learning curve as you first venture around levels. Eventually you’ll get used to how weird the game is, and it’s at this point that you’ll truly start to love and adore everything you see on screen. Every character is so seemingly simple on the surface with their big bold colours, but also so stylised and complicated that it throws you off frequently. I genuinely loved feeling confused throughout, as it allowed me to take Hohokums style and substance in all it’s glory. This sense of confusion may not be to everybody’s taste: those of you who like a more linear game may get frustrated at the games seemingly random logic, but for those of you who like a challenge, Hohokum is a genuine delight.
When a friend is found, a new cutscene/story piece is given for how that friend lived in the time you were gone, and it’s also here that I found myself loving Hohokum even more. These charming tidbits of information really give character to these string-like creatures, which makes the game even more endearing. It’s weird really, but an absolute delight to experience when you first laugh out loud at how a character was trapped for years with people in the world thinking it was a hose.
The music, whilst sparse is also a delight, which, when combined with the sound effects produced when your tadpole interacts with the world, makes for a captivating experience. I found myself humming tunes regularly as I re-entered a world I had been in previously, a brilliant way to show how lovely and charming the music truly was.
If I had to say some negatives about Hohokum, first it would be that it’s pretty short. At 3 hours and 50 minutes, I felt I had seen everything the game had to offer, and whilst there were more collectibles to find, I didn’t really feel like staring at abstract shapes until my eyes went blurry.
Second, the “story” doesn’t really have a beginning, middle or end. For some this could be seen as a positive, as you’re exploring at your own pace and for your own reasons, but I felt the fact that there was no proper conclusion detracted from character Hohokum gave to it’s seemingly sentient tadpoles.
Overall though, these negatives are tiny in the grand scheme of things, with myself and my other half thoroughly enjoying the richness of the world that is Hohokum. Should you have picked the game up for free in the past using Playstation plus, give it a go, you will not be disappointed.