Hohokum Review – Colorful Hide and Seek (PS4/PS3/Vita)
Ed. Note – Review was done by D’yani Wood. Due to some technical issues on the back end, this needed to be published under my byline for the time being. As soon as we get things fixed, we will update the byline accordingly. -Chandler Wood
The first thing I ever knew about Hohokum, right before starting it up, was that it will be colorful based on the logo. That’s all. I didn’t watch any game trailers about it, I didn’t look at any art; I just knew it would be somewhat artistic based on the logo. Then, I started it up, watched the beginning screens, and right then and there, I knew it was going to try and be a REALLY artistic game just based on those developer and publisher logos. Sony Santa Monica’s new logo was looking polished with Hohokum colors for its first debut at the start of a game. After that, I was whisked into gameplay by watching a simple scene in which a kite-like eye on a string glided through some colors, and then I was in control.
I wandered around a place made of dark black and grey circles, bouncing off the edges in a pop of bright colors. After a while of progressing through this space, one by one, friends would join me, the first few teaching me how to move fast and slow, and each one after adding another layer of music. Each friend looked slightly different than me, and moved slightly differently, yet always mimicking my movements almost exactly. After a while, we formed a streaming rainbow of friends. We could bounce off of central circles together and form a synchronized pattern of fun, free spirited-ness, and friendship.
After a while of frolicking about together, we activated a large circle and I closed my eye while all my friends flew away through various holes to new and colorful dimensions. Now, I had to find them. There are 17 different worlds you get to explore, some secret and hard to find, with others very obviously accessible. You are given no hints or direction in the game, and that fosters a great deal of curiosity and discovery. Hohokum feels like a vast, vibrant playground for the right brain. Your puzzling and gaming skills will be tested, as well as your creativity and curiosity rewarded. If you think you’ll skip this game because it looks too easy, you’ll be very surprised. I challenge you to not look up any of the secrets, either. Coming back after a break will help you, as well as watching someone else play it for a little bit. You could even try playing it while looking at it upside down — anything to challenge different parts of your brain to connect and work together in new ways.
A game that can successfully and constantly challenge the player with so many vastly varied ideas is pretty impressive. I don’t even want to use the word “puzzle” to describe any part of this game. Puzzle describes a logical problem with a simple solution once you figure it out. Hohokum doesn’t have that. It has miniature journeys and new adventures that open your eyes to eclectic lands and scenarios while you try to find your sly hiding friends. Many of corners of the worlds have little narratives within the path you must take to find your companions, and each one is unique and interesting. There are some dark undertones, as well as many themes of fun, joy, and a stimulation of the playful mind.
What a lackluster experience Hohokum would be without its beautiful, unique soundtrack created just for this game by talented artists in collaboration with Ghostly International. Many of the levels use the always-successful musical method of progressively adding more and more elements to a song, similar to Sound Shapes. This really builds up the emotions in the levels that it’s used in. Often, your actions activate each new element, which connects you to the feeling of the space you’re in even more. I found myself bobbing my head and smiling while I played through much of the game. Sometimes I’d linger in a level just to continue being in that particular vibe, whether it was a wedding, an abstract scene of colors, or an odd world full of lamps. There were many different feelings and tones in the game, so none of the areas felt stagnant or repeated. Everything was new and different. The only overarching theme was vibrant colors and playful scenes, which wasn’t a bad thing, given as that’s the overall setting the game’s going for.
If you usually dislike such free-form creative games, you may want to skip this one or get it on sale. It also seems to be a great fit for children as well as adults, so if you have kids that may be a good reason to get it. The only frustration about Hohokum can come from the complete lack of direction when you feel like you’re stuck and you just want one little hint, but are greeted with a teasing absence of guidance. It’s not as bad of a thing as it sounds. I really did get enjoyment and fulfillment from finally figuring out some of the challenges after much trial, but there came a point when the balance of fun, free exploration vs. zero guidance tipped a little more to the frustrating side than I would have liked. Like I said, this can be a really fresh type of challenge to a gamer, and if that sounds at all interesting to you, definitely dive into the world of Hohokum. There are enough surprising secrets and Easter eggs that overall it is very rewarding, and I think many types of people would find something they love about the game.
Hohokum is a great, joyous escape into a well-polished, artistic video game. I felt very happy playing it. I felt an innocent kinship with my fellow eye-kite beings, and I had fun trying to find them. Over the course of playing the game, you gain a simple respect for adventure with friends. Any screenshot taken from this game could serve as a desktop background, and any person could find something to like from the many worlds, sounds, and little narratives. Hohokum is a game of many colors.
Hohokum review copy provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.