There has always been a strong case that gaming should be considered an art form, as opposed to a mere recreational entertainment media. History is chequered with moments where titles have transcended their intended purpose and crossed over to be far more than just gameplay. Developers have never been more bold, brave and creative – giving us experiences that straddle the worlds of music, sensory immersion and artistic endeavour. It is an exciting time to be alive, if you are looking for something more than convention; something to get lost in.
Hohokum is the latest treat to ride this wonderfully artsy zeitgeist, and is another oblique, abstract charmer. It is another example of design that refuses to conform to accepted gaming norms. The structure is free-flowing, with no guidance or hand-holding. All you know is that you are in charge of piloting a swirling, snake-like entity through what is initially an inky darkness. Interacting with rune-like objects in the blackness trigger bursts of vivid colour and affect the superb soundtrack. You soon work out that by touching certain points, or swimming your way through certain areas of the ether, further serpentine pals reveal themselves and join your avatar, each one a different hue, eventually forming a squiggling, ever-moving, aesthetically pleasing formation.
For long periods you will find yourself enjoying the precision controls, the way you can alter the velocity of your movement, the way that tilting the analogue sticks create eye-popping patterns and thrilling changes of direction. When things happen they are genuinely surprising; the world you are thrown into does not reveal its secrets easily, and there is no way of predicting what will happen next. And just when you think that you are confined to the initial light/dark mechanic of the initial area, you begin to discover portals to new dimensions, and things become even more compulsive and spellbinding.
It becomes apparent that linking up with your fellow swirling, kite-like friends is the aim of Hohokum, but you are not alone in the seventeen different worlds, and have to interact with all manner of denizens along the way. Oddball characters ride upon your trail, seeking assistance for their own problems which then grant access to your unlockable snakey pals. You become embroiled in such diverse tasks as building a rollercoaster, working on a farm, seeking out collectibles, trying to initiate cloudbursting explosions of technicolour polka-dots, altering the palette and indeed the very fabric of the world you inhabit.
VERDICT: Your enjoyment of Hohokum will depend entirely on how open you are to the idea of immersing yourself in its ambient, unconventional nature. It is more of an exploratory journey as opposed to a signposted adventure. A place where you employ the smoothly animated tendrils of your craft to seek out the new, to trigger the next sugar-rush of sound and vision. It is the antithesis of what most blockbuster titles seek to achieve. It lends itself well to a pair of headphones and a complete disconnect from your expectations of what the artform – and yes, it is an artform – can bring to the table.
SUPERB. This is the mark of greatness, only awarded to games that engage us from start to finish. Titles that score 9/10 will have very few problems or negative issues, and will deliver high quality and value for money across all aspects of their design.
Review code provided by publisher.