Hokko Life has good foundations, but needs work | Early Access impressions

by on June 2, 2021

After the flabbergasting success of Animal Crossing last year, it’s clear that a lot of people just want to potter around a town and relax in their free time. High octane gameplay is one thing, but have you ever tried arranging furniture or chatting to a sassy squirrel? It’s only natural that more games would try to capture that laid-back life sim magic, and Hokko Life is looking to do just that.

After falling asleep on your train home, you end up in the quiet village of Hokko. This small settlement doesn’t attract a great deal of tourists, and needs your help to become a more prosperous place. After being offered a place to sleep from the kindly innkeeper, your quest to chop, craft, and fish Hokko into the limelight begins.

Slow and steady

You’re introduced to everything Hokko Life has to offer pretty slowly, so there’s no chance you’ll struggle with what to do next. First, you’re given an axe to clear a fallen tree from a roadway. Then you’re tasked with using that wood to build a nice new bench for the town. Within an hour or so you’ll be pretty proficient at all sorts of crafting and gathering activities, and ready to settle into your own home.

A screenshot of Hokko Life

What sets Hokko Life apart from other life sims is the furniture creation. Not content with just making you gather materials to make premade chairs, there’s an easy-to-use custom design table just waiting for you to get creative. By moving and resizing simple shapes, you’ll be able to make all manner of unique items in your home to show off to your friends.

If personalising your village is a priority for you, then you’ll be glad to hear that you can also apply your own paint jobs to the town. If you’ve got a great idea for wallpaper and flooring then just draw it yourself, or even make some custom clothing to make Hokko into a couture paradise.

Hokko Life: crafting and design

Outside of these cool crafting and design features, Hokko Life features a lot of familiar life sim elements. You can fish at any body of water (complete with Animal Crossing style fish shadows) and add them to your collection. Or you can catch bugs with a net. Although you’ll have done this all before, it’s just as functional here.

If we’re talking about similarities to last year’s Switch megahit though, the animal characters have got to be mentioned. Everyone you meet in Hokko life is an animal, from the giraffe shopkeeper to the crafty cow. Unfortunately, the animals have nowhere near the charm of those in Animal Crossing, feeling a bit dead-eyed and lifeless.

A screenshot of Hokko Life

The lack of personality in the characters did make me feel less guilty for selling their stuff, though. In Hokko Life you can pick up, move and even take other character’s furniture. And you’d better believe I grabbed every last piece to stock up on precious cash. But this isn’t limited to items in houses. I found this out by selling all the village lampposts so I could buy an electric guitar.

Time isn’t a factor

Hokko Life isn’t a game you play for 30 minutes every day (as is popular in the genre). Instead, it just allows you to put your character to bed and start a new day whenever you want. I actually found the lack of restrictions hurt my enjoyment of the game. Playing in chunks of over an hour started to feel pretty tedious.

A screenshot of Hokko Life

I should probably also mention the plethora of glitches I encountered in this early access build. Plenty of furniture got stuck inside other objects, or vanish under the floor as I placed them. Other villagers also had issues affect them, with often sinister results. One of my cow neighbours kept vanishing further into some unchoppable trees. Eventually, she was just staring menacingly through a tiny gap in the forest. I met another villager at the bar who’d somehow cloned himself and started to argue with his new twin. If these incidents had been scripted, then Hokko Life would be an amazing horror game.

Hokko Life has the foundation of a good life sim game but is lacking the charm of its peers currently. The furniture creation is a great addition to the genre though. If Wonderscope can polish up the glitches and inject some personality before it leaves early access it could be an enjoyable and relaxing experience.