Hohokum Review for PlayStation 4 (PS4)

Free Spirited

Hohokum is an exercise in exploration and experimentation. Here’s the world, inhabit it. Can you interact with it’s flora, fauna and inhabitants? See for yourself! It’s about the experience and freeing your mind. I suppose you could call it a grand, gaming experiment.

It’s one which begins immediately and without fanfare. The player may not even be aware Hohokum has started unless they fiddle with the analog sticks. There is a black, open space with a multicolored sky snake going through it. (Word of God calls it a Long Mover.) As this initial space is explored, the Long Mover learns to speed up, slow down, and blink, and is joined in this affair by a series of smaller, single colored Long Movers. I liked to pretend they were its children or friends, especially since they each have names (Oh that Zachariah).

The joint celebration of motion and dance is brief. Through the combined Long Movers’ interactions, things happen. Doors to worlds open, and everyone goes their separate ways. One Long Mover remains–the player’s.

This is when Hohokum truly begins. This Long Mover is given the opportunity to flow through all of the words. Move is too inadequate a word. Sometimes I pretended mine was some sort of wind god, gliding along, perhaps even making, air currents and carrying people, animals, and sound.

Yes, sound, because Hohokum is a game about influencing all things. The Long Mover is like Sound Shapes ‘ blob. Touching items in the environment creates a strange sort of music, pretty in an experimental way. Most everything makes a noise and each area has it’s own themes, making it this a visual and aural adventure.

It’s the visual events that make Hohokum . There are few words that one can actually recognize. Fellow Long Movers are named after they are discovered, if a world’s primary objective is completed, but there are so many things that can happen. Hohokum doesn’t tell you these moments are waiting, or even reward you with trophies when they are found (I still have no idea how they are doled out). In one world, my Long Mover found itself caught up in a wedding set in a building shaped like a giant cake. He picked a bride for the groom, got guests dancing, rang the bell to complete the ceremony, helped what appeared to be monkey butlers serve champagne, and set off fireworks. Another had the Long Mover gathering people to fly kites.

Hohokum Screenshot

All of these memories are made by happenstance. For every one world where I stumbled into the primary purpose and “story,” there were two where I left unfulfilled. I especially feel bad about a jungle world, where a rich king on a vicious, elephantine character had trapped some sort of monkey in a cage. I sensed the Long Mover could help, but didn’t determine how. Other monkeys lived below the landmass, and would swing from the Long Mover’s loops, but wouldn’t stay on long enough to reach the surface and captive friend. There are some birds on the west side of the surface, but none would stay with the Long Mover until it reached the captured beast. Flummoxed, all I could think to do was move on and return, hopefully wiser.

Worlds are connected in disjointed ways, like dreams. Portals appear in the hub world, and going through one usually offers at least one, often two, new areas to visit. If a world’s primary objective is completed and Long Mover revealed, then a permanent portal to that place opens in the hub. While normally I’d protest a lack of consistency and definite path to places, it fits in Hohokum . You can’t control dreams or the wind, so embrace the spontaneity.

Hohokum Screenshot

I would have appreciated some guidance. As I said, there were many instances where I didn’t know what needed to be done. I skimmed the surfaces, and it wouldn’t have hurt had perhaps the square “blink” key had perhaps caused an important object to shine (I still feel guilty about that captured primate). I longed for some sort of hint system. Perhaps I’m too accustomed to traditional game structure, but it seemed like a feature that could have been implemented to provide a gentle “nudge” for players, without sacrificing the overall vision.

It’s also because of that lack of direction that I’d suggest Hohokum is a game best enjoyed in small doses. There are a variety of areas to explore and many secrets to be uncovered. Yet, attempting to do and see it all at once felt tedious. My time with Hohokum reminded me of the week I decided to obsess over LSD: Lucid Dream Simulator . Both are the sorts of games that leave very specific impressions on a player, but I could never imagine playing for extended periods of time. Fifteen to thirty minutes here and there is just enough.

Hohokum Screenshot

It’s also important that people know going in that Hohokum isn’t a traditional game. It’s more ephemeral, like Entwined and Flower . You’re getting something out of the experience, and I’d even argue there are stories being told here, but it’s all happening in the most unconventional game. Hohokum is the equivalent of a bed time story, soothing a player before they go to sleep.

Most importantly, you get from Hohokum what you put into it. Players who investigate the nooks and crannies, seeing everything in each world, will be rewarded. Yet that isn’t to say that is the “right” way to play. People who barely scratch the surface will make their own memories with the game. Hohokum is a very personal experience, and each players’ explorations could will take their imaginations to different places.

Sony has a habit of putting certain games on pedestals, heralding them as experiences that gamers only see on PlayStation. Typically, these are more experimental titles designed to evoke thoughts and feelings, artistic endeavors that test the boundaries of what games can and can’t be. Hohokum fits perfectly into that category, and I’m sure we’ll see it used as evidence in many “Are video games art?” debates.

Most worlds have their own themes, as well as their own unique inhabitants. Colors pop. 5.0 Control
If you can waggle an analog stick, you can become a master Long Mover. 4.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Hohokum’s soundtrack is mostly soothing, and I love how interacting with the environment triggers new sounds. 3.5 Play Value
I enjoyed Hohokum, but it’s essentially a virtual playground and I get the feeling not every player will “get” it. 4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Take on the role of a curious flying kite-like being and travel to unique worlds full of eclectic characters and interactions.
  • While there are goals, activities, and secrets to uncover, at its heart, Hohokumâ„¢ is a playground – a place to wander about and get lost in.
  • Hohokum is a cross-buy title. Buy it once, enjoy it on your PS3, PS4, and Vita.

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