In Hohokum, you aren’t given any pointers; there’s no tutorial stage, handholding, or guide. In Hohokum, the world truly is yours to explore – it’s a playground with plenty of variety and lots to discover and unlock. It’s an incredibly colourful world which feels unique yet familiar.
That familiarity, as long as you’re a PlayStation fan, will come from the similarities to games such as Flower, with the free flowing nature, where you’ll activate things by swooping right past them; its predecessor flOw due to the controls and 2D plane; and even LocoRoco, thanks to a vibrant style and happy tone.
It takes some of the best bits of these games and applies them to a 2D open world, where you can jump from one room to the next, solving each puzzle at your own pace. Those puzzles are part of the game – and they’re definitely the way to go if you want to progress – but it’s truly exploration and discovery that’s at the core of Hohokum, and it employs that wonderfully to make you smile with childlike glee as you find the next scenario.
You might not understand quite what’s going on at first, but it’ll become second nature when you eventually get used to how the Long Mover – the serpentine, flying creature you play as – controls, and the general notion that each room (excluding rooms which effectively act as halls) has its own puzzle, which you’ll have to solve in order to free one of your similarly-shaped friends. Unfortunately, freeing these friends doesn’t grant you any power-ups, but the levels themselves are varied and reactive enough for this to not be an issue.
Although quite simple in their presentation, the levels are fantastic in their absurdity. There’s a lot of variety to be found, from a multi-tiered wedding shaped in the style of a cake with an ocean of wine below, where you must carry the waiters on your back so they can serve the attendees, to a room filled with circles of water where your objective is to get fish to follow you and stop sponges from making the circles shrink.
And while the objectives of each stage are rather vague to say the least, there’s something about finding out what you’ve actually got to do before even finding the solution that elevates the mystery and makes every part of the game intriguing. With each and every part of the game bringing new mechanics to the fore – and disposing of them soon after – there’s a lot going on, so you never really get bored despite the inherent simplicity as it’s just so charming to experience.
Beyond the main puzzles, there are lots of little things to meddle with in the environment, and many endearing sights to see. There are also eyes dotted around the environment which you can open by passing by them, and the game keeps track of these, so they act as a kind of a collectible.
Despite the controls being very simple, with the stick controlling the Long Mover and the triggers or face buttons allowing for a speed boost, there are some neat tricks employed with the DualShock 4. Sound from the speakers on the pad are one thing, but the lightbar also changes colour every time your character does, which is just about every time you turn. This is a neat effect which brings you further into the game.
It has been a joy to explore the beautiful and colourful world of Hohokum. There’s this sense of joy which never goes away, no matter how long it may take to solve – or even discover – any given puzzle, and there are some brilliant moments throughout which will leave a dumb smile on your face. Hohokum is an oddity, it’s something that shouldn’t really work, but it feeds off the absurd to create something unique to gaming.