Posted by Graham Banas
Tripping the light fantastic
Whenever we played British developer Honeyslug’s latest game Hohokum at conventions and the like, our biggest issue was quite simply explaining the experience to others. What exactly is the vibrant title starring a multicoloured worm all about? Is it art? How do you play it? Heck, what do you even do? Having spent significant time with the release, we’re still not convinced that we can accurately answer all of those questions.
The first thing that will jump out at you upon booting up the cross-buy release is its striking marriage of art and audio. The soundtrack consists of new and old tracks from indie label Ghostly International, with artists such as, er, Com Truise and Tycho lending some stellar sound waves to the largely laidback experience.
But it’s the art that’s arguably the star of the show: with lots of bubbly round shapes and excessively bright colours, it creates the sort of imagery that will stick with you long after you’ve finished playing. Even more impressive, though, are the vast array of different styles on display; from polka dots to an aquarium preserved within a gelatinous green bubble, the title surprises with every warp hole that you wriggle through. It’s truly a treat for the eyes.
And it really does pair well with the audio selected: the synth-driven electronic music orchestrating the on-screen action with ease. Unfortunately, the playing of the game is where it falls short, as it’s all a little too minimalistic for its own good. In short, you control the ‘long mover’, and hidden within the world are 15 of these other wriggly worms. In order to collect them, you must “complete” various scenes – although there’s no way to ever really know what you need to do and why.
This means that you’ll spend most of your time in the game floating past all manner of creatures and objects hoping that something will happen. If you’re lucky, then you’ll get a hint at what you need to do in order to progress; if you’re not, well, then you’ll need to keep trying until you figure it out.
Granted, the environments are gorgeous enough that it by no means feels like a pain trying to decipher what you need to do, but if you’re looking for a more traditional game experience, then you’re going to quickly get frustrated here. The thing is that the title’s purposefully obtuse in order to promote experimentation, so you could theoretically blast through it using a walkthrough, but that would sort of break the immersion. However, in its current guise it’s just far too ambiguous, and could have benefited from providing a little more feedback.
Through the three or so hours that it takes to complete Hohokum, you’ll almost certainly fall in love with its impeccable art direction and genius audio pairing. Sadly, in the gameplay realm, this wriggle-‘em-up doesn’t really have enough direction to make it truly engaging. The title’s at its best when you meander through its oversaturated scenes without purpose, but that means that it’s not recommended for everyone.