Critics are gushing over how “weird” Hohokum is. That’s a word that’s getting thrown around a lot lately whenever a project is even vaguely off the rails – it’s “weird”, and then people quiver in their seats with anticipation at the thought of being seen playing a “weird” game. Hohokum is certainly a weird game, but I would save your quivering for something a bit more worthy.
In Hohokum, you take control of the Long Mover, a snake-like being that can glide in any direction of the game’s side-viewed world free of gravity. Controlling the Long Mover is a lot of fun, and there’s several ways to go about it. Direction is always controlled with the left stick, but acceleration can be controlled by wiggling his direction with R1/R2 and L1/L2, or he can travel at a fixed speed by holding X. Finally, you can also hold down R1 or L1 to zip in a direction at the fastest speed possible, but only be able to turn clockwise.
Hohokum is comprised of a series of a dozen or so interconnected levels, that are also individually accessible at any time via a somewhat drab hub. Each level is a free-wheeling playground with no explicit goal, though I did find that some ended up having puzzles and conclusions hidden under the surface. They’re populated with all sorts of charming toys and people, along with some of the most creative internal logic I’ve seen. Ring the bells to wake up the bees to collect honey, then escort ant-eaters around the level for them to suck it all up and deposit it in a vat, because of course.
The Long Mover’s mission is ambiguous. He may not even have one. All I know is that during my time with Hohokum, I opened a lot of ‘eyes’ cleverly scattered around the levels that I think were supposed to be collectibles, and I solved a few puzzles that I had to stumble upon myself, then deduce were puzzles. The Long Mover’s mission is so ambiguous, in fact, that I found myself bored much of the time.
I understand what Hohokum is going for. You can see it in any video of people playing the game. “Wow,” they say, “this game is delightful. This game is so bizarre.” It really is both things – it’s both a charming toybox to mess around in, full of the strangest toys you could imagine. After a couple of hours, however, it becomes somewhat stale. My time with Hohokum passed with a handful of beautiful moments, to be sure, but it was also a total flatline.
Even if Hohokum was trying to be a pleasant, relaxing, hippy-machine – which it is – there isn’t even enough content to justify it. There’s a shitload of eyes to open, sure, but a very difficult scavenger hunt is not what I’d like to spend my relaxation time partaking in. There aren’t very many individual areas either, especially considering that a fair amount of them are just a single transitional screen meant to connect other levels. Quickly I’d found that I’d messed around with all of what Hohokum seemed to have to offer, and not enough of it made an impression for me to dig deeper the way it wants me to.
But like I said, Hohokum does have some beautiful moments to offer. When a level’s gimmick clicks and you have made sense of the game’s crazy logic, you feel like a genius. Working out all the ways in which each object and person can be interacted with is a genuinely fun exercise, and given the deeply alien world of Hohokum, each new finding feels like a real discovery.
Its art style is also something worth noting. It’s extremely colorful and composed entirely of solid colors, but also excellent at setting moods besides joy. There are some pretty melancholy levels in the game, as well as some lonesome moments. The Long Mover himself is always great to watch zig-zagging around the levels, changing color with every direction and leaving his screen-filling trail behind. I really like his design with the eye at the end (you can even blink by pressing square).
The music is usually good and catchy, but I do question the use of some lightly-altered Tycho tracks from their most recent album. The rest of the soundtrack could well be licensed music I’ve never heard before, but hearing nearly straight-up Tycho is always a bit disorienting when it starts playing. In theory Tycho’s ultra-laidback beats are a perfect match for a game like Hohokum, but not so much for me, being someone who listens to Tycho regularly. On a side note, the music is stopped abruptly at every loading screen rather than continuing and bleeding into the next track, which is somewhat at odds with the relaxing aesthetic Hohokum is going for.
And a relaxing aesthetic seems like all Hohokum is going for. There’s not much here besides an art style and a handful of charming moments, none of it nearly worth $15. I can only say I truly enjoyed my time with Hohokum because I was given a code for free, and I’m taking that as a sign that maybe this game isn’t so hot.
Ethics disclosure: The reviewer was provided a review code from the developer.
Hohokum is available for purchase on the PlayStation Store.