Hohokum Review – A Not So Fun to Play Work of Art

There’s been a flood of artistically focused video games released during the past half decade. Unlike the more gameplay centric titles of mainstream, these more individualistic and sometimes abstract games spend a great deal of their energy trying to prove that video games don’t have to be conventional. They’re typically light in narrative, simple to control, and live or die by their presentation. Hohokum is the latest game to join this cast of distinctive games.

Although I’ve fallen in love with games like Flower, Shadow of the Colossus, and JourneyHohokum struggled to woo me. It’s strange because it has all the markings of the artistic elite; it has a great soundtrack, lovely visuals, and lets its environments direct the experience. Unfortunately, it just isn’t all that compelling.

Hohokum‘s premise is basic. In its colorful world you control a serpent, dictating which direction it moves in using the left analog stick, optionally employing the bumper buttons to wiggle and gain speed like an underwater creature would. You’ll gain velocity and traverse open spaces, interacting with objects by bumping into them.

You’ll also encounter some creatures along the way, none of which are capable of killing you. Many of these creatures serve as puzzle pieces, requiring you to interact with them to some degree in order to progress.

The mechanics never attempt to evolve, and as a matter of fact the levels are designed to be very free-form, presenting a pseudo open-world experience. Consequently, there’s no real sense of progression, but rather a variety of strange puzzles to solve in whatever order you’d prefer.

In order to solve the abundance of puzzles which are, for the most part, the only form of interaction in the game, you’ll need to observe the environment, note how objects react to you colliding with them, and then determine what state you need them to be in to complete the puzzle. Since the controls are so simple, the variety in these challenges is thin, leading to repetition early on.

Hohokum is clearly not trying to be the next big mainstream game. Instead, most of its effort has gone into its visual style, which is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Watching it in motion is like seeing a great painting come to life. The game’s 17 different spaces manage to differentiate themselves well, making it feel like you have more than a dozen works of art to toy around with.

Hohokum isn’t a particularly lengthy journey, clocking in at around three hours. There are a few easter eggs, but no co-op or competitive integration to give it longevity. All of the play value comes from exploring the game’s habitats, which are really only interesting the first time you interact with them.

Hohokum is a game with a very limited audience. In today’s day and age where games need to pack immense entertainment value to be competitive, games like this that don’t succeed at being fun to play are increasingly difficult to recommend. Although it falls well short of having any lasting impression, it’s breathtakingly beautiful, making it a good title for those who just want to kick back on the couch and enjoy a charming exhibition. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, then go for it. Otherwise, there are much better options out there.

Jonathan Leack is the Gaming Editor for CraveOnline. You can follow him on Twitter @jleack.

Copy provided by publisher. Hohokum is available on PS3, PS4, and PS Vita.