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Rediscover the Joy of Play with Hohokum

Susan Arendt | 13 Jun 2013 23:30
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Weird, colorful, and enjoyably simple, Hohokum focuses on just having fun.

I have no idea what the hell is going on in PS4 game Hohokum. I mean, I'm gonna take a crack at explaining to you, because it's such a wonderful thing to experience, but you're probably not going to understand any of it, because it's just that kind of a thing. It's weird. Not the usual kind of weird I try to get you to play, but more the tilt your head to the side and say "Um...what?" kind of weird that's just baffling. But it's also really great, so here goes.

You control what looks like an eye with a really long tail. You can sort of swim around in environments, collecting things or turning on switches or just flying. There's no real objective to Hohokum - no score, no purpose, no Thing To Do. It's just about playing and making things happen. Which is really awkward and unintuitive at first because, hey, you put a controller in someone's hand and they're going to want some kind of direction. But Hohokum isn't about telling you what to do. It's about letting you decide.

I played two different areas. In one, I was underwater (not that you could really tell, becuase the water was great big green circlees, not blue waves like you expect). I poked a snail a few times. I did enough that he finally got annoyed with me and threw his shell at me. I flew through a big rock and my tail changed colors. I swam through some ... let's call them fish, they were sort of fishy ... and they collected on my tail. Because why not?

In another area, there were groups of bulbous formations on the lower area that lit up as I flew through them. So I turned on all the lights. Up above, there were huge silhouettes of things I only knew were moths because the guy who drew them told me so. I lit up stars by flying around them and touching them, and then brought enough stars to the moths to light them up, too. I did things, stuff happened. As my Inner Gamer - that one defined by rules and goals and objectives and leaderboards and missions - gave up and walked away, I rediscovered the joy of simply playing. You know, the way kids do, with no end point in mind, just doing things that make them happy because they make them happy. Once I stopped trying to play Hohokum and actually just played - and hopefully you understand what I mean by that subtle difference - I had a wonderful time and couldn't stop smiling.

You could argue that Hohokum, with its colorful 2d graphics that are just begging to be made into stickers, is just one of those games that are just pointlessly artsy for the sake of being artsy, but there's a genuine joy of discovery and simplicity in spending time sailing around its world. I have no idea if you'll like it. I have no idea if you'll get it. But I really, really want you to at least try it when it comes out in 2014. You may never be able to get past that awkward feeling you get from its lack of direction, but if you do, you'll rediscover how simple and joyous play can really be.

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