For years, we've debated just how seriously we should be taking this hobby of ours with a single question: are games art?
Hi, How Are You? doesn't necessarily get us any closer to an answer, but it is at least a game about art.
Inspired by the works of independent artist Daniel Johnston, Hi, How Are You? interactively illustrates the American's Austin (and similarly titled) mural of the same title. Said mural's star - a frog named Jeremiah - takes the lead role here, too, the idea being to guide him through a series of 3D levels seemingly lifted straight out of Johnston's brain.
While Hi, How Are You? is visually unique, its gameplay is made up of a mix of classic franchises. What starts off as a simple platform adventure to save a girl from the clutches of evil slowly tips toward a light puzzle game.
Each level has you lighting up green squares that make up the stage's floor, while perilous moving platforms and sheer drops prevent easy access. Lighting up these squares requires nothing more than contact, meaning a lot of time is spent planning your route to avoid switching off lights by touching them twice.
Doing so relies on deft navigation, and both controls and 3D visuals are equipped to deliver in that regard. Initially placing you behind Jeremiah, the game also allows you to spin the view a full 360 degrees, meaning you can twist your aspect to suit each level's snaking design.
Jeremiah himself is far from speedy. A tip in each direction moves him and a couple of on-screen stop buttons bring him to a halt in sticky areas.
He can also leap a short height into the air, a tap sending him skywards and enabling him to reach higher platforms. Though with springs and lifts commonplace, it's fair to say that most levels are self propelling.
Hi, How Are You? almost acts as a tutorial for gaming newcomers, schooling balance, timing and patience. The design of the levels themselves is a subtle nod to Mario's 3D exploits, while the navigation and the mere application of lighting up the pathway are akin to picking up bananas in Super Monkey Ball.
What really ties these two elements together is the game's look, both in terms of Johnston's artistry and its superb take on 3D. If nothing else, Hi, How Are You? sets a new iPhone benchmark aesthetically.
There are some structural issues that prevent it from being flawless, though. Memory points set off along the way mean purposefully falling off the edge or getting squashed by a foe is often an easier way out than actually playing ball and working your way back from far off ledges.
With no consequences for dying, success feels hollow - the only reason to keep playing is the desire to see what's around the corner. That's hardly the most damning slight, but Hi, How Are You? is a little naive and, as a result, a good tweak here and there away from becoming a bona fide masterpiece.
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