Hohokum is like a dream.
It's a weird, trippy, mish-mash collage of scenes and landscapes that will stick with you for the rest of the day. But it also breaks its own rules, has the loosest grip on reality, and rarely makes much sense.
You play as a flying snake-like creature, who is tasked with tracking down his other serpentine pals. You can speed up, slow down, or zig and zag to move at a significant clip, with your wispy ribbon-like tail trailing behind you as you go.
After a brief intro you'll start to explore a series of imaginative landscapes. Like a pastel waterpark where you can carry happy punters on your back. Or a jungle filled with alien fauna. Or a world where globules of water hang in the gravitational pull of lumpy planetoids.Snake eyes
There's no map. The areas are connected through a maze of portholes, and there's no rhyme nor reason why one would be neighbouring another. This makes it tough to find a new area or navigate your way back to one you previously visited.
Only a few of these areas are significant. These contain cryptic, wordless puzzles that, when solved, will reunite you with one of your snake pals. You interact with the scenes by bumping into things, or flying near things, or carrying people on your back.
Solving the puzzles, which are a little reminiscent of the sort of riddles you'd get in a point and click adventure like Machinarium, is mostly about playing, experimenting, and trial and error. About figuring out how this particular world ticks, so you can manipulate it.Slitherine
Some of the puzzles are well designed, the environment gives you subtle hints about what to do and where to go, and getting the answer is rewarding. But in many other cases, Hohokum is painfully abstruse, or deliberately misleading.
In a fun fair scene, there's a house with a giant stone shoe on the roof and there's a man with a shoe in a speech bubble. You can take the shoe man to the shoe house and it triggers a cute animation, but not much else.
I repeated this over and over, trying to figure out the right approach or combination or timing needed for the stone shoe to give up its real secret. Exhausted, I turned to the internet and found that it does… nothing. It's a red herring.Ouroboros
Elsewhere, the game commits other sins of puzzle design. You'll do the same thing over and over, but get different outputs every time. And while some puzzles are signposted in way that your goal is obvious, others are just completely cryptic.
This defiant flouting of the rules feels, in some ways, fresh and playful. The anarchy against the status quo is intoxicating. But it mostly just feels frustrating, and turns solving the puzzles into a chore.
This abrasive relationship between the player and the game is disappointing, because it makes you frustrated at a game that is otherwise joyous and heartfelt. Hohokum contains some astonishing moments of comedy, oddness, and charm.
But that colourful beating heart is obscured by a stoic and unforthcoming exterior. Hohokum deserved to be explored and loved. But only the most forgiving puzzle solvers will overlook its sins.