It’s a bit of a hoary cliché to say that Hohokum, Sony’s latest quirky chill-out game, is best enjoyed while under the effects of some sort of mood-altering substance, but, well, it probably couldn’t hurt. Red-eyed, giggly people up past their bedtimes are clearly one of the major target audiences of Hohokum, but that’s not really my scene man, so what the hell, I’m going to review it as an actual video game.
In Hohokum you play as a rainbow snake (there’s probably a more official name for the creature, but damned if I’m going to look it up) that slithers and coils his way around a variety of colorful 2D worlds that are basically The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine mashed up with the construction paper cutouts of Eric Carle. There’s very little your snake friend can actually do — he glides around and if you wiggle him back and forth rapidly he’ll get a speed boost. The speed boost doesn’t really serve any purpose, it just exists because wiggling and going fast are fun things to do.
This is actually one of the more straightforward moments in the game.
Hohokum isn’t a mere digital lava lamp though — there is some actual game to this game. Touching objects with your snake will, usually, cause something to happen, and the game’s menagerie of adorable little characters have a penchant for leaping on your back as you fly by. From there you’ll start to discover obscure logic chains to follow. Going trough a gap in some rocks in one stage causes you go travel through time, where you find a strange fossilized creature that looks like a cross between an elephant and a sushi roll, so you collect all the clouds in the area, which bring the sushiphant back to life, which you then bring back to the present, and drop in a swimming pool, which, uh, makes him happy I guess?
Your “reward” for completing puzzles in Hohokum is usually pretty vaporous, in fact the only way to know for sure that you’ve achieved something is to pause the game and see if you’ve been assigned a random point. A more obvious scoring system, or perhaps a Legend of Zelda-esque music cue when you’ve accomplished something would have been much appreciated.
A world full of pots — wonder if this is alluding to anything. Nah.
Of course, the makers of Hohokum would probably chide me for focusing too heavily on “solving” the game, but I can’t help it. My brain likes to make connections, and if you’re a clenched-jaw, analytical type like me, you’re going to see puzzles everywhere in Hohokum. Maybe if I touch every single tree in this stage it will do something! Oh, it didn’t. Well, what if I touch all 200 blobby things in this other stage? No? Honestly, it gets a little frustrating. Hohokum was designed for less cluttered brains than mine. Even if you’re able to just let your brain go and enjoy the pretty colors, Hohokum is going to have a shelf life. After maybe two or three hours you’ll have seen all the game has to offer, at which point its mellowing properties will likely start to wear thin.
Hell if I know what’s going on here.
But that’s okay — Hohokum and similar Sony titles like Flower aren’t really for gamers or even for people who make spacin’ out part of their regular routine. These are titles meant to be set-up at parties to advertise what a cool, chill, artsy person you are, and, by the same token, what a cool, chill, artsy company the Sony Corporation is. These aren’t games you want to sit down with for any length of time, but pretty much anybody can pick them up for five or ten minutes and have a few “haha, oh cool” moments. There’s value in that, but I’m not sure if that value is equal to $15. Considering Hohokum is essentially an interactive ad designed to promote the hipness of the Playstation brand, I’d say free would be the ideal price, but I’d be willing to split the difference.