Do you enjoy understanding your surroundings? If so, Hohokum could very well not be for you. In this slightly bewildering adventure, you play as a kite that flies between different worlds. Inside these worlds are a variety of different tasks to complete, which will ultimately lead to you freeing one of your kite buddies and sending them back to your home world. Figuring out that this the objective in Hohokum is difficult, after playing the game for hours I have yet to figure out if I am playing the game correctly.
Once Hohokum kicks off, you are greeted by a simple tutorial, then afterwards all your kite friends come to join you. This leads to an absolutely gorgeous sequence where you and eleven other kites gather together and begin to fly around inside a circle. The impressive thing is that you control every kite on screen, with them mimicking the movement of your main kite. The result is a beauty similar to if a lite-brite and Leonid Afremov had a baby. Unfortunately, those kites fly away once you end the level, you must then pursue the aforementioned freeing of them. As you collect the kites, they return to your home base. One of the biggest rewards that pushes the player forward is the hope of once again creating that wonderful visual you experience at the beginning of the game by obtaining all the kites once again.
In order to bring your kite friends back together, you must complete certain tasks within each world you enter. Those tasks are never explained and can only be figured out by wandering around the world. For example, one situation had me shaking trees to get kids out of their homes. I then picked them up on my kite tail and rode around until I found brown cone-shaped items, which ended up being unrolled kites. You then have to take the kids to the top of the map, where they jump off onto hills and begin flying the kites. That is just one of the two objectives you must complete in that area, with that being by far the easiest one to figure out.
Apart from those main objectives, there are also closed eyes hidden all across the world. These eyes typically have nothing to do with rescuing your kite buddies, but they do act as some sort of objective to achieve, which is something you will be dying for at certain points playing Hohokum. There are over 100 hidden eyes throughout the game, with you being able to check how many you have opened by pausing the game.
Thankfully, the beauty brought about in the tutorial persists for the whole game. The art style is one of a very simple yet effective nature. Each character has unique assets about them, with their designs looking like something only the most unique of minds could create. While the fact that the visuals are as joyful as they are is a positive, the most impressive thing is that the game never ceases to impress you throughout its 5-6 hour lifespan. It is not just the art though, the animation comes through on all levels. The splash of water once you land into it brings about nostalgia for older cartoons, while watching certain characters dance can be entertaining enough to make you stop and stare for a minute or so.
A large part of the Hohokum experience relies on the ambiguity of what in the hell to do, something not present in most games. The reason many games now rely on informing the player exactly what to do is due to our societies increased lack of patience. That being said, finding a game as peaceful as Hohokum can lighten that frustration that comes with not knowing exactly how to progress the story forward. While it does lighten the frustration, it does not completely erase it as entering a world and immediately having to fly around the whole thing just to comprehend a slight hint of what to do is a bit off-putting after a while.
One successful aspect of Hohokum that can go unnoticed is how fun it is to control your actual kite. The scheme is very simple as you fly around with the left stick and can go faster by tapping the shoulder buttons. While the going faster aspect is rarely used to complete an objective, that does not make it any less fun to absolute blaze through these beautiful worlds. There is also a bit of hidden precision required to complete certain puzzles. That precision is brought about by having to slow your kite down to navigate tight crevices. While this may seem very simple, it can be pivotal to your success in Hohokum.
While the art and controls are remarkable, the true star of Hohokum is the music. Developers Honeyslug teamed up with the record label Ghostly to present some very relaxing beats that tend to stick in your head. The artists featured in the game include Tycho, Mathew Dear, and Shigeto among many others. Many games these days present us with pleasing music, but Hohokum’s soundtrack has a truly remarkable variety of fantastic music pieces to be heard. It makes you anticipate each upcoming level more and more partly because you want to hear what kind of atmosphere you will be entering into next.
There is no doubt about the fact that Hohokum achieves exactly what it wants to, the game is a relaxing and gorgeous adventure that can take a few hours from you. It does a wonderful job at helping you clear your mind and just focus on the magic happening on your television screen. Unfortunately, that relaxation can turn to confusion as you wander around attempting to figure out what to do next. Hohokum’s visuals, music, and controls are spot on, but it is missing that little hand holding experience that many games need. Despite the occasional frustration it brings, Hohokum is an absolute treat to behold.