From lifelike racing to war-time shooting, RPG epics set across gargantuan expanses, and platformers and puzzlers that are perfect for an afternoon of delight. As gamers, we have something for every occasion.
Often those games arrive and hold our hands all the way through, so we can enjoy the experience fully. However other times a game looks to move away from that handholding to remind us that the world can be an unforgiving place. HoPiKo is one such game; one that likes to remind us of the harsh realities of life.
Now before we go any further, let it be known that I love a good platformer, I love a hardcore game, and I love a challenge. Because of this I tend to be a lot more patient with the ‘harder’ games. HoPiKo, however, will push the limits of even the most patient gamers, even my own, but through addiction and will, I came back, even if I was to be destroyed all over again anyway. Why? Well ,because HoPiKo is actually quite good!
Throughout the game players take on the role of an anti-virus of sorts, or a console saviour at the very least, and it’s your role to keep your wonderful console clean and clear of those horrible viruses that threaten to infest the hardware and destroy the gaming experience we all know and love. To ensure you fulfil your role and avoid such a catastrophe, you’ll need to utilise every ounce of mental fibre you can muster, to ensure that you’re ready to make quick and snappy split-second decisions that are needed to stop you from being killed over and over.
In its simplest form, HoPiKo is a hardcore platform experience built for those that enjoy a speed running experience. Your goal is to jump from surface to surface, whilst trying to dodge all the nasties along the way, trying to make it to the designated area at the end of the level, which is displayed as a cluster of viruses – you know, the usual platform spiel and the basis for a successful adventure. What that brief and highly underestimated intro to the gameplay doesn’t tell you however is that jumping from platform to platform will see mistakes arrive in plentiful supply, be it through feeling the pressure of the gameplay or through learning the level and the many hazards that lay within each one. It’s those mistakes that will have you tearing your hair out as they put a halt to your progress. Of course, you could always avoid making mistakes, but you’ll need near instant response times lightning reactions, and some super-fast decision-making skills to do so, and that’s going to take practice.
To progress through the game, players must make their way through different worlds, each of which are made up of five levels, with over 250 levels to master in total. The feature most likely to halt progress however is that each time you perish on any given level in a world, you’ll be forced to start all stages in that world again, meaning if you are on level 4 out of 5 and you end up misjudging a jump, you’re heading back to level 1. Fortunately level designs remain the same so you aren’t forced to learn something new each time, but with time a factor, and a lot to take in on-screen at once, it’s common to find yourself playing through numerous levels you’ve already completed just to get back to the level you failed on so. For some that will prove a nuisance, but it’s certainly a mechanic that forces players to concentrate and it’s one that causes a great deal of engagement for even the most hardcore players out there.
Now whilst it may have the qualities of many other typical hardcore platformers, HoPiKo does bear its own original features, and a big part of what makes it a unique experience are the limitations in player movement. To traverse each level players are only able to jump in straight lines between each surface – which in itself isn’t too challenging – but when you start to come up against the various different combinations and puzzles that make up each level, the challenge quickly begins to become apparent. Fortunately the levels themselves don’t exactly take long to complete – no more than 10 to 15 seconds to reach the virus cluster at the end – but by the time you’ve finally learned the pattern and sequence of actions you’ll need to make, and trained your mind to recognise what to press fast enough, you’ll have spent several hours trying to calm yourself from a blind rage.
If you haven’t figured it out already, success in HoPiKo is measured by just how fast you can make your next decision and by a continuous and progressive push to the end of each level, you may well find yourself blasting through levels within a reasonable amount of time. To help push you along within those times of brutality is a thumping soundtrack that seems to fit the nature of the game rather well; it certainly suits the design of the game and should you fully engage with the game and concentrate, it won’t take long before you start associating the music with your actions to keep momentum flowing.
As for the visual side of things, HoPiKo is a rather basic affair. With almost everything appearing in either red or black there isn’t exactly much of a varied colour palette involved, but it fits the design of the game, leaving the focus purely on the more important aspect – the gameplay.
Overall and HoPiKo is a brilliant game – if you enjoy hardcore games that is. If you just fancy a challenge, then HoPiKo is certainly no bad way to go but it may well start to cause frustration if you’re not prepared. It is well priced though, and whilst it’s not exactly cheerful and won’t leave you smiling with joy, it’s one that will keep the brain active as you strain to get to the end.
Release date: January 2019
Formats: Nintendo Switch (Review)
Massive thanks to: Merge Games