Hob (2017, PC)

By Dagrabbit / September 29, 2017

There is a lot I liked about Hob, particularly in the early going, but the more I played the game, the less I liked it.
   Hob is a super linear Metroidvania with a little bit of Zelda sprinkled in. You'll get a small handful of upgrades that unlock new areas, and you'll hunt around for heart containers, energy upgrades, and chests that contain money or gear. The majority of the game is wandering around the large world pushing buttons to open up new areas, with a little bit of really simple combat thrown in.

   For a while, I really enjoyed the laid back nature of wandering around, pushing some buttons, and seeing what happened. After a few hours though, the game had shown me most of what it has to offer. I'd seen most of the cool visuals, gotten all of the mechanics-changing upgrades, and found out about all of the different button types to press. That's when I realized that there was nothing to the game but pushing buttons.
   There really aren't many puzzles. Everything is solved by walking around, finding the button you haven't pushed or ladder you haven't climbed, then pushing or climbing that thing because it's all that's available. In a better puzzle game, like Zelda or Inside, there's something to figure out. "If I push this box here, I can reach that rope, which I can use to swing over there and light the torch, and once I light all of those..." In this game, what happens when you push a button (or lever or box or whatever) is unpredictable. Sometimes the entire room will move around. Sometimes a ladder will appear. Sometimes it lights up a button three rooms back. There's little thinking involved. Just keep your eyes open and everything solves itself.
   It's not uncommon to spend an hour in one part of the map pushing buttons and jumping around, just to find out that all that accomplished was allowing you to push a NEW button halfway across the map. That's not particularly rewarding. After going through that routine a few times, the game's myriad of little problems started wearing on me.
   The camera sucks. It will lead to you dying because it swings around in unexpected ways, hides the place you're trying to go to, or gives a bad angle for the jump. If you've ever played a Lego game, it's the same problem here. Fixed camera + 3D platforming = missed jumps. The penalty isn't too harsh, but it's not fun running back to where you fell for something that doesn't feel like your fault. Combat is pretty basic with sword swings, a roll attack, and a couple situational moves. In the back half of the game, enemies take enough hits, and give so little reward for beating them, that combat becomes tedious and usually just best avoided. Backtracking is hampered by a poor map, lack of mini-map, and insurmountable walls of trees not any taller than the character that randomly cut off progress when you just want to get back to one of the too infrequent fast travel spots.
   And there are bugs. Most of the crashes seem to have been fixed, but upon release it was crashing every 15 minutes. It was fixed very quickly, but why did it ship so broken? Even after the patches, I still had to force my guy to respawn when he got stuck in geometry, and died dozens of times due to getting stuck, bad hit detection with the environment, or a sudden loss of control causing him to fly off the map. Once I had to restart because the map suddenly went completely white as if I hadn't explored any of it. With all these little issues, moving around the world just feels bad, which is a problem since wandering around is most of the game.
   Even the visuals are not all that. The artstyle looks charming at first but even that got boring after a while due a very low amount of variety (especially in colors). I also felt that the music, while fitting, wasn't really fun to listen to and made the game boring faster than it needed to be.
   None of these flaws, individually, make the game not worth playing. But they all add up to a pretty mediocre game that makes a good first impression, then peters out. It runs out of new ideas and devolves into wandering around the map looking for the things you haven't done yet. There's fun to be had if you can overlook the flaws, but I can't recommend the game as a whole.