Many adherents of the indie gaming scene accuse many modern triple-A games of being all flash and no substance - big budget boondoggles that rely on huge action-flick set pieces and expensive graphics to cover up their lack innovative gameplay.
Hohokum is proof that the same can be said for games that wear their indie aesthetics on their sleeve. It has it all: oddball, cartoonish graphics that are colorful and charming, tasteful electronic music by a host of artists on the hip Ghostly International label, and a "nonlinear" structure that encourages players to experiment with the environment at their leisure.
I love games that stretch the definition of what a video game can be. Whether it's Journey or Gone Home, the last few years have seen titles that eschewed traditional notions of gameplay and challenge while delivering profoundly emotional interactive experiences. Hohokum, for all its whimsy and often-humorous weirdness, doesn't really seem to have much to say. In fact, it's much more of a conventional game than advertised. Your wormlike creature must solve puzzles (usually as simple as delivering a little cartoon creature to the right platform or hitting a sequence of switches) and complete objectives - there's even a boss battle with a giant elephant.
The gameplay itself is extremely simple - you guide your line-creature around the environment and run into objects or give other creatures a lift when they jump on. There are a number of levels you can complete, but they are all unlocked from the outset and there is no set order of progression. In general, it's up to you to enter a new area, and start running into things until you suss out what you're supposed to do. The developers clearly see this as a way to create a game that encourages ingenuity while not placing limits like death or a timer on the experience.
That's a great idea. However, I found myself wishing that Hohokum had either been more structured (by giving me better cues and a more solid gameplay structure) or more experimental. As it stands, this art game doesn't have much of a point, aside from its own (admittedly nice) aesthetics. Its vagueness and leisurely pace might be pleasant to some; I was frequently restless and found myself wishing the game would just get on with it already. Once you figure out what you're supposed to do, the actual actions or puzzles are usually fairly simple and uncreative.
Again, I can't stress how much I enjoyed the game's art, music, and quirky vibe. Hohokum is one hell of a screensaver. As a game, it lacks depth.