HoPiKo Review – PlayStation 4
+ Novel control scheme
- Punishing, both intentionally and not
- Music and sound effects are grating
Ever since gaming became a thing, players have sought to defeat the hardest titles, with either a higher score or a faster time proving that they’re better than other games. HoPiKo taps into the second desire, with speed and accuracy being the two main driving forces behind the game. Developed by the British studio Laser Dog, HoPiKo has players attempting to defeat a nefarious virus that has infected a number of gaming consoles, using a unique set of controls to do so.
One of HoPiKo’s biggest selling points is the fact that it only uses two controller inputs, those being the right analogue stick and the right shoulder button. It’s already fairly evident, but the right stick is used to directional aiming, and the shoulder button is used as a trigger, either to jump or to fire a cannon. By using these two controls, players are tasked with navigating through a series of platforms towards their final goal in each level, the representation of the virus.
While this sounds initially simple, when you add in a fairly restrictive time limit to each level, combined with a number of environmental obstacles and platforms with various characteristics, HoPiKo quickly becomes a frantic race to reach the end of each level before time runs out. There are five different worlds within the game, and each of these is divided into runs. In turn, these runs consist of five different levels, and they must be completed in an entire continuous sequence to be considered beaten. Each run will usually take under a minute to get through successfully, but it’s rare that you’ll make it through one first time, especially as the game progresses.
Death in HoPiKo is simultaneously both very simple and incredibly frustrating. Dying, which can be caused by even the slightest touch of an in-game object, results in the run being restarted, which doesn’t result in a whole load of progress being lost, but when you keep failing at the same point maybe four or five levels into a run, it becomes frustrating quite quickly. When this is paired with the fact that you’ll occasionally die for a variety of reasons which don’t seem to be explained clearly in game, HoPiKo can become a punishing experience, and not in the good way.
While HoPiKo can become objectively punishing in terms of gameplay, I personally found it subjectively punishing in terms of sensory output as well, and I doubt that I will be the only player. Part of your progression throughout the game is measured in the unlocking of music tracks to play in the background, and without fail I sound every single one of these to be grating, obnoxious and downright irritating, to the point where I eventually muted the soundtrack. This left me with just the in-game sound effects, which were also pretty annoying, so I was eventually left playing the game with the sound turned off entirely. As I mentioned, this is likely just me being a big grump about chiptune musical genre, but as I also said, I doubt I’ll be the only one.
HoPiKo is a game designed for players who like to test themselves with games and overcome any adversity that a title can throw at them. This isn’t a game for players to relax to, and there were multiple occasions where I was required to walk away from the game for a matter of minutes for fear of damaging some expensive property of mine. While the control scheme on show here is novel, the rest of the game just didn’t resonate with me, and while I’m sure there will be gamers who enjoy themselves with HoPiKo, I’d prefer to be safe in the knowledge that my controllers and television are safe, and leave HoPiKo in the comfort of my console’s ‘Ready to Install’ library.