Hob belongs to a genre of game that is deceptively difficult to get right. I loved both Super Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie and have such fond memories of them still , but I’ve been looking to scratch that itch again for some time now.
Developer: Runic Games
Platform: PC (reviewed), PS4
MonsterVine was provided with a PC code for review.
From the outside, it doesn’t seem too hard to get these games right, but in recent times we’ve been hit with disappointment after disappointment. Yooka-Laylee was set to hit this genre out of the park but most people felt it fell short of the mark. But how hard is it to nail these games we played as children? You have a handful of charming characters in a whacky world to the tune of some catchy music, throw in a jump button and maybe some unlockable abilities and you’re good right? But this is precisely the reason it’s so difficult to make a satisfying 3rd person action-adventure, because with so few ingredients you have to nail each one or have a terribly flawed final product. So how does Hob stand up?
Firstly, Hob from the outset does a brilliant job in creating an emotional bond with the player. The hero of our journey is awoken by a decomposing robot in an overgrown world. Remnants of the previous world remain in somewhat working order as you lever and switch your way through the first few obstacles. Then your arm gets infected by the sentient plant-like blight which has infested the land, your robo-pal swiftly removes your goddamn arm, then – in a genuinely touching moment – pulls off his own and attaches it to you.
Hob is full of these fantastic little moments, moments which are all about the showing and not the telling. The puzzle solving namely revolves around you delving into long abandoned colossal machinery and awakening it. It’s incredibly satisfying to not just solve the puzzle and have the door to the next room unlock, but actually bringing to life long dormant, ancient machinery that shapes the land or floods the earth. The cel-shaded aesthetic is the beautiful icing on the cake that pulls together all these strange actions and consequences into a feeling that you’re building something.
Your movement around the world requires a little adjustment period. The jump is your bread and butter, the core of the platforming upon which all other things rest. Hob doesn’t get it wrong, but it definitely strays from the norm. It’s quite weighty, and you cannot deviate from your initial trajectory. It’s not sacrilegious by any measure and is actually in keeping with a lot of classic titles that Hob has clearly been inspired by – Metroid and Castlevania, for instance. Your other abilities include a power-punch, a grappling hook and a short range teleport – however they never really bring about a drastic change in how you move around the world.
The biggest bone I have to pick with Hob is the music. While it is almost always present, and changes to match the environment you’re in – it never felt particularly impactful. When it’s just your mute little hero exploring the world the soundtrack is there to keep you company, to really resonate with the world. I wanted to hear rolling, swooping melodies that would be stuck in my head for weeks, but what was there was a muted, ambient soundscape.
The Final Word
Hob is downright charming and 100% worth the handful of hours you’ll spend exploring its beautiful world. The few flaws aren’t enough to dampen what this wonderful addition to the genre.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 4.5 out of 5 – Great