Did you know that within each games console, live some very special creatures?
Yep, they do. These special creatures serve a very special function, they make sure that you’re gaming fun never stops, that you can continue to game and frolic, with friends, or on your own, to your heart’s content. God bless the HoPiko.
What’s that? Your console isn’t working? Games aren’t loading or are all buggy and unplayable? What’s happened?! A virus, of course! What will we do now???????
Essentially, this is the story to HoPiko; the speed running game of doom, created by studio Laser Dog. Very simply, the HoPiko live within all gaming consoles and ensure that they work and have done for many generations. Until now, viruses have begun to sweep across the consoles, snaring the HoPiko into its gravity, entrapping them forever, unless someone can save them. That someone is one last remaining HoPiko, but he can’t do it on his own, he needs the sharp mind, quick thinking and cat-like reflexes that only you, the player can provide.
HoPiko‘s premise is relatively simple. To release the captured HoPiko, you must make it to the end of level by terminating the virus by hurling your body full force into it, thus destroying it and releasing your brethren to continue to help consoles work and the gaming world will once again be at peace.
So what makes HoPiko stand out from the crowd, well what if I told you that mos to the levels last about two to three seconds? Then what if I told you that there were five levels you had to complete per “run” that had to be done without dying, lasting all of about 20 seconds, on average? Then what if I told you that the you cannot stay still and you have to use quick, on the spot thinking to navigate the increasingly treacherous runs across 10 worlds consisting of 50 runs.
Intrigued? I think HoPiko’s draw is in its simplicity. You have literal seconds to finish the level before starting the next. Each run is composed of five levels and to complete a run you must finish all five without dying in order to progress. As you move further into the game, the more danger and new design ideas get thrown at you. I couldn’t help think of Donkey Kong Country from the days of the SNES, there are moments when you are using barrels to move around the level and the way they worked just smacked of that, which is great. The whole point of the game is that it keep you moving. You cannot really take time to stop and think about your next move, it’s about using your reflexes. If you stay on a platform for too long (about three seconds) it’ll explode, killing you. In the heat of the moment though, three seconds could be more than enough time to make you’re next move. Until they start adding in the platforms that explode almost immediately after contact has been made.
There’s a whole host of things designed to kill you in HoPiko. Generally anything that isn’t the virus at the end, strangely enough, will one-hit kill you. There are stationary spikes, laser beams, exploding platforms, platform spikes, moving spikes, turrets and a “follower”which makes a truly terrifying sound as it moves towards you. Especially on your first encounter, I panicked!
HoPiko is probably on a Dark Souls level of frustration at times. You will die. A LOT. In fact, it knows you will. That’s why each level tracks how many times you’ve died on it. That’s why the game features an achievement (reviewed on Xbox One) that is awarded for dying 1000 times. Of course, when you die occasionally you don’t mind, thinking you’re contributing to this achievement, but at points, usually when you make a silly mistake, does the annoyance and frustration seep in. Some of the levels, in fact most of them, are very precise in how you need to finish it (unless you find some sneaky shortcuts) and you need to decide what that path is insanely quickly. To a large degree, it is trial and error. You will die, you will make mistakes but by gosh you will get past it and it is soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo satisfying when you finally get to the end of a particularly tricky run and it flowed like butter melting down the back of a stegosaurus.
Some of the frustration does come from the design of the game, however. The controls are simple, there are two controls; using the right trigger (RT) or the A button, launches you directly forward into the direction you are pointed at and the right stick (or left stick, which can be changed in the options menu, but it felt weird) to control directionality and fire you at a slightly slower speed. You can also hold the right trigger to prime your launch. Combining these methods is essential for success within HoPiko, though sometimes the controls, mainly with the right stick gets you killed. Through no fault of your own. To fire your hero HoPiko, you let go of the stick in the direction you want him fired, but sometimes, as you change your direction, whilst holding your character in place, he will just fire and then, usually, die. Sometimes you will die from just, nothing. That’s all I can reason as to why, I could be doing everything right and then my character will die, infuriating. Though this does not happen often, it’s often enough for me to go “what the hell?”
The music is the other bit of HoPiko that I find frustrating. The whole game is set in a retro, 8-bit-esque theatre, so the music is of that time; repetitive, basic and occasionally funky. Some of the tracks are really catchy and work super well with the quick-paced action the game employs. Some of the other tracks, which you unlock through completion of runs, don’t seem to fit with the play style and seems a little off, for me anyway. I will say that the tracks aren’t overly long, the levels are only seconds remember, so you do find that there’ll be a fair amount of repetition, but that’s the hallmark of the game, repeat until you move on.
The look of the game, as I alluded to earlier, is based in a basic 8-bit, pixellated fashion. It looks great, the way it is presented. The colors are really defined and contrast really well to give a striking art style. The character models are also really discernible, despite being so basic; the viruses look sinister and have a fetching mono-brow that emphasizes the virus’ inherent evil. The HoPiko are happy, jumpy characters that express that happiness in their mouths, they also use their moves to express shock when inevitably plow them into a spike trap, which is nice touch. Especially given how fast-moving and quick everything it, to be able to pick up on that is great.
A game such as this, one that ensures multiple deaths, relies on its ability to get you back into the game quickly and HoPiko does this exceptionally well. There are next to no loading times loading up the runs and in between deaths are seamless.
HoPiko offers a lot of gameplay from such a simple concept. Each level, of each run, has a par time; indicated by a white bar at the top right of the screen that quickly ticks down as time progresses in the level. If you defeat the virus before the white bar disappears, you will have beaten par time and earned yourself a ✓. Getting lots of these ✓s unlocks bonus runs and modes for you to beat.
- Bonus runs – more unique and equally exasperating run that will challenge you even more. One of the runs puts you in a really difficult to control vehicle and you have to beat the virus using this, whilst avoiding the pitfalls of the level.
- Speedrun – all 50 levels of the 10 runs of that world (or “console”) need to be completed in one sitting. Dying takes you back to the last denomination of five of levels.
- Hardcore run – similar to the speedrun, you have 50 levels to beat but if you die, you lose all your progress.
On top of these modes, purists (or should I say sadists) will want to unlock the whole soundtrack and get par time on every run, which would be a hell of an achievement, given some of the runs. There isn’t any multiplayer or co-op play, but it’s easily a game that could be controller shared.
HoPiko is great fun and infuriating at the same time. You might die 50 times before a run clicks, but when it does…and all the maneuvers fall into place, do you feel absolutely bloody ace. There in lies the genius, it punishes you, relentlessly at times, as soon as you stop concentrating you’ll probably die, but the fact that it makes you take note and work your short-term memory is impressive. It feels like it is a game that helps develop your reaction times and decision-making ability. Though given the rate at which you need to make your decisions in HoPiko, it may be wise to take a few breaths before deciding on some of the more important life choices.
Have you given HoPiko a play? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below or on the RGM Forums.
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