by Amber Hall
reviewed on PC
AMBIGUITY VS VAGNUENESS
My biggest issue with Hob, however, comes from its attempt at telling a story without dialogue. This has been done before and it’s been done well, creating amazing narratives by relying on things like action and tone. These sorts of games have become pretty popular recently, and the good ones play expertly with ambiguity to push the player’s interpretation of the narrative and with a multiplicity of interpretations that leaves the player able to theorize and debate. What’s important to remember while creating any story is that there’s a fine line between ambiguity and vagueness, where ambiguity creates deeper meanings while vagueness leaves things void. For Hob, not only is its plot vague, but so is its gameplay.
I easily could have trimmed off a few hours of play if I hadn’t been so terribly lost during so much of it. By the end, I was running around for a few hours just trying to figure out what to do. There was one last area of infection, but I couldn’t figure out how to cleanse it and I wasn’t even sure if cleansing it was my objective anyway. When I eventually figured out where to go the only reason I got there was through my desperation. In the distance over an impossible gap was a place to grapple, so I jokingly jumped and it happened to work. I couldn’t find any other way to reach this area, so it seems like that was the intended way to get there, but this was never clear, nor was it something the player was really taught to do.
My personal favorite thing about Hob is the combat. It’s a pretty simple combat system at first glance, but with different enemy types and new abilities, there’s always something you can do to make combat suit your play style. There are a few abilities and armor types that I found less effective, but that could have been because I’m more of the offensive type in combat. I loved narrowly dodging enemy attacks by rolling just out of reach, and teleporting behind the enemy to lash them with an onslaught of attacks. Upgrades and new abilities are hidden around the map and, because of my fondness for Hob’s combat, I was encouraged to explore more of Hob’s beautiful world.
THE BITTERSWEET TRUTH
When everything comes together and works, Hob is a blast to play. I could overlook my frustration with the awkward jumping and vague direction so long as there was something new to explore. Much of the beginning of the game felt this way, as there was always different paths to take and experimentation to be had. It wasn’t until later that Hob’s issues started to wear on me and getting lost became tiresome, especially when there was as simple of a fix as just giving me a little more direction. I’m less frustrated at the game’s inconveniences than I am frustrated that an otherwise great game is sunk so low because of minor issues. Hob isn’t a master at what it sets out to do, but it’s still a good bit of fun and eye candy.
Beautiful graphics, great soundtrack, engaging combat, satisfying platforming (when it works).
Inaccurate platforming in a platformer, vague rather than ambiguous, lack of guidance.