Hokko Life, as described by its developers, is a cosy, creativity-filled community sim game. The game is a clone of relaxing cosy games such as Animal Crossing. But whereas Animal Crossing elegantly manages to be casual and comfortable, Hokko Life fails in most ways. The game tries to imitate its better counterpart in many ways but falls short quite a bit. Even without that comparison, Hokko Life still has some significant flaws which do not help it.
As alluded to by the title, the game is grindy and slow. But even the best games in this genre are grindy. Although, this grind is often complemented by rewarding systems that help mitigate the process. But especially in Hokko Life, the way the task is distributed and rewarded misses the mark when it comes to that.
The narrative of the game, as expected, is very bare bones. Hokko Life starts with the player-created character coming to the serene Village. As you go out, there is no real mention or attempt to say why you are here. You walk into the Village to move in. The Village seemingly has only two people in it, and you meet the village innkeeper and the trader. Here is where you will notice that every character in the world except you is an animal. The game tries to make these characters look cute and cuddly with tiny bodies on their giant heads. But this ends up making them look a bit off. The game seems creepy as the art style does not help that much.
The game’s plot mainly rotates on walking around and talking to the residents of the Village. There are some very pointless dialogue trees which have no options. Each interaction with the villagers does not increase the character’s relationship but is just filler as one progresses. The story is expected to be bare bones, but this barely has any. So most of the weight of the game lies in its gameplay.
Gameplay – Bare Bones
So, how is the gameplay of Hokko Life? It is very barebones. The gameplay loop relies upon you collecting resources around the Village, let it be different wood, coal, butterfly, chalk, flowers etc. And once ordered, these items can be used to craft new items. There is a village craftsman who helps you get the blueprints and to build the structures in the Village (all except houses). The game pushes you into doing these tasks, but the controls are clunky and kind of off. The character model often glitches into surfaces that they are not supposed to. It is the same problem with NPCs. The game is quite buggy in its present form.
The main parts of the game revolve around the other part of Crafting, which is impossible through the crafting NPC. But instead, there is a character who is more or less a real estate agent from whom one would buy new houses. This will, in order, does help the Village to invite new residents. The programme’s primary goal is to help bring in new villagers and expand the cosy place into a thriving village. This is satisfying to witness, even though tedious, as new villagers trickle in with each of your newly built houses. New villagers lead to new quests, and it spirals on. More than often, the quests are very, very simple. They usually boil down to the player capturing a butterfly, insect or fish and delivering it to them. Or it can just be a delivery quest between two NPCs; these are the most monotonous.
I did experience a timed event where I was supposed to capture as many swallowtail butterflies as possible by the end of the day. That seemed like a fun challenge, and I was competing with the villagers. This is where I realized that I could just keep capturing one butterfly and release it and grab it over and over and over again. And all of this counts toward my progress. So I ended up collecting around 30 Butterflies for the day. This was not the only instance where a quest bugged me.
Buggy Experience and Quest Structure
But the little enjoyment Hokko Life does offer marred by its several problematic bugs. One of the worst ones happened to me as I played the game. One of the game’s main quests was to build a set of stairs. But the blueprints for it are locked behind the player doing an unspecified amount of side quests from the NPCs. These quests are often very, very dull. They were running across the tiny map delivering these items or collecting the insets for the NPC.
During this, I was given a quest to make and give two buckets of yellow dye. But this was during the point of the game where the player had no natural way of crafting yellow tint. So I was stuck with the quest for seven in-game days till it expired to get more inquiries from the NPC. These kinds of impossible pursuits kept appearing in the side quests. Waiting for the right set of probes which just skipped days, was so tedious that it made me check out of the game mentally even as I progressed, and Hokko Life never managed to hook me back after that.
Graphics & Sound
The music of the game is pretty ok. It is a pleasant, unremarkable earworm sound but fits the game well. But it also leaves one’s mind not sticking long. The music is mostly just lo-fi melodies which play as we go on. It fits the game well but this does help the fact that it is very generic. By the latter half of my playthrough, I barely listened to the music preferring to listen to podcasts and other music over it as I ground through the game.
The graphics are somewhat stylized but, in my opinion, are horrible. A simple game like this relies upon its art style more than anything and in my view the art style is creepy. The art style is not so good, with the animals looking more creepy than cute. The game does have quite a few options in terms of graphics and button remapping. But there is not much to see in terms of graphics in the game. For a game that is so simple and small, there are too many loading screens across the map as one navigates, and these loading screens take time which feels completely unnecessary. It is just an addition to the monotony.
The key for Hokko Life was played on Steam with the key provided by Team 17.