Hokko Life | PS4 Review
So, in today’s review we will be looking at Animal Cross… oh, wait! No, that’s not right, although you would be forgiven for thinking that is the case as we take a look at Hokko Life on the PlayStation 4. Available now on Windows PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch, Hokko Life is a farming and life simulator which is developed by Wonderscope and published by Team17.
Okay, so let's talk about the elephant in the room firstly. Hokko Life looks very, very similar to Animal Crossing: New Horizons. And in all truth, it IS very similar to Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Straight off the bat, the graphics style, music and even the characters' wood chopping animations all felt so familiar to me having played Animal Crossing: New Horizons when it was first released on Nintendo Switch. I will try my best not to keep comparing the two in this review, but it is tough when they are both so similar.
You start off by creating your character, and while there are a decent number of options in terms of hairstyles and things to choose from here, it isn’t too in-depth at this point, which I like. I’m really not a fan of super in-depth character creation options, I like when things are simpler. The story begins when you fall asleep on the train and wake up in a small village called Hokko. The local residents convince you to stay and make a home there, offering you a room in the Inn until such a time you can get a place of your own. And so, the work begins, gathering the resources required to fix up an abandoned house in the village. Once you have a place of your own, you are then given the task of renovating and building other homes in the village in a bid to attract new residents and expand the village.
As you talk to the villagers, they will sometimes give you quests to complete in the hope that they will give you something nice in return, but for the most part, I didn't really get any decent rewards. Sometimes I would get a bag of cash or an item of clothing for completing a task for a villager, but mostly they didn’t give me anything at all, which really seems like a big waste of time. Now, a few of the quests are story-related, so you are kind of forced to always check up on the villagers and complete their tasks in order to progress. And as you progress you will have plenty to keep you busy such as fishing, catching butterflies with nets, chopping wood, gathering fruit from trees. Sound familiar? You guessed it, just like Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I will say that a lovely little game mechanic with the fishing is that you have to beat a mini-game to reel the fish in, which really adds an extra layer of fun. I thought this was great.
The game clock is not in real time like Animal Crossing, but the days are long enough to get everything done that you need to, unlike Stardew Valley which sometimes feels like the days are really too short. You can also sleep at any point in order to progress time forward, which is a very welcome feature for me.
Hokko Life boasts a unique and very in-depth crafting and design system, and this is where I feel it was really trying its best to stand out from the crowd. You have the standard crafting like all games of this nature where you gather resources and combine them to make other items, but the uniqueness comes from the creator tool. The possibilities of what you can make are pretty much endless here. There is so much to customise or create from scratch and there is even an online community where people can show off their creations which you and other players can download and add into your village. I really think this is a wonderful idea, and it provides Hokko Life with something different to make it stand on its own however, and this is a BIG however, the design system is an absolute shambles. I presume on Windows PC, using mouse and keyboard, this would work so much better, but it does not transfer to controller at all. It is janky, unintuitive and overall, extremely frustrating to even craft the simplest of wooden tables. It got to the point that I just avoided the creation tool all together because it was so difficult to use with the controller.
I also found the inventory system to be messy and a little clunky. For example, you can only select one tool at a time from inventory and then equip it using down on the D pad. It would have been much better if you could assign a tool to each of the D pad directions for quicker tool selection. And the tools are constantly moving around inside the inventory, so I found myself constantly having to reorganise my backpack to get everything where I wanted it, which just seemed like an annoying waste of my time.
The game looks great, I think this kind of art style is pretty timeless and will continue to work for years to come. It’s cute and colourful, what's not to love? Performance, though, was terrible on the PlayStation 4. I had a lot of stuttering and frame drops, mostly while just running around the village there would be a lot of stuttering. Also, when fishing, every time the fish took a bite of your hook, there was a big stutter before the mini-game started. The music is charming and relaxing to start with, but it is way too repetitive, I had to turn this off after a few hours to keep my sanity intact.
So overall then, Hokko life is a decent and enjoyable farming and life sim, however, it just doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from other games in the genre and the one thing it tries to implement in order to stand out from the crowd, the crafting and item creation system, transfers so poorly over to controller that it just doesn’t work. I think if they can fix the controller issues then it can provide enough to make Hokko Life stand on its own, but for now at least, it falls kind of flat for me. Having said that, if you are looking for a much cheaper Animal Crossing alternative, then I think this is a great choice. For me personally, though, I’ll be sticking with Stardew Valley.
PaultheBrave09’s Rating: 3 out of 5.
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