Back in 2001 I remember when I first played the original Animal Crossing on the Gamecube and fell in love with it. It was a new experience as it played a lot different than most video games from that era. There wasn’t really a concrete goal in the game as the gameplay was mostly built around doing what you wanted and building the town of your desires. I have no idea how much time I spent playing the original game. While I really enjoyed the original game, I never really kept up with the series as the time investment was too much and my interests in games kind of changed. With how popular the series has become, there have been a number of indie studios that have tried to create their own game in the Animal Crossing style. While I haven’t really checked out any of these games, I was intrigued by one that just entered Early Access today. That game is Hokko Life. As soon as I saw the trailer I could see the game’s inspiration. Hokko Life is a promising indie take on the Animal Crossing genre that has a truly unique mechanic that could really make it stand out amongst the competition.
In Hokko Life you play as your own customized human that falls asleep on a train. When you awaken the train has reached its last stop, the town of Hokko. The town has had some some tough times recently as many of the residents have left town. As the train rarely comes to Hokko you are stuck there for a while so you decide to help revitalize the town to bring it back to its former glory.
When most people first see Hokko Life their first thoughts will probably gravitate towards Animal Crossing. This is only natural as the developer will probably even admit that the game takes a lot of inspiration from Animal Crossing and other games in this genre. The game even has the whole you are the only human in a town full of sentient animals vibe going for it. It is hard to escape the comparison as the two games share a lot in common. Basically the game is trying to be the PC/indie game equivalent of Animal Crossing. I don’t see this really as a good or bad thing. I mostly bring this up as your feelings towards the game will likely correspond to your feelings towards Animal Crossing. If you don’t care for Animal Crossing I see no reason why you would be interested in Hokko Life. Fans of Animal Crossing should continue reading though as Hokko Life has some really interesting ideas which could potentially make it the best indie “Animal Crossing” game.
The basic gameplay is very similar to Animal Crossing. The game doesn’t really have an overall objective. You will get quests from various villagers from time to time. At this point these mostly entail delivering goods between residents or acquiring resources that a character needs for what they are working on. The mission structure in the game is kind of basic at this point and I hope some more variety gets added to it in the future. Other than completing chores for your neighbors, you can pretty much do whatever you want. The game has a fishing mechanic where you cast your line and play a mini game in order to reel in fish. The game keeps track of all of the different types of fish that you have caught so you can try to catch all of the fish available in the game. There is also a bug catching mechanic as you use a net to catch bugs that are moving around the environment. I wouldn’t say any of these mechanics are particularly deep at this point, but they should still be fun for people that like these type of games.
At this point the biggest element of the game is probably built around the game’s various customization options. This seems to be a big emphasis of the game going forward. The game actually gives you a lot of options for customizing the entire town. The various stores are basically fixed in place, but you can pretty much change everything else. The game uses a grid system which objects will be placed in. This allows you to place objects outdoors and inside buildings. This allows you to customize the town’s outdoor look as well as the insides of all of the houses. I was genuinely impressed with the amount of customization that the game already gives players.
This actually brings me to the most exciting part of Hokko Life. The game doesn’t just let you place pre-made items wherever you want. The game also lets you create your own items as well. The game has a basic resource gathering/crafting element where you cut down trees to get wood, break rock to get stone, etc. You then use these basic resources to make materials which can then be used to make items that you will place around your town. This is more than just giving an item a new paint job or slightly tweaking it. Instead the game basically lets you create clothing, furniture, and other items from scratch.
To create a new item you first need to start with a blueprint of a certain item type. I am guessing this is done to help the game figure out how characters are supposed to interact with an item. To make an item you also need the required materials for the components that you will eventually end up using. You are then left to your own imagination for what you want to make. Each blueprint has some basic guidelines that need to be met, mostly related to the size and general purpose of the object that you are making. For example a chair needs legs and something to sit on. Otherwise you can do whatever you want. The game gives you a number of different pieces that you can utilize which you can connect together to create whatever you want. You can change the size of components, rotate them and change their positioning with relative ease. You can create normal looking furniture or a complete monstrosity that shouldn’t be seen by human eyes.
This is the mechanic that I think will make or break Hokko Life. I haven’t played a lot of games from this genre, but I am unaware of a game that gives you this much freedom to make whatever you want. In a way the item creator kind of feels like working with a 3D modeler with presets instead of having to make things on your own. While the game could always use more presets to give you even more options, I am genuinely impressed with this mechanic so far. I will admit that it takes some time to get used to as I don’t really have any experience using this type of program/mechanics. I think the game could have made it a little easier to use for newcomers. It also sometimes does not give you a clear idea of what basic elements that you object is currently violating preventing you from saving it.
While the mechanic could use a little work, I think it alone could make Hokko Life a star in this genre. People who enjoy these type of games generally love being able to customize their worlds. Hokko Life seems to give players even more options than any other game in this genre. Your imagination is likely the only thing preventing you from creating your own dream town as you could probably make almost anything. If the game really develops a community I could also see people sharing their designs giving players even more options to customize their towns. This element and the game in general has some work to do (typical of Early Access games), but this mechanic is likely what will make the game stand out amongst the competition and could be revolutionary for the genre.
Hokko Life is not perfect at this point as some elements of the game are a little thin. A lot of the mechanics appear to already be in the game which is a good thing. Some of them probably need to be expanded on though as some are a little too simple in my opinion. Probably the biggest issue I had with the game right now is just the fact that the game has a number of bugs at this point. Most of these are minor graphical glitches. There are some gamebreaking bugs though that some people have encountered. I haven’t encountered one of these, but I did end up getting stuck in a house once as a phased through a piece of furniture getting stuck in a corner that I couldn’t get out of. This forced me to quit the game and reload. After the reload everything was back to normal. Most of these bugs are more of a nuisance than anything, but they do impact the experience some. This is to be expected for an ambitious game that just entered Early Access though. I am guessing that most of these bugs should be fixed as the game is further refined before the final version is released.
Hokko Life is a really interesting game that should be of interest to a lot of fans of games like Animal Crossing. I will say that the game does seem to borrow pretty heavily from Animal Crossing. The basic gameplay loop is almost identical. Walk around town talking to the animal residents and do various fetch and deliver chores for them. The game also has a fishing and bug catching mechanic. These mechanics are a little basic at this point and aren’t much different from what you would expect from other games from this genre. Hopefully some more depth is added to these elements along with some bug fixes as the game progresses through Early Access. The element that really makes Hokko Life stand out though is the customization options. I was genuinely impressed with how much control you have over the design of your city. You can pretty much change anything you want. Hokko Life’s most innovative idea though is a mechanic where you can make your own objects and furniture. This really gives players the ability to make the town whatever they want it to be. Creative minds will likely have a blast designing their own furniture and other objects to place all around town. If fully developed this mechanic could revolutionize this genre of video games.
Basically my recommendation for Hokko Life comes down to your feelings towards Animal Crossing and other similar games. If you don’t really care for the genre or aren’t a big fan of customizing the town, I don’t know if the game will be for you. Those looking for a game where you have total control over creating your own town though, should be excited as Hokko Life could be revolutionary for the genre with enough development time. If the game’s concept intrigues you and you are willing to follow along in its journey, I think you should definitely look into picking up Hokko Life.
Buy Hokko Life online: Steam
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Wonderscope, and Team17 for the preview copy of Hokko Life used for this preview. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to preview, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this preview. Receiving the preview copy for free had no impact on the content of this preview.