Game: Hokko Life
Genre: Adventure, Simulation
System: Nintendo Switch (also available on Xbox, Playstation & Steam(Windows))
Developer|Publisher: Wonderscope | Team17
Age Rating: EU 3+| US Everyone
Price: US $19.99 | UK £15.99 | EU € 19,99
Release Date: September 27th, 2022
Review code provided with many thanks to Team17.
Remember when COVID was a global pandemic and lockdowns and social distancing made sure we had plenty of time on our hands when Animal Crossing: New Horizons was released? The timing was crucial in creating hype as never before. The fan base of the older Animal Crossing games already knew how totally relaxing and immersive the game could be, and many first-timers found out too.
In that sense, it’s a good time for Hokko Life to reach the gaming audience because by playing Hokko Life you can clearly see that Animal Crossing was a huge inspiration. Tiny developer studio Wonderscope in Stockholm Sweden took on quite a challenge. The game has been in early access since spring 2021 on Steam and is now leaving early access and making the jump to consoles. Let’s see if it delivers the same kind of experience.
YvoCaro, the Saviour of Hokko Town
My little YvoCaro, customised just how I wanted her to be, arrived in town by train and as there was nowhere else to go, she was glad she could stay at the Inn. Owner Oma (a pink elephant) welcomed her warmly and even talked her into staying in town. Nice, as there was even a simple house waiting for her with a futon bed. A bit bare bones, but it would have to do.
In no time, YvoCaro was one of the most useful characters in town: she asked all her animal neighbours if there was anything she could do for them. She met Sally the dog, who helped her by setting up a workbench and a designer table for YvoCaro to use. Soon she was armed with an axe, a pickaxe, a shovel, a bug-net and a fishing pole. Even made some of them herself, using the workbench and the materials she could forage.
When YvoCaro’s adventure started, Hokko Life featured a little shop run by Moss and, shortly after the start, a real estate agency run by Rosa. Of course, there was Oma’s Inn as well, bringing in new animals who could be tempted to stay in town. It was YvoCaro’s job to build houses for them and to woo them into joining the community. Her job too to make the bridge and the ramp, so new areas were unlocked. Add to that to make the town as appealing as could be, and to decorate the houses of herself and of the new neighbours. You’d say she didn’t have to be bored, but at first, she really was.
Animal Crossing for Inspiration
Made into a little story in the chapter above, it should be clear to you that Hokko Life is a lot like Animal Crossing in gameplay. There’s interaction with the animals in town, catching fish and bugs and the possibility to craft things to beautify things. There are events like a fishing tournament, and an archaeologist to whom you can donate your artefacts. You can sail to another island to find other kinds of trees, insects and more. You get the gist. If you love Animal Crossing you will probably love Hokko Life’s gameplay too.
Differences from Animal Crossing
But there are differences too, here are some.
* Hokko Life has mining, and in a nice thought-out way. You can’t just wander into dark tunnels, you need to bring lanterns to light the way. Which, of course, you have to make.
* You are the one ordering the new houses, and you not only have to pay for it, you also have to provide the materials.
* As I mentioned, you get a lot of requests for help from your neighbours. And as the new animals that move in have a house that’s very much devoid of furniture, there’s a lot of crafting to do to help them out.
* Designing goes a lot deeper than it does in Animal Crossing. Not only changing patterns and colours but really adding materials like wood, repairing a chair by adding a leg.
* Recipes for this can be bought from Sally the dog. And other furniture can be bought in Moss’ store or through his online channel.
* Fishing and using the Artefact Detector brings up a little mini-game
* Farming goes a lot deeper too, eventually you even unlock an entire farm plot. Guess who has to do the work?
* Hokko Life is not in real-time
The list is long, but what I wanted to make clear is: yes, there’s clearly a lot of Animal Crossing in there, but there are a lot of original ideas as well. A little one that I loved: when you dress your character in different clothes, they wear it on the title screen as well. I know, a small thing, but these little things show how much effort has gone into this.
Felt a Bit Bored
At first, I wondered if Hokko Life got it right. I think I played the first 10 hours trying to find my bearings and, well, shall I say it? Being a bit bored. Nothing much seemed to happen, and Moss had a really barebones selection in his shop that didn’t change out much. Rosa wanted quite a lot of planks to make a new house and a lot of money too. Four hundred coins doesn’t seem like much, but everything I sold like insects, rocks and flowers, didn’t bring in much money. It felt a bit grindy and it was a good thing you can end each day by just sleeping till morning. Which I frequently did.
I started looking on the Achievement tab and doing exactly what I needed to do to achieve stuff. Like felling a certain amount of trees, crushing rocks, waving at villagers and selling items. That seemed to speed things along. So I did really make an effort to help the villagers out with their requests, no matter how silly they seemed. Finally, I reached the point where I met Hurley who could take me to an island, and that got things off to the more active lifestyle my little YvoCaro craved.
Not so Cute Neighbours
Hokko Life isn’t perfect. I don’t think a tiny development studio can accomplish the same in such a relatively short time as the big-name’s development teams can. You see it in how I put in a cabinet in one of the houses and if overlapped with the bed. In how YvoCaro can part-ways disappear in a tree trunk. In a very slow start, as I mentioned. And in how some shortcuts and quality of life improvements should be made.
I can live with that, as I said, this is a major achievement for a small indie developer. There’s one thing though that I really don’t like, and that’s how the animal neighbours look. Looking at the promotion material they looked much more cuddly and rounded. In reality, they look spindly and a bit weird. I mean, Pip the Pig really doesn’t really ping on my cute radar. It’s like it has changed since the original design.
That having been said, they do say original things. YvoCaro has already helped hide a stolen picnic bench, so who knows what else they are all up to. And the background music is relaxing.
Hokko Life doesn’t deny where it found its origins, mainly in being inspired by Animal Crossing. Being a small development studio Wonderscope clearly shows this for the passion project it is, and one that the fans of the genre will love. As I couldn’t help but compare, some niggles do pop up and I found that the game is awfully slow in really getting interesting.
Once Hokko Life gets underway there’s more to do, and there are some things in Hokko Life that go quite a bit deeper than you would expect. Custom designing is really hands-on. I found it a bit fiddly on the Switch, but I saw projects up on Steam that really inspired me. It’s fun to see how they re-invented bits of the well-known gameplay, and I think this could be a real time sink!
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot