Monday, April 8

Review: Hob [Nintendo Switch eShop]


There’s an old saying everyone should know, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Playing Hob has actually made me reflect a bit on a similar thought. Though quite beautiful and filled with some solid action-adventure puzzling, the game’s lack of any real dialogue or narrative of consequence feels very odd in a genre inspired by the likes of The Legend of Zelda and others. Given that some titles in the same space can feature pretty threadbare or predictable stories though it isn’t just that, maybe moreso the issue is just a general lack of personality in your hero that makes it challenging to connect to them.


Starting with the positive Hob is visually quite lovely, at least when talking about docked mode. I wouldn’t call its color scheme vibrant, but the details in this fantasy meets technology world help it to stand out. Played in handheld mode it’s important to emphasize that the game’s performance is maintained but unfortunately the casualty is typically some of that same detail that just fails to come through, which is a shame for people who typically prefer to go portable.


In terms of the adventure Hob features puzzles that are quite elaborate and even impressive at times. You have a tendency to work through large areas to push or pull things into place, flip some switches, and turn some gears that will then power up some elaborate machine that will alter an area you’ve already been in. This interconnected quality of the levels within the world feels very consistent with the somewhat steampunk/clockwork nature of the other elements in the game, and does help it at least feel different even if you’re not necessarily clear on the big picture what or why behind what you’re doing.


Where the game falls down a bit is in the area of combat, which for the most part just feels like it’s there to check off an item on the list. It can be challenging at times, and you’ll be craft a new weapon or gain some new skills over the course of the game but it’s just not very exciting or compelling. Another issue is that with your isometric view of the world there are situations where your view of things isn’t ideal. Whether the action is partially obstructed by the environment or judging a crucial jump in 3 dimensional space when you see it at an odd angle these aren’t overbearing problems but they arise periodically and can be a nuisance. The final problem I had was also intermittent but annoying when it would happen, divining what you’re meant to do or where you’re supposed to go next can sometimes be unclear and waste time. Again, it wasn’t a constant issue, but it did happen enough to waste some time and be a bit aggravating, and mixing this with the lack of detail in handheld mode it could prove to be more of an issue for people who aren’t playing the game docked.


In the end as critical as I’m being with Hob it’s a pretty enjoyable game, and I like it, but it’s just aggravating so see an effort with so much apparent care get held back by a collection of lesser issues that unfortunately do add up. This is by no means a bad game, it’s just one that has flaws that you should be aware of going in. It will scratch the puzzle adventure itch, and can look quite lovely along the way, just understand that some of the expectations you have for games in this genre may not be met as well as others.

Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • Has an interesting look that mixes fantasy with steampunk
  • While many of your actions may be smaller as you solve puzzles their eventual results tend to be bigger and can be pretty cool
  • When everything clicks into place the game is compelling

Cons:
  • Lacking a story or any real personality in your main character there's something missing in the overall experience
  • When played in handheld mode the performance remains solid but the game loses many of the finer details that help the game world feel special
  • The fixed isometric camera can be obstructed or at angles that aren’t always ideal for the on-screen action
  • While serviceable the combat fails to be exciting or memorable