(Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be writing some short pieces about games I enjoyed in 2014. Not all of these will be in my personal top ten I’m planning to publish at the end of it, but each of them will have had some kind of impact on me, or had something interesting in their design that I’d like to talk about. I’m not great with self-promotion, so if you enjoy any of these, please feel free to share them.)
Before you start playing The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, the developer makes a big play of telling you that this is a game that isn’t going to hold your hand; the suggestion being that you’re going to have to unpick its mysteries unaided. It’s not entirely true, and besides, other games do the same without arrogantly announcing it beforehand. Hohokum, for one, which immediately puts you in control of a serpentine creature with one large eye, and invites you to explore a series of abstract realms. It’s a puzzle game of a form, the ultimate goal being to find your snakelike friends.
You achieve this simply by interacting with the world, your presence prompting a range of reactions depending on the scenario. In one you help some apes rescue their caged friend by throwing nuts at an elephant, in another you carry waiters into a sloshing sea of red wine before delivering drinks to wedding guests. Some of its other objectives aren’t quite as fun, and in truth, Hohokum’s better when it stops trying to be a game at all. It’s a pleasure simply to be in this strange, colourful universe with its vivid colours and lovely, gently hypnotic soundtrack. When you’re flying through the air triggering fireworks or constellations and marvelling at a delightful, reactive world, it’s difficult to put down. I started playing on a day when I was feeling particularly rubbish and it made things quite a bit brighter. It’s Honeyslug’s best game by a mile.