- Chad Myers
Game Review #305: Hob: The Definitive Edition (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Chad M.
Developer: Runic Games, Panic Button
Publisher: Perfect World
Category: Action, Adventure, Puzzle, Platformer
Release Date: 04.03.2019
Price (at time of review): $19.99
Buy Hob: The Definitive Edition from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
Don’t Panic! It’s Gonna Be Alright!
I’m not one to rag on the indie scene using pixel art in a lot of the games that come out nowadays, but as much as I love a good pixel-art game, something about a well-designed and highly-crafted game that also looks very pleasing to the eye is very appealing to me; and when they come by way of the Switch, I can’t wait to play them! Now, in those terms, two of my favorite games I’ve played on the Switch aren’t pixel art, and both look great: Doom and Rocket League. I was worried when I saw Doom was coming over to the Switch, because I knew there was no way it’d run smooth on a tablet chipset. That’s when I first heard of Panic Button, and when I saw what they did with Doom, and then Rocket League, I knew anything they touched would look and play fantastic.
So, when I saw Runic Games, the creators of Torchlight 2, was giving their game Hob—which came out in 2017 on PS4—a definitive edition, and porting it over to the Switch, I was immediately excited, and couldn’t wait to try it out.
Links to Hob Awaits Your Awakening
As our story begins, our main character is our tiny, hooded, Link-like protagonist who, I assume, is Hob. He awakens and leaves a room, walking out into this steampunk fantasy world. In front of you is a giant forest creature that, to me, resembles a golem... maybe a tree or forest golem? As I embarked out into this world, it felt very alive with greenery, but at the same time, the world felt to be in disarray, with large ancient ruins that felt like they were cold and dead when you see them, as if they need to be awoken or resurrected.
You explore around a bit, until you run into this purple gloopy glop organism that stabs you with a spike-like tentacle. The golem saves you by amputating your arm and replacing it with one of his hulk-like arms. From there, you obtain a sword; you use the sword to vanquish enemies, and you use your arm to help with a multitude of things as you embark to find out what’s going on.
Now, that’s about it for the story, as it is very sparse to begin with, and there is almost no dialogue, which reminded me of games like Last Guardian or Rime, and you really don’t know what’s going on for a while. I won’t spoil anything plot-wise, but I’ll just say that, though the presentation is great, the story is lacking until the last half, but it didn’t bother me.
Rime & Reason With a Little Bit H&S
As I awoke from the cave and began to explore, I was getting heavy Rime vibes, as this is an adventure game that has heavy exploration, looking for items and mechanisms to advance the game forward. Aside from being a step above in almost all aspects, it also has combat in the way of hack-and-slash to mix things up and add another layer to the game.
Touching on the combat first, the controls felt very tight and made combat flow nicely, as Hob has a dodge-roll that you can use during combat. It always felt very quick and responsive, and saved me many times. Now, as I said before, your arm becomes infected and is replaced by the golem’s arm, which is half the size of Hob. I mean, this thing would make Hellboy envious, as it’s massive, and has many powers you’ll unlock throughout your journey, but mostly you’ll be using it to solve puzzles in the environments.
As you explore, you pick up orbs you can use to purchase abilities, you meet explorers like yourself who hold certain items you can use to unlock abilities, and you’ll also find weapon pieces throughout to upgrade your sword. When defeating an enemy, they drop little red orbs that restore your health. On top of enemies dropping these red orbs, the surrounding wildlife will drop these as well, but they are harmless animals similar to deer or rabbits—or I should say, the alien equivalent—which leaves you with the moral dilemma of, “Do I kill defenseless animals to preserve my health?”
While platforming through this steampunk world sprinkled with what looks like avatar wildlife, you’ll encounter these monolithic structures into which you must breathe life by solving environmental puzzles that will awaken the world around you. You do this by upgrading your arm, which will allow you to access places you previously could not, like punching through cracked walls, forming ladders with a super ground punch, or moving large objects that Hob couldn’t have moved before.
The platforming and jumping all over felt solid, and I never felt like I was lost or couldn’t find my way, even as the world kept growing larger and larger, with caves and hidden places to discover, more items, and switches that help activate structures piece by piece. Before long, you’ll gain abilities that have you teleporting from place to place as you use the upgrade machine that pulls apart your arm and inserts a new upgrade before attaching it back to you. You’ll be able to fast-travel the further you go, and the checkpoint system matched with quick save is superbly done.
I never played the game before the revamp, but I can say this is the best way to play it, in my opinion. If I had one thing to complain about in the game, it’d be the fact that when I would work for long periods of time pulling levers, activating buttons and awakening structures, and I would keep waiting for a big bad boss fight—especially when I worked overtime to get to a point that really was a monumental achievement—only to find a button to push rather than an opposition protecting these points. Of course, there are enemies throughout, but when I would think the game would lean into truly surprising me with a boss, it never did. It felt like the game was trying to stay true to its roots of awakening this sick and dying world, and rather than making things up, it stayed the course.
Audio & Visuals
The music is expertly done by composer Matt Uelmen, who has brought a lot of heart and atmosphere to Hob. The sound effects and world environmental sounds all sound pretty solid. The visuals are slick and very well-done. I was impressed with not only the character designs, but the world itself, which feels like another character—and a major one at that! When you accomplish a task in the world, small or large, it reacts as if taking its turn to show you how it’s reacting to what’s happening.
Watching Hob slice his sword through tall grass shows the attention to even the smallest detail. There were some complaints of visual issues when the game released, but as we’ve learned with Panic Button, they are top-notch in the porting game, and already had a patch come out addressing and fixing the issues with visual integrity while in handheld mode.
It’s A Wrap!!!
Hob: The Definitive Edition was a really fun game to play through, and took me around 9 hours to reach the end of the campaign; and at its current price, the value is spot on, with my only criticism being the vagueness of the story for the first half, and the lack of big bosses at certain points. Past that, everything is a thrilling and immersive experience.
I really wish more titles like this would show up in the eShop that aren’t of the pixel variety and are built by a developer with a lot of experience—and ported by a team of that same caliber. This is a title that a limited house will eventually jump on, and I will gladly double-dip to have it; but as it sits as digital-only at the moment, I’d recommend getting your hands on it and experiencing a fun adventure puzzler in a beautiful world.
Buy Hob: The Definitive Edition from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by fortyseven