Ever since Animal Crossing: New Horizons released in March last year and took the world by storm, I've been searching for an alternative game to fill the creative void that the adorable Nintendo title has left with me. Don't get me wrong, New Horizons is still a very enjoyable game even today, but it's been 15 months and a change is always good for the soul. Fortunately, Wonderscope has recently launched its latest title Hokko Life onto Steam Early Access, a calming game that shares a lot in common with Animal Crossing, both in a positive and negative sense.
Hokko Life's story is very similar to Animal Crossing, in that you (a human) are basically starting a new life in a distant town inhabited by anthropomorphic animals. At the beginning of the game, when you first arrive in the town of Hokko, you have nothing, and through engaging with the townsfolk (completing tasks for them and generally helping out), you will acquire new tools and start on your path of setting up a life here. It's cutesy and easy to understand and get into, and captures a lot of that charm that the Animal Crossing games managed to initially deliver.
But, what exactly do you do in Hokko Life, you ask? The gameplay is pretty creatively unrestricted, meaning while you will have tasks to complete here and there (for example, to build a few benches to pretty up the town square), but a lot of what you do is up to you. The only real rule you have to follow is whether the decisions you make will better the town, because the main objective of Hokko Life is to rejuvenate the delightful slice of life that is the town of Hokko.
With this mindset, you can tweak the town to look the way you want it to, using the range of tools at your disposal. Through crafting, designing, painting, building, and decorating, you have a variety of different methods to customise and design not just new features and items for the town, but also the buildings and objects that were around when you first arrived.
Then, on top of that, and following on the trend of similarity to Animal Crossing, you can also engage in a few side activities to fill your down time. Whether you choose to head to the beach or the riverside to add some fish to your collection, or instead whip out your net and hunt for some creepy-crawlies, it's again completely up to you.
The options are pretty plentiful and are all relatively easy to figure out and understand. Crafting is well explained, the designing and painting systems offer a lot of creative freedom, and the building and decorating lets you plan the town out in the way you desire. If you enjoy Animal Crossing, or games that are similar to it, Hokko Life will be right up your street, as it is relaxing, calm, and a great way to spend a few hours here and there.
I will say however, that it can become a little dull, which is a problem that also plagues New Horizons. Hokko Life isn't designed to be completed in a few hours, it's more of a creative investment, and those who will find the most enjoyment from it will do so in perfecting the world they create. People, like myself who can often struggle with remaining engaged with creative games such as this, will find it challenging to keep coming back to play some more. But, that's not a Hokko Life problem directly, more so one of the creative sim genre itself.
I've made quite a lot of comparisons to Animal Crossing over the course of this preview, because Hokko Life really does remind me of an indie version of the series. What you can do, how you do it, and the way the world and the townsfolk look, all resemble Nintendo's title. In fact, they both even have really restricted movement systems that make it seem like your character can't jump down tiny grass banks, or won't hit a tree with an axe unless you stand in a certain spot, for example. It's the sort of system that can be hard to ignore, but for a game that is built around creativity, the fluidity of its character movement isn't exactly a major slight.
Hokko Life is a gorgeous looking game that has a lot to offer for fans of creative sims. Despite the fact that this is an indie game, it's equally as fun as New Horizons for the most part, but that does also mean that it can become a little stale over time. Still, those who are looking for a breath of fresh air from Animal Crossing or something similar yet new will find comfort in this delightful title, and for that reason, I'm excited to see what the full launch and future holds for Hokko Life.