There’s an awful lot of depth to Runic Games’ action adventure indie game, Hob. Exploration of the huge steampunk-inspired world is exceptionally rewarding: secret rooms can be discovered, shortcuts can be accessed and mysterious green orbs hide in machines and tiny crevices which allow you to level up.
Our protagonist, a curious and unnamed hooded figure, awakens in a cave and is freed into the mesmerising world by a robot, seemingly our one companion. The sweet opening of Hob takes a drastic turn when a moment’s distraction leads to our hooded protagonist being poisoned and then suffering a necessary amputation to prevent his death. Our selfless robot companion removes his own arm to transplant it to our character, showing an overwhelming act of self-sacrifice which left quite an impression on me. This surgery leaves us with new strengths and abilities, equipped with a sword in one hand and a mechanical arm for the other, we’re free to explore the dangerous world of Hob, solving puzzles and battling foes along the way.
Your mechanical arm means that you have a new lease of strength and punching through walls and creating shortcuts means that you can revisit areas with ease. Puzzles gradually get more challenging throughout the game and involve full exploration of the environment and the utilisation of the ancient machinery around you. As you make your way through Hob you’ll collect green orbs from either killing enemies or releasing them from ancient machines which allow you to modify your combat skills and learn new abilities. This aspect fleshes out the game and allows for a unique experience for each player.
Hob leans into what makes the Legend of Zelda franchise so memorable and great. Long grass often harbours health and green orbs, and there’s a functioning combat system where the central character wields a sword and the player must keep a watchful eye on the bars of health in the top left-hand corner. Enemies are prominent in this indie game and none of them are too challenging, although if you think you can stand next to them and slash away you’re mistaken. The variety of enemies adds flair and excitement to Hob and keeps you on your toes as you explore diverse environments. The charming visual style of the game is also very effective, colourful objects and characters are outlined in black, making them pop out against the cell shaded background.
The world is stunning and its unique composition of cogs, mechanical devices and mechanisms makes it unique. Hob’s world transforms from lush fields to barren and electric plains where, once you fall beneath the crust, you’ll be greeted with intricate puzzles and riddles. Completion of these puzzles will alter the landscape above you, allowing you to progress further into the game. Hob is both entrancing and exciting, where you’ll spend a few hours eradicating the poisonous fauna, returning electrical power to an area and opening water ducts which have blocked off sections of the world. This feature of clearing an area before moving onto the next one never feels repetitive however, as each area is stunning with unique features, puzzles and enemies allowing you to continuously adapt as you progress.
Unlike other indie games Hob doesn’t feature a continuous compelling soundtrack, instead bustling sound effects such as crows cawing and mechanical cogs grinding fill the soundscape of the game. This is effective but lack of score means some of the cut scenes feel flat. The other problem I had with the game is that it is very easy to get lost. Even with a map it’s not always clear which path to take to proceed. With sprawling environments and obstructions littering the map I found myself uncertain of what items to interact with to progress. The fixed camera doesn’t make things any easier either, meaning that, unfortunately, it’s very easy to get frustrated at Hob.
For an indie game Hob is incredibly long and deep. No part of Hob’s intricate world feels rushed, and incredible detail has been added to every section, even the sections towards the end where some games tend to rush and fall. Hob’s stand-out feature though is its story. The eight-hour long game never feels dragged out and tedious, which makes Hob is a very memorable experience. The puzzles are clever and every inch of the game feels as though it has a key part to play in Hob. Hob is a game that deserves to be played, and one that once you’ve played will stay with you for a long time.