I'll hold my hands up and admit it; I have pretty much ignored speed-run focused games. The concept of throw-away levels has always opposed my love for detail in games. HoPiKo, from Laser Dog Games, has managed to completely reverse my opinion on speed-running games and now I find myself sneaking the laptop away to have a 10 minute session.
HoPiKo places you inside a virus-infested computer console, with the task of launching yourself at the viruses in order to eradicate them. Sounds simple, and it is this base simplicity which makes the game so addictive. The tutorial takes you through the basics of platform hopping, before the main game swiftly ramps up the difficulty by employing different enemy styles or varying types of platform. For example, there is a platform which spins based on the speed and angle you hit it at. This rapidly becomes a challenge as you try to use their rotations to avoid lasers. Throw in the fact that levels have a very short time limit, with bonuses for finishing levels even quicker, and you have a recipe for die-repeat-die-repeat heaven. While trying to master all the levels in their challenge times can be very frustrating, HoPiKo is fair. If you fail to beat the level's pace, you can easily point to a poor jump, or misuse of a platform, which is to blame. HoPiKo generates a need inside of you to go back and fix your error, rather than feel relieved you can move on.
Essentially, HoPiKo is a puzzle game, challenging you to quickly and efficiently plot a course from point A to point B. Of course, you will find yourself repeating levels many times just to find the correct route through, never mind acing them. However, every time you repeat a level you feel a clear sense of improvement. This is not a speed run game which delights in annoying you, but instead delivers a clear sense of satisfaction from completing a level or world. The fact that levels stay the same every time you attempt them (as opposed to roguelike procedural generation) means that you learn the pattern to success, and earn victory. You can't simply end up with an 'easy' level this time.
Graphically, it would be easy to write off the game as part of the retro-style revival. Plaudits should be given though to Laser Dog Games for managing to make the level aspects and design clear in the space of seconds. Enemies are vivid enough to spot immediately, and you are never in doubt of what can and can't be landed on. The music throughout the game fully embraces a chiptune format. I couldn't help but feel dragged back to my classic console days.
Overall, HoPiKo has hooked me into speed-run games where others have failed due to a few key elements. Firstly, the punishment for failing is simply to retry the level. You don't lose anything at all, meaning I didn't feel afraid to try a route out. Secondly, the simplicity of the controls (which can be played one-handed) made replaying the levels easy enough to not stress me out. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, HoPiKo wants to challenge me but also wants to see me beat it. It plays fair, and doesn't just chuck in surprise enemies or unforeseeable obstacles. Mistakes were mine, meaning I wanted to correct them.
With each level taking just seconds to complete (once you know the route), it's easy enough to get lost in HoPiKo or just have a quick launch through some levels trying for perfection. But be warned; you may find hours have passed when you only intended for a sneaky 10 minutes.
(Full Disclosure – GameOrNought was provided with a copy of HoPiKo)
What is your opinion on speed-running games? Fan or not? Let us know about your speed-running experiences in the comments below.
HoPiKo is currently available on Playstation 4 and Xbox One. It is being released on Steam on 6th January 2017. You can find out more about HoPiKo here: www.hopiko-game.com