If you’ve ever wanted to play an Animal Crossing game, but without the restrictions that come from being tied to the real world clock, you might have given Hokko Life a long look. This cutsey life sim has a heavy focus on gathering, crafting, decorating and cute anthropomorphic animal neighbors. It retails for $19.99, but is available now as part of the January 2023 Humble Choice.
Much like I wanted to like Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch, I really thought I’d enjoy having Hokko Life to play on the Steam Deck. Sure, the fiddly decoration parts of the game are kind of lost on me, but I can zone out and chop wood for hours with the best of them. However, for several reasons, this one – at least for me – just wasn’t a good fit.
If you’re here for the story, you’re best off just stopping right here and finding a different cozy game. Basically, you fall asleep on a train, and end up disembarking in the town of Hokko. Since approximately four people live here, I’m not entirely sure how it got its own train station, but this is far from the last time Hokko Life will beg you to suspend your disbelief. You wander into the local inn, run by pink elephant Oma, who offers you her spare room for the night.
And then she offers you a free house.
There’s a catch, of course. The house is in a pretty serious state of disrepair, and you’ll need to gather up the materials to make it habitable. Okay, sure. So you chop some wood, throw it into a box, and bam, you’ve got a barebones place to live. It was about here, I started to think that just maybe, I’d bumbled my way into some sort of cult.
Now that you’ve fixed up on dilapitated house, well, maybe you might not mind fixing up another? I mean, since you’re here and all, besides wouldn’t it be just lovely to have some more neighbors? So I go through the process a second time, chopping wood, handing it over, and now Benny (the bunny, naturally) has moved in right next door in the house I fixed up … and got no compensation for, I might add.
It’s about this time that everyone starts asking you to do them small favors. You know, because these things would be nice to have but not nice enough for anyone else to want to do them. You build a bridge and plant some trees, and before you know it, a real estate agent has rolled up on Hokko to set up shop, and move people into the houses I am supposed to build.
Now, I don’t mind gathering wood. I don’t even – really – mind giving it away afterwards. But Rosa the real estate agent has other plans. Not only does she expect me to round up all the materials that go into the building of a new home, but she expects me to pay for the privilege of putting up new houses that I neither plan to live in nor to profit from? I don’t know about this, Rosa, but it’s an interesting business plan.
Almost 90 minutes into the game, and my prospects for making money look pretty dire. I’ve given in and built one house, rendering me flat broke. Now, my choices are to sell my gathered wood, or run around catching butterflies all day, which are worth about 1/100th of a cheap house in Hokko’s economy. My backpack is small (which necessitates running to and from the shop – complete with mandatory load screen) frequently, or sleeping in my sad little sleeping bag for about 20 hours a day, waiting and hoping someone in town is going to think of something else that would be so cool to have around, and hope they pay me well for doing it for them.
Hokko Life is incredibly slow, even among it’s contemporaries. It’s also a little creepy, if we’re being completely honest. Maybe if I were more patient, and more into the decoration mechanics, I would have enjoyed it more, but everything feels like crawling through quicksand, and yet, time also seems to pass so very very slowly in game. It’s a little disappointing, because this was one of the main reasons I picked up this month’s bundle, and at the end of the (very very long) day, it was a big ol’ bust.