HoPiKo Review — Destroy the Virus!

on November 1, 2016 8:00 AM

Have you ever gotten a virus on your computer and wished you could go into the machine and get rid of every last part of it yourself? HoPiKo lets you do just that. This game is a fun, fast paced experience that describes itself as “platformer-like” due to its unique, two button control scheme and nontraditional level style. While it is not without a few major problems, fans of games like Super Meat Boy and other twitch-based platformers will find a lot to enjoy here in this virus-busting game.

HoPiKo’s premise is simple, but charming. Little creatures called HoPiKo’s live inside gaming consoles to keep them running. One day, a Nanobyte Virus breaks into the console, capturing many of these helpful creatures. One HoPiKo is able to escape though, and goes on a quest to free his fellow HoPiKos from the evil Viruses by dashing head-on into them. While the story is not developed much more beyond that, it is still pretty cute and direct.

Visually, HoPiKo is a joy to look at. Its simple retro-inspired design and particle effects keep the screen interesting. Backgrounds in the game vary in color, at one point there is even a black and green, Game Boy inspired background. While the game did not really take advantage of its “inside a video game console” setting as much as it could have visually, HoPiKo is still a very colorful and vibrant game that will delight people with minimalist tendencies.

More importantly, [HoPiKo] is rewarding once the player master it.

HoPiKo only uses one control stick and one trigger. The control stick is used to aim where the HoPiKo goes, and is flicked to send it in that direction. The right trigger is used for a “quick jump,” which automatically sends the little  creature in the direction that it is facing. The HoPiKo attaches itself to the first surface it hits, and dies if it runs into a virus or a laser. This is a really simple control scheme that might turn off some players, but it is very easy to learn. More importantly, it is rewarding once the player masters it.

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While the gameplay is simple, the game’s stages can be very complex. HoPiKo is split into five worlds, each of which consist of ten stages. Each of those individual stages are then split into five micro-levels that the player must complete in order to advance.

In these levels, players must dodge smaller viruses in order to get a direct shot at the biggest one. The micro-stage is complete once the player strikes the big Nanobyte virus. There are also a variety of challenges in each level, such as completing it within a certain time, which will keep completionists returning. If the the player dies on any of the five micro-stages, they are sent back to the first. Most of these micro-levels are cleverly designed, testing the players reflexes and encouraging them to master the controls.

…those who stay dedicated and get used to the controls can find a very addicting game underneath.

Getting sent back constantly to the first stage can be annoying. When a player is finally able to get through a difficult second or third stage, only to die by an accidental flick of the control stick on the fourth, it can be disheartening. This happened to me many times throughout my play session. Although I was eventually able to get through it, I was quite frustrated.

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Deaths were clearly my own fault though, which did encourage me to get back up and dive right back into the game, even if completing the level felt less rewarding. While many will find this micro-level set-up as frustrating as I did, those who stay dedicated and get used to the controls can find a very addicting game underneath.

When players complete all of the levels in a world, they unlock both the Speedrun and Hardcore Modes. Speedrun Mode has players trying to get through all fifty of the world’s stages as quickly as possible. This mode is a great place to test how much you have mastered the game’s controls.

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Hardcore Mode, on the other hand, is a sadistic mode that is only for the strong-willed. In Hardcore Mode, players must complete all fifty stages without dying at all. This can become near impossible, especially in the later worlds, where the stages become harder. I would only recommend this mode to completionsists or to those who believe they have truly mastered HoPiKo.

…anyone can tell a lot of effort was put into all aspects of HoPiKo…

My biggest problem of HoPiKo doesn’t have to do with the gameplay itself, but with going back to the home screen and checking trophies. If, at any point during the game, one presses the home button on the PS4 to leave and then tries to go back into the game, they will be told that the game data has been corrupted, which causes a restart.

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Ultimately, one can’t even check to see what trophy has just been earned, nor can they begin a livestream without crashing the game. This is inexcusable in 2016. While the game’s fast pace does allow players to quickly catch up to where they were, it is still a major annoyance and setback that should not even be an issue in the first place.

The game’s music fares much better than the technical components of the game. It was composed entirely on a Game Boy and it sounds like something right out of the era — in the best way. Most of the game’s 22 songs are very memorable, so fans of chip-tunes or other retro-game music should definitely give this game’s soundtrack a listen. For a game only made by two people, one can tell a lot of effort was put into all aspects of HoPiKo, including the soundtrack.

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HoPiKo is a fast paced, visually interesting, and deceptively simple title. Speedrunners and fans of games like Super Meat Boy will love this game. While not being able to return to the PS4 home screen, check trophies, or share images and videos without corrupting the game data is inexcusable in 2016, the game manages to be enjoyable despite the fact. Ultimately, it is great for fans of fast paced games. I can’t wait to see what other “platformer-like” games are coming from Laser Dog Games the future.

 /  Staff Writer
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at DualShockers, writing a variety of reviews and shedding light on upcoming games for both PC and consoles. While he has been a gamer most of his life, he began writing for DualShockers last year, and has almost never put his computer or a controller down since.