Hokko Life has lofty ambitions, wanting to carve out its own identity as a wholesome life simulator in a post-Animal Crossing: New Horizons world. But despite the love that’s clearly gone into the game, it isn’t ready to even start reaching for this goal.
I’ve talked about the game before, and how exciting it is to see more life simulators inspired by the world of Animal Crossing. It’s a genre that deserves more attention, and one that’s slowly getting it. Mega hits like Stardew Valley have brought life simulators mainstream, and there’s now countless new projects in the works looking to capture the joys of fishing, exploring and creating.
Hokko Life is one of them, and it’s set to launch in early access on June 3 for PC. But if you’re looking forward to the game, you might want to hold out a little bit longer for the developer to iron out the kinks. Glitches and bugs are to be expected in early access, but games should be in a playable state so people enjoy a range of interesting features and gameplay. And right now, that’s only somewhat true for Hokko Life.
When you arrive in Hokko Life, you’re a lonely villager who’s accidentally fallen asleep on the last train out of town. You end up in a strange, animal-filled village in need of some love, and it’s your job to liven up the atmosphere. You’re handed an axe, and sent on your way to carve out a destiny in your weird little village. The opening is cute, wholesome and very intriguing.
Like in Animal Crossing, you spend your time in Hokko Life planting trees, fishing, chatting to villagers and gentrifying an unkempt town. You can also create and customise new accessories and furniture, similarly to Animal Crossing. There is a bit more customisation here in terms of what you can make and where you can place it in your town (ie. you can rotate objects however you like) but for the most part, gameplay is very similar.
The visual style is, too — but it lacks the polish of Animal Crossing and can look a little bit ‘plasticky’, depending on how you style your character. It’s a issue, but it also comes with an important qualifier. Hokko Life is a game being solo-developed, so it’s understandable that the game feels a little bit janky and unpolished. In early access, that goes doubly so.
But the bugs in the early access version of the game are major, unavoidable, and dampen most of the fun you can have with the game.
The first issue hit me the moment I loaded up the game. Ahead of the game’s release, I was provided with a list of possible bugs to expect in the game. None of them were ‘the game loads in at a blocky 144p’. I could barely see any of the menus when I opened Hokko Life, and it took a frantic few minutes of guessing at menus and clicking random squares to navigate to the resolution setting and stabilise the game.
But even when I was able to load in, the problems didn’t stop there.
Loading into the character creator menu, I was immediately confronted with blocky, ugly-looking character models. The train station my character arrived on glitched out, showing the grey outline of the game’s skybox. I ran into a pole, and my character clipped through the entire object until she was sitting right in the middle.
But the worst was waiting for me when I finally loaded into the town.
Scroll up and you’ll see the problem in action: at a certain point in my town, the river ran out. At the point where the water stopped, the world of Hokko Life became strange and uncanny. What you can see in the image above is a pit that looks down into the game’s skybox. It’s a hole right in the centre of the game’s world.
In a wholesome game about fishing, exploring and making friends, you can understand why it would be a little disconcerting to see an end-of-the-world vortex in an otherwise-idyllic town.
It’s hard to enjoy the fun little fetch quests, errands and activities when the entire game’s world is broken.
If you can look past the bugs, you’ll find a sweet little game that has some cool, creative ideas — but it’s hard to look past the bugs currently present in Hokko Life.
It’s a game that could be a fun entry in the life simulator genre, but it needs plenty more work before it’s ready for a widespread release. If you’re a huge fan of the genre, you might find something to love. But for now, the best thing to do is wait and see what Hokko Life can become with more care, attention, and a truckload of polish.