Hob: The Definitive Edition on Switch has been my first encounter with Runic Games’ adventure, the game skirting past my radar in its original form despite the promising things being said. As has been the case with a lot of ports lately though, the Switch has once again offered a second chance to get hands-on with this missed out on title complete with a few new bells and whistles.
Interestingly, Hob: The Definitive Edition opts away from having to rely on long conversations and dialogue boxes. Instead, the troubled world itself and the characters within it convey the bulk of the game’s emotional hook. While some may find the lack of a true laid out narrative disappointing it’s certainly a refreshing take for this style of game especially after so many that have involved saving princesses or defeating a great evil.
The gameplay itself is made up of three parts. The first (and arguably smallest) is the combat, a simple system that will see you facing off against enemies large and small with your sword and robotic arm (both of which can be upgraded along with your move set). It’s unsophisticated in its execution, battles amounting to little more than waiting for an opening between enemy attacks and rolling out of harms way before they have time to react. Rinse and repeat.
Making your way around the world itself will involve a decent amount of platforming, an exercise that much like the combat is pretty routine and made a little more frustrating thanks to a camera that isn’t always in the best position. The last and easily best part of the game though comes in the form of exploring the world, interacting with it and deciphering what needs to be done or where you need to go next.
Your adventure will take you to a range of pretty sizable locations touching upon all the usual environment-styles (forests, deserts, water-flooded areas and more). These will gradually open up to you in typical Metroid fashion, each new task completed or ability obtained a chance to explore new previously unreachable parts of the world. And with each new area set foot in, so would begin your search for the next line of breadcrumbs leading you forward be it via manipulating the environment such as moving blocks or pulling switches or even just a little light platforming. Venturing off the beaten path doesn’t go unrewarded, players able to find upgrades for their health and stamina or items used to improve weaponry.
While the game’s insistence on offering as little handholding as possible does make for a challenging and rewarding experience, at the same time it can lead to some wearisome moments too. When you find yourself moving forward with little stumbling, solving puzzles and navigating to the next waypoint, things are great. However, getting lost and not knowing where to head next often meant plenty of aimlessly wondering around until I eventually happened across the correct path. Thankfully these moments never hurt the pace too often and can’t take away from what is a carefully crafted and clever world.
All these elements gel together perfectly fine set in a world that’s visually appealing and interesting to explore. Perhaps the best way to describe how I feel about Hob: The Definitive Edition though is that it’s a totally competent puzzle adventure game that doesn’t do anything necessarily bad but at the same time doesn’t move the genre forward either. The platforming is functional, the combat simple and the puzzles a mix of clever, unclear or pretty standard stuff. Not every title out there needs to be a game-changer and sometimes it’s nice to just sit down and enjoy a familiar experience. To me Hob: The Definitive Edition is that kind of game. Comfort food as opposed to a filet steak meal with all the trimmings.
With porting wizards Panic Button (DOOM, Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and Warframe) responsible for bringing Hob: The Definitive Edition to the Switch the end result is decent but far from their best work. While the game’s art style is a beautiful blend of bright colors and bold outlines it also runs nice and smooth both docked and in handheld mode. Unfortunately, these visuals become a little blurrier using the latter play mode. While we’re not talking headache-inducing levels of fuzziness it’s still a little disappointing to see especially for a game I’d usually opt to jump in and out of on my commutes.
The Switch version claims it offers the ‘Definitive’ experience and while it does include some extras not available in other versions, they’re minor in impact. The HD rumble and touchscreen functionality, for example, are nice additions on paper but relatively uninteresting in action. The added benefit of being able to take the adventure on the go is certainly a powerful feature but one I’d argue doesn’t do the game’s visual style justice on the small screen.
Hob: The Definitive Edition is a delightfully enjoyable puzzle adventure but one that not only struggles in a few areas but doesn’t live up to its ‘Definitive’ moniker. The combat is straightforward and the platforming sometimes frustrating but the sum of the game’s parts keeps your journey engaging from start to finish.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Perfect World