Playing Hohokum is like flying a kite. As the player slithers its snake-like creature through colorful and surreal worlds bursting with character and charm, the experience is therapeutic. The game doesn't have explicit goals and, according to the game's developers, like kite flying, that's the point.
"The kite flying aspect of the game is very rewarding for me," said Richard Hogg, one of the developers of the game. "It's a satisfying thing. I talk a lot about flying kites. I really enjoy the activity of flying those two-stringed kites where you can make loops.
"When you think about it, it's not a sport, although some people do do it competitively. It's not really set up to be a sport, it's quite limited in what you can do, and yet it's wonderful to do and very satisfying. I like making a game that's a little bit like that."
In a new level of the game recently shown to Polygon, players control their serpent through a world inspired by the collection and processing of guano (a.k.a. seabird and cave bat manure). The snake fluidly slithers through a whimsical world, picking up little creatures with vacuum nozzles for noses. These creatures then ride on its back, sucking up yellow globs of of guano that are scattered through the world before emptying their canister packs into a chamber. This opens up valves that players can wriggle their way into, and also starts a production line where other little nozzle-nosed creatures turn the guano into cartoonish poos.
In another level of the game shown to Polygon, we flew through a dark blue world devoid of light. As our snake touched the dark structures in the game, they lit up, playing notes to a song that built up as more and more of the world was brought to light.
The game is littered with little goals and challenges, and completionists can go through and collect every item, light every bulb and activate every contraption that can be interacted with, but none of this is by any means necessary, according to Hogg.
"When a lot of people play [Hohokum], they ask, 'Whats the goal? What's the objective?'" he said. "'I hate the word objective. I think one of our biggest challenges is convincing people that it's OK to not worry about that stuff and to try to enjoy the game, to try to enjoy playing it differently to that.
"I don't want to be too descriptive about what our game is supposed to do or how people should play it. If people find it therapeutic or relaxing, that sounds about right, but I don't really want to say this is just a therapeutic experience, either."
Hogg is so open to different ways of playing the game that he refused to interfere during Polygon's hands-on time with it. For the goal-oriented, there are Trophies that can be obtained and puzzles that can be solved. But for those who just want to create patterns and shapes with their snake or be enchanted by the game's quirky sounds and animations, the option is also there.
Hohokum is coming to PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PS Vita in 2014. Read Polygon's E3 preview of the game here.