The last time I played Hob from Runic Games, I came away enchanted by the game. It was a pleasant adventure starring a tiny little creature with a huge, hulking stone arm. One of the more intriguing parts of my first fifteen minute demo was the constantly shifting landscape of Hob's world. As you solve puzzles, the platforms, walls, and entire chunks of forest change their configuration in front of you.
A year later, I'm backed with Hob again, spending nearly 30 minutes with the latest version of the title. Do I still feel the same?
Hob's world is a giant techno-organic factory, where the horizon changes depending on your actions. Imagine if the neighborhood a few blocks away could be moved closer or sunk into the ground to make it easier for you to get to work. Part of the magic of the level-shifting mechanic is how Hob fills its space and imparts a sense of scale. As you traverse certain areas, the background will be consumed by areas you've previously been and upcoming regions will loom large in your field of vision. That helps Hob feels more cohesive and real, rather than as a collection of levels.
While the previous demo was mostly the forest-like overworld, a few puzzles, and combat, my latest demo offered more of the subterrain landscape of the World Engine. In addition, my new look at the game offered as much platforming as puzzles. I probably could've cleared the demo faster than my 30 minute runtime, but I kept accidentally whiffling jumps, either because I was rushing or a simply misjudged a jump.
The demo also highlighted some new abilities for Hob. The first was a short lightning dash. Used in combat, the dash can be defensively to dodge, or offensively to stun by dashing through a foe. In the presence of special glowing pads, the dash can also teleport you through different parts of a level, giving Runic a chance to establish the space you're traveling through.
The second new move was charged fist attack. Outside of combat, the move is used to forcefully strike certain buttons or breakable walls. In combat, it can be used a ground pound to clear space and give you a chance to breathe.
Last time, I said the game reminded me of the Legend of Zelda series, but after playing Breath of the Wild and the current demo of Hob, I'm reminded more of a modern-day Landstalker. That game was a semi-3D platformer with a world to explore and puzzles to solve. Hob recalls that game more than it brings back memories of The Legend of Zelda. That's good company to be in, because there aren't many games like Landstalker period.
Hob is still an amazing game, at least in its demo state. It'll be interesting to see how all the pieces fit otgether in the final product, but Runic Games has something damned fun here. Hob is coming to PlayStation 4 and PC this year.
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