REVIEW: Hoodo

Sep
13

REVIEW: Hoodo

A short stealth game about an escaped experiment, with a minimalistic approach to storytelling.

Released: Steam
Type: Single-player
Genre: Action, Adventure, Stealth
Developer: AMBOSS GAMES
Publisher: AMBOSS GAMES
Release Date: 8 Sep, 2019

Intro

What is Hoodo, you might ask? It’s a game with a very peculiar name, so what could it be about? Hoodo is a short stealth game where you take control of an escaped experiment, trying to flee from a neo-future-looking city and avoid security wherever possible. It’s a good concept with a lot of promise, so let’s see how well the game has managed to execute it.

Story

The neo-future outdoor areas are very slick-looking.

At first glance, you might notice there is no intro or story background. You are placed straight into the shoes of our protagonist with only one intention – to escape. It’s a somewhat minimalistic style of storytelling, and in fact, the story is not touched upon at all throughout the entire game. There are no cutscenes, no dialogue with any NPCs, and no interactable objects where backstory can be read either. To me personally that is a bit disappointing, as I’m a huge lover of interesting storytelling, and since the game attempts to have some sort of background story to it, I think it would’ve benefited it to have something that can shed light on what’s going on, even if it’s just in a form of interactable notes or messages.

Gameplay

So, it suffices to say, you won’t be playing this game for the story. The main allure of this game is its stealth gameplay and atmosphere of isolation and having stakes against you. In that regard, there are definitely merits and the game is somewhat of a nice way to pass the time, even if it doesn’t do anything spectacular.

Our protagonist makes his way from one area to another. Some areas are indoors and others are outdoors. The indoors areas look a lot like military and lab facilities, and the outdoor areas are mainly near-future streets of the city with police patrols and flying drones above that try to catch you. The goal is to not get caught or shot. Some of the police officers are armed with guns and others with batons. Getting shot or hit just once means you die. And getting spotted by drones or security cameras is also an instant death. However, you’re not reloading upon death. Instead, the game teleports you back to the last checkpoint you touched and it seems to be part of the story – your character is some kind of an immortal being that is resurrected again and again, in a Souls-style fashion.

It might sound frustrating, but the game is very generous with checkpoints, so when you “die”, you only lose about a minute of progress and can get back to where you failed very quickly.

For much of the game, we have to avoid security officers.

The A.I of the police officers is relatively decent. They react as soon as they see you and won’t give up chase if you hide out of sight. They’ll continue looking for you until you’re completely out of their area of patrol. The game encourages us to flee from them and to use our forward roll ability to avoid getting shot. Aside from this, the game doesn’t offer much in dealing with them, aside from simply running away and at times manipulating a nearby computer terminal to attract the attention of a security guard in the area. I think in that regard, it would’ve been nicer to see more ways of dealing with security, like maybe some abilities that could make things more interesting.

Aside from the officers, as mentioned, we also have to avoid the view cones of security cameras and drones. The drones can be particularly notorious as they move fast and careful attention needs to be paid to their patrol routes. In some places, you have a rather small window of opportunity to get past them. Overall the difficulty is reasonable in most parts of the game. There are also areas with security beams that must be dodged, and one particular area was quite a big difficulty spike from what I found, as there are several erratically moving security beams in a corridor, some moving up and down, while others along, which can make it hard to avoid them. I “died” countless times on that bit and eventually got past it by complete accident.

I would also add that the game has controller support, which makes handling the character easier, so playing with a gamepad is advisable.

A nasty corridor full of erratically moving security beams.

Presentation

As you might’ve noticed already, the game’s visuals do provide a relatively nice atmosphere of a near-future urban setting, which is easily one of the aspects that can draw the audience in. Sadly we don’t get to spend much time in the outdoors areas of the city, so it would’ve been nice to see more of that. The character and object models have a somewhat charming low-poly style to them, which seems to fit well with the overall feel of the game.

Unfortunately there’s no music whatsoever. This is one of the things I particularly disliked about Hoodo, because the entire time you’re just hearing the protagonist’s repeated footsteps, and it gets really jarring to just be listening to that. There’s no option to make the sound of footsteps quieter or to disable them altogether. On the one hand, the absence of music can create atmosphere, but the examples of that in gaming where this is done well are rare. I think that, in this game, having some low-key ambient music would’ve been a huge benefit. And quieter footstep sounds too please!

The camera angle is fixed the entire time. Although it provides a wide field of view, at times some of the scenery gets in the way and obscures your view, particularly in the outdoors levels.

I’ve also come across some map edges in outdoors areas that didn’t have invisible walls or barriers of any sort. I walked off the edge and fell into the abyss the first time I came across this, where I was permanently stuck, so had to reload the game in its entirety. This undermines the game’s presentation because at times you do have to explore for where to go next, especially in the outdoor areas, and not having appropriate boundaries for where the map ends, makes the whole thing feel unpolished.

Keep running and don’t stop, little guy! This place is not friendly.

Verdict

The game is pretty short in its entirety. It took me about an hour to complete it. So, given everything, Hoodo doesn’t feel like something you’d specifically seek out to play, but rather something you’d just play to pass time. For that reason, I think it’s best to get this game on sale. Personally, I think it would fit to be a mobile phone game much more than a PC game.

Having said that, it was designed by a one-man developer, and that is impressive if it was indeed made by just one person. As a one-man indie dev myself, I know how difficult and time-consuming it can be to handle all aspects of a game yourself. And although this particular game is somewhat minimalistic in what it does, it is a solid basis for future projects, so I think if the developer builds on this formula for their next game and adds more features to it, they can create something quite impressive.

About White Shadow

A maths and science tutor, indie games developer, and graphics artist (mainly in pixel art). A huge fan of psychology, learning new things, creativity, animals, and all things science fiction. Video games have always been one of my favourite creative mediums, particularly in story-telling aspect. Favourite genres and themes: story-driven, choices matter, RPGs, sci-fi, dark fantasy, thrillers, anti-heroes, tactical combat.

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