Not many RPGs can claim to be truly world-changing. Sure, you might save somebody in distress or overthrow an ancient evil, but does your adventure keep the world turning? Hob: Definitive Edition, the gorgeous adventure game from Perfect World is out now on Nintendo Switch and I got in gear to save the day.
Way back during Gamescom 2016, I found Hob tacked on the end of a Perfect World booth, overshadowed by the ill-fated Gigantic. While publisher Perfect World may not have given it worth more than a few meters of space, the Torchlight team’s little red protagonist wormed its way into my heart right there and then. After a PC and PlayStation 4 launch that saw some quite troubled times for developer Runic Games, Hob was a definite success and no wonder. This puzzle platforming RPG draws inspiration from a range of classic tales combining polished visuals, enjoyable combat, and intricately designed puzzles. It seems fitting, therefore, that this homage to Zelda finds a place on the Nintendo Switch.
For those of you who have not had the opportunity to play the PC or PlayStation 4 release, Hob is an adventure game that drops players into the shoes of an adorable alien sprite. Bright blue eyes, shrouded in red, beam out from this hooded figure and a huge granite appendage sprouts from our hero as this adorable protagonist sets out to explore a world consumed by a malevolent purple goo. As this haze steadily chokes the lush green environment that clings on, our hero must navigate hostile wildlife, dangerous obstacles, and a series of transformative puzzles to save the entire planet.
Just like Hob’s first outing, Hob: Definitive Edition is an utterly endearing experience that sucks you in as you descend into this story. Presented without a single piece of dialogue, Hob is just as fascinating and beautiful the second time around. From the verdant plains of the surface right down into the clockworks organs of this mechanical planet, every frame of shaded animation continues to hold up. Panic Button, the team responsible for the Switch port, have managed to avoid any significant visual compromise when moving over to Nintendo’s newest mobile platform. In fact, Hob: Definitive Edition brings a host of new changes to the game.
Upon loading, Switch owners can choose to indulge in the classic version of Hob, a seemingly straight port of the PC play through, Hob: Definitive Edition. The later of these options includes a range of improvements to the game. Described as a reworked campaign, the Definitive Edition includes HD Rumble support, touch screen controls, streamlined menus, better camera control, and a distinct reduction in loading times. I was blind to some of the rougher edges that surrounded PC version of Hob when I reviewed it back in 2017, but the touch screen controls, an improved camera, and reworked menu systems are a very welcome boost to the overall quality of life of a game that had me hooked before it even released.
Despite the obvious improvements, Hob: Definitive Edition still retains the same sense of wonder that it had when it first launched. Hob manages to meld bold visuals, weird creatures, cute characters, and an adventure on an epic scale. As players descend into dank caverns or creep across an open horizon, a range of exotic switches and levers pepper the local architecture. Break through unstable walls with a giant granite arm, scale to great heights, or just jump between platforms to activate these and unexplored regions of the horizon will shift and rotate. Walls fall, canyons rise, and the world cranks into gear as you progress. While puzzles that line this path are not difficult by any stretch of the imagination, the sense of accomplishment that comes from watching the clockwork topology twist into place is still incredibly infectious. The soundtrack, scored by, Matt Uelmen, is equally grand and ambient in equal measure, an appropriate mirror for a huge game with such a diminutive hero.
Hob was never a particularly challenging game when it first appeared and Panic Button‘s port does not inflict any egregious changes on this experience. The upgrade systems provide a great number of useful additions to basic combat utilities. Extra sword swings, an invaluable shield, and better dodge rolls are just a few of the extras that are welcome but not absolutely necessary to compete Hob: Definitive Edition. Even as the odd problematic enemy appears, combat is rarely an absolute necessity and much of the time I felt like I was being dutifully ushered from one area of the world to the other, allowing me to soak in the ambiance of my surroundings.
With a deceptively linear quest and extremely accessible challenges, it is unsurprising that Hob: Definitive Edition, like RiME, is not the most cerebral challenge. It is, instead, a gorgeous journey that dutifully sweeps you away into another world. It continues to be a charming tale and Panic Button has smoothed out many of the original’s irks. The Joycon controls, the touch screen additions, enhanced UI, and much-improved loading times mean that Hob is an adventure you will want to take with you. Hob is out now in the Nintendo eShop and continues to be one of my favorite escapes.