“Go straight down this path, when you reach a wall, walk up it and follow it until it the ceiling is below you.” If you had to give directions in hocus, this is how they would look. hocus is a maze game where you interact travel along M. C. Escher style constructions. Does it pointedly perplex or does it fall flat?
hocus is all about the maze. There are no characters, no stories and no places to hide. The concept of this game required near perfect execution or it would have been a lovely flop. This game needs a picture to understand how the interaction works. So…
See the red square? Good. That is you. And see the red square shaped hole? Yes? That is where you want to go. It is literally put the cube into the cube shaped hole. This is the game.
The challenge emerges when you control the cube. The cube can move along any wall/floor/ceiling that it is touching. (But it cannot go over an edge). In the image below you will notice that columns occasionally cross. They sometimes appear to go in front and sometimes appear to go behind. This game is one of illusions, as such, if two struts appear to touch, then they do. If you are touching two struts then you are able to move onto either of them.
Given the simple premise, do I believe that they have managed to turn a great concept into a good game? I think so. As you progress the mazes get progressively more and more complicated. They require that players think across at least 11 dimensions. While some mazes do get frustrating, it is always comforting to know that there is actually a solution. Planning a route can make all the difference, working backwards worked a large portion of the time for me.
There were many times where I also thought that I had a maze solved, only to discover that I was actually on the wrong wall. As frustrating as this might seem, it actually made me extremely pleased with the game. I am a huge fan of games that use illusions. Games like ‘The Bridge‘ took me in because of there more flexible approach to geometry. I am pleased to say that this is a lovely addition to a starved art style.
As much as I do enjoy playing the game, the interface leaves a lot to be desired. I bought and played this game on Steam. It became instantly clear that there has been no effort to tailor it to non-touch screen devices. There is no way to increase the resolution and as a consequence you are left with a mobile phone screen size window which cannot get any larger. Players have to treat their mouse as though it were a finger on a touch screen, no scrolling, only clicking and dragging allowed. If you get it to go full screen, you will not find an exit button.
In the end, as annoying as it is, this lack of functionality is only really skin deep. This is just the menu. The mouse works fine to control your little red box and for this game, that is the most important thing. There are currently only 65 puzzles, with another 10 on the way. The developer is also planning on releasing tools to allow people to build their own mazes.
Overall how do I feel about this game? It is pretty, it plays well and it is satisfying to complete each level. It is also shallow, once you have finished a puzzle I wouldn’t expect anyone to come back to it. That said, it is also cheap. Sitting at around $3 you cannot expect huge things. This is the right price. So therefore I think that this game deserves to be called good.