I’m sure everyone reading this is familiar with this situation: someone you know calls you up to take you out to do something fun. You agree, and a little while later, this person picks you up. What this person neglected to tell you is that before you two can go do the fun thing you had planned, the person taking you to do the fun thing has to run a boring errand. So now you’re stuck waiting for your grandfather to finish getting his hair cut, and you didn’t bring your PSP because you thought you were going to be too busy eating at your favourite restaurant and then watching a movie. At times like this, you have two options; you can recognise that patience is a virtue and that the movie will seem that much better after waiting for it, or you can pull out your smartphone and drain half of its battery life in fifteen minutes by playing a game on it. If you choose the first option, you’re probably a pretty boring person or don’t own a smartphone. If you choose the second, you may be interested in Hilomi, the new puzzle game from Yamago for iOS and Android.
Hilomi is the opposite of a 2D platformer. In a platformer, you are given a character and an environment. You control the character to navigate the environment, collecting items and completing objectives. In Hilomi, you are given a character named Hilomi and an environment, but now you control the environment to help Hilomi collect pictures of animals and reach the gate to the next level.
The mechanics of Hilomi are pretty simple. The environment is made out of Minecraft-like blocks that Yamago repainted with better textures. There are different materials like earth, stone, sand, water, totem, wood, ice, and fire. All of them are good for something except stone. You can create and destroy blocks of earth, and you can turn materials into other materials. Making and destroying earth takes one mana per move, and converting materials takes two. My first problem with Hilomi is the contrived nature of this Minecraft alchemy. It makes sense that you can turn wood into totems because totems are often made of wood. It makes sense that these wooden totems can be turned into fire because, as any pyromaniac who’s received something from a Hawaiian gift shop knows, wooden totems burn quite well. If anyone understands the logic between being able to turn fire into sand, please, I implore you: leave me a comment and explain it to me.
The other contrived bit is the way you get more alchemy powers. In the beginning of the game, all you can do is make and destroy earth. Your alchemy powers are introduced one by one as you need them, with no explanation as to why you just learned a new trick. In fact, I don’t know who is helping Hilomi navigate these areas to take pictures of the wildlife. Hilomi is introduced in the opening cut-scene as a young, probably French girl who likes to take pictures of animals. I really like her as a character, but I have no clue who I am playing as. Am I some kind of benevolent god? Am I Hilomi’s subconscious, controlling a dream she is having? Am I a vampire who is working to gain her trust so I can eat her later?
That last one would make me feel better about the art style and music choice. In my preview of Forward to the Sky, I made a distinction between the kind of cheery that makes me feel like I’m going on an epic adventure and the kind of cheery that makes me sick. The art style of Hilomi is the latter.
My other problem with Hilomi is its loading times. My phone is a Droid Razr HD running Jelly Bean, and it took an average of 27 seconds of loading time to be ready to play. After that, there is a 5 second load time between worlds. This won’t be a big deal to some people, but when you’re waiting for your grandfather to get his hair cut, 27 seconds feels like a couple of minutes. The development team is currently looking at the issue.
Other than that, the game is really good. It’s easily the best mobile game I’ve ever played. While the cute art style annoys me, I like that the animals smile when Hilomi gets close to them. It has a rating system similar to the three-star system in games like Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, and Ten Second Ninja. Each level has three or four animals, and you must take pictures of all of them in order to get the highest rating. It’s incredibly satisfying to come back to a level that’s been troublesome and finally get all of the pictures. It also amuses me that Hilomi takes no fall damage but dies instantly in water like Cole McGrath from inFamous. Once you get past how contrived the game is, it’s incredibly fun. It has minor flaws that keep it from being perfect, but if you have an iOS or Android device, I strongly suggest you at least download the free version.
This game was reviewed on an Android-based device using a copy provided by the developer for that purpose.
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