Hokko Life Preview: A Fresh Start Full of Heart
Team17 invited us to go hands-on with Hokko Life before its early access launch on June 2 and get a taste of what life in a village of unbelievably adorable animals is like. Naturally, comparisons to Animal Crossing are inevitable, and while they aren’t without merit, it would be a disservice to Hokko Life to pass it off as an Animal Crossing clone. That said, you might want to wait a bit before starting your cozy new life.
Hokko Life starts with you falling asleep. It’s a normal enough occurrence, except this time, it happens on a train, and you wake up in a strange new town populated by talking animals. Although perhaps it’s not too strange since you seem to take it all in stride.
Either way, now arrived and needing a place to put your head, you chat with the local pink elephant innkeeper who lets you stay the night and then indefinitely — on one condition. The town’s seen better days, and Moss, the local shopkeep and giraffe, thinks you might be able to fix that with your fresh, out-of-town ideas.
One of Hokko Life's big draws is decorating. You can decorate nearly anything, anywhere, placing it at unique angles, giving it a fresh coat of paint, or whatever you see fit.
That goes for neighbors’ houses too, which you can invade and redecorate at will. It’s a welcome feature after seeing the travesties Animal Crossing neighbors created with their homes, though Hokko Life’s critters do seem to have better design sense on the whole.
They also have if not more heart, a different kind of heart. The writing in Animal Crossing is superb, but you know what to expect from the broad personality categories the series itself helped create.
Hokko Life might fall into these categories later on too. For now, though, the townsfolk are a refreshing blend of broader archetypes and personal characteristics that makes them easy to empathize with. It’s like if Stardew Valley characters were animals.
Mei the patchwork elephant isn’t shy, for example, but she does get overwhelmed in crowds and finds relating to books easier sometimes. Moss, thankfully, is not a self-conscious Tom Nook imitation, but a generous pillar of the community who genuinely wants to help everyone. He’s also adorable, but Hokko Life won’t let me hug him.
Your day-to-day activities vary depending on what you want to do. Once you finally get a house, you can grind for money and materials to buy loads of furniture and customization pieces from Moss’ store, or you can help the townsfolk, go fishing, or explore.
It’s here where Hokko Life’s Animal Crossing similarities are most apparent, though the structure is closer to a farm-sim game. Time passes faster, and you’ll see new seasons soon after settling in the village.
If you’ve sunk hundreds of hours into Animal Crossing: New Horizons, it might all still seem a bit too familiar, especially at first, when access to items and blueprints is limited. However, Hokko Life’s visual style and heart make it distinct enough to stand as a separate entity.
That said, it might be worth waiting a bit to leap into Early Access. The opening stages are still a bit rough, especially with how you progress. One early request from Moss took several in-game days to finish while I waited for flowers to grow, days where there was nothing else to do. Villagers are sometimes excessive in their demands, too; for example, Mei wanting six monarch butterflies when I couldn’t even find one.
Waiting for the real estate agent to build her office so I could have a house, accessing new blueprints, earning money — it all just takes so long. I’m not concerned about it for the final product since this is pre-Early Access even, but it does mean I spent more time skipping ahead by sleeping than I’d have liked.
Regardless, Hokko Life is charming and full of potential, and I can't wait to see how it grows alongside the village itself during Early Access. Hokko Life will release into Steam Early Access on June 2.