Quite simply, Hob made me feel like a child again. It dropped me into a world I knew nothing about, and left me there to follow an almost imperceptible thread. I didn’t understand anything, except that I was there and there were places I could go, things I could interact with, a vaguely authoritative robot giving me general directions. I was never told who I was, what my purpose was, why I was doing this thing or that thing…
It was one huge, multi-layered puzzle (literally), and I was plonked there to pick up the pieces and slot them back into place. There was nothing in the way of explanation: no dialogue, no narrator, no linguistic presence whatsoever – apart from the metallic growl of my robot guide, if you want to count that. Hob is environmental storytelling in the rawest sense.
The main protagonist is an empty consciousness onto which I could project my own. They did have a personality, but their ethereal presence allowed me to dominate proceedings, in terms of gameplay, of course, but also perceptually as I went about understanding the world.
Ultimately, this is how Hob teases you in, by having enough character and personality to grab your attention, to make you commit to its mystery, but not enough to guide you towards some sort of revelation.
That’s what makes a great mystery, though, isn’t it? Something that pulls you along, drawing you along its length, on and on, closer and closer, whilst keeping that one thing that would define it all just out of reach. Finding out is always the least interesting part.
Spiritually, Hob has more in common with games like Inside or RiME, games which don’t seem to have a conceptual world, but still manage to capture our imaginations and realise such interesting and evocative environments. Hob didn’t quite inspire the same intensity of feeling I felt playing RiME or Inside, but it’s definitely one worth playing if you enjoy their brand of storytelling.