I thought I had some skills. After thirty plus years of gaming, I thought I might have gained the reflexes of at least an out of shape middle-aged cat. I thought I might have had an complete understanding of the gaming world after all this time. I even thought I could predict code and be walking round like Neo in the Matrix.

Sadly as indie game HoPiKo has shown me, I can’t do any of things above as I’m pretty worthless when it comes to being a truely skillful gamer. Being this bad at a game is normally something I hate, but with this one there is a lot of fun being this terrible.

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The story goes that you play a little man/woman/thing who lives happily in your Xbox games console, making sure everything works perfectly. Then along come some evil viruses that are ready to corrupt, destroy and mutate all that is good in the gaming world. It’s up to you to save the console world and cleanse the machine from all of the nasty viruses. You do this by flinging yourself in a straight line from one surface to another, dodging all manner of virus beings and not hitting the sides. Finally, you power straight into a cluster of viruses, thus ending and completing the level. Now, I just realised that reading the above couple of sentences makes it all sound like an epic adventure. But I’m afraid not, because in all it might just take you something around four seconds tops. It is this speed which is the essence of HoPiKo…that and having nerves of steel.

The buttons to control your little thingy are very simple; the right stick propels it in a straight line in any certain direction and RT fires it straight- very quickly indeed. And that’s about it. As you load up a level, you only have a short time to make a decision of where to go and what to do, before you die. And again, when you propel yourself to the safety of another surface, you again a have a very short time scale to move onwards before being destroyed. It’s all about moving forwards and making decisions very quickly indeed.

The levels are like puzzles with all sorts of combinations in order to complete them, you just have to be very fast in your decision making. There are five levels in each world and if you die in any of them, you have to start back at the beginning again. Now normally I would be crying at this prospect and jumping up and down in rage, but it isn’t that bad. The reason being is because the levels are so short (four to twenty seconds each), and it doesn’t matter so much when you start the sequence again. In fact, it makes you get better at your skills and you learn from those many, many, mistakes.

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This game is mad hard, mad fast and as mad as a very mad thing. It does get better as you battle on against the odds, and it reminds me of those old school games that were all about skill, dying, repeating and pure willpower. At the time of writing, I’ve been stuck on one world for ages and that would normally see me switching on FIFA and never looking at it again. But there is something special about HoPiKo that makes you want to get better, that tempts you to have just one more go, one more effort, before eventually going bonkers. Sometimes it’s too intense, leaving you feeling sick and thinking that your eyes are bleeding, but some will love that and this is definitely the game for them.

One of the big reasons for this intensity is not so much down to the gameplay, but found hidden in the sound itself.

Now, if you watch say the Spielberg masterpiece “Jaws” with the sound down to mute, your experience will change completely and the film loses its intensity and horror. The same could be said for the most intense gaming experiences and HoPiKo is no different with its outstanding sound score. Fast beats, bass and electronic keyboards comprise this amazing soundtrack that builds the gaming tension and fast paced gameplay. On a really hard sequence I turned the sound off, to see if that would help. It didn’t at all and I lost my rhythm while playing it and just seemed to get worse. You can download the soundtrack from the developers website if you want some great work out music or something to give you a heart attack when out walking the dog.

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Visually though, and the game is basic, but it does the job intended. The colours, tones and standard blocking are of a style that I find enjoyable and it works very well with the gameplay. When the background changes suddenly to red in the later levels, for some reason it makes the game harder.

Overall, this is a very good game and for the cheap price of just over a fiver, you can’t go wrong by taking a gamble on HoPiKo, even if it’s just for the speed trails and collectables that will draw in the most insane of gamer. There isn’t a story to be had here or amazing graphics, but for someone who likes their action fast, furious and skillful with a fantastic soundtrack, then there is some amazing fun to had here.

Enjoy, just don’t have a heart attack.

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