It’s not often you find a game that’s been created without the objective of making a profit, with the development focus instead looking at building money for a charity. But that’s exactly how I, Hope was made to be, with developer Kenny Roy teaming up alongside the GameChanger Charity to ensure all proceeds are donated to said charity, which supports children and children fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. If you want to support such an amazing cause, then you should absolutely do so, regardless of how good or bad I, Hope is. Still, given that I, Hope is also meant to be an uplifting experience for those children who are suffering and battling illness, it’s worth finding out whether it succeeds in its overall mission.
I, Hope is a 3D adventure in which a young girl named Hope lives happily on an island in the clouds with her Grandpa – that is until a horrible monster called Cancer turns up during the event of Islandfall, ravaging her island and those surrounding it. All of the creatures become plagued by Cancer, but Hope isn’t fazed by the awful attack as she wishes to take the fight to this horrible beast. The ever-wise Grandpa sends her on a journey to gain the tools needed to succeed, which are located on the other devastated islands. Thus the adventure begins!
The concept works, requiring you to take control of Hope and wage war against the horrendous monster, and it feels good to go head on with a disease that’ll most likely affect us all in one way or another. Unfortunately, the underlying message behind the game is one of very few positives in I, Hope and the story here is very basic. It’s borderline boring, with an uninspiring voiceover for Grandpa – giving words of encouragement along the way – that’s just begging to be skipped time and time again when it allows you to do so.
There are five islands to visit – Knowledge, Strength, Courage, Support and Hope – four of which possess special tools to find that help with the overall mission to overcome the monster. Upon arriving on the Island of Knowledge, you are introduced to the standard controls consisting of the X button to perform a melee staff attack, A to jump, B to evade with a roll, Left Trigger to action the absorbtion of dark cells beaten out of the creatures and the Right for firing off a blast of the energy converted from the darkness. Once a special ability is acquired, the Y button activates it after selecting the one you require via the D-Pad. It doesn’t take long to get to grips with the controls at all, when they works as intended of course… but I’ll come back to that.
Each island is a self contained level and the first four follow a simple route of roaming the area, attempting varying amounts of platforming whilst freeing a handful of enemies from the darkness, before finding a tool and using it in some puzzling manner to reach and trounce one of Cancer’s tentacles. The initial tool is a pair of goggles to highlight things unseen by the human eye and the first major usage has you navigating a labyrinth that has hidden pathways leading to an exit. These also come in handy for locating the hidden collectible letters of HOPE lurking on each of the islands. Other tools include a pair of gauntlets providing strength, a gong for freezing enemies and parts of the environment, and a trumpet which creatures a platform to elevate you to higher places or bridge any gaps.
The further you advance, the more complex the puzzles become, ensuring you need every tool at your disposal in order to solve them, especially on the fifth island. But the cracks begin to show in the gameplay early on with the addition of each of the new mechanics, starting with the strength gauntlets. When equipped, these allow heavy blocks and structures to be moved, however, whether they even move at all is hit and miss. Should it work, the movement is strange and it’s a real pain to get objects into specific places.
By far the call for support is the most frustrating though, leading to many a death as the beam spawns at a weird angle and you immediately fall off into the abyss. Even the registering of a jump action is erratic, which is no help in the middle of a platforming section above a fiery pit. Apart from your character dying, the last thing you want in an experience that’s supposed to be uplifting is frustration and irritation at failure out of your control, but that’s exactly what I’ve found here.
If the issues with the mechanics are disregarded, the puzzles aren’t bad, with one of the better ones involving lighting up certain areas of a room to match a pattern that can only be seen using the magical goggles. It takes far longer than it should though as you go back and forth to view the pattern for mere seconds at a time due the short duration of the goggles. Combat is passable as you whack enemies with the staff and roll away from their attacks, but it’s nothing special and soon becomes repetitive.
Fortunately the boss parts bring more structure to proceedings as you tackle one tentacle per island, before finally approaching the entire Cancer beast. Defeating a tentacle every time is a bit samey, but at least different methods are needed to drain the whole of its health bar. There are attack patterns to follow and you better hope the abilities work properly; otherwise it’ll soon crush you like you’re just an annoying fly.
In terms of visuals, the islands all look different in style and design, with the dark and creepy Island of Courage a far cry from the greenery found on the Island of Knowledge. The same can’t be said for the actual quality of the graphics, akin to those of a previous generation game, lacking in texture, with the main characters appearing a tad jagged round the edges It would’ve been good to see more variety in enemy type too, with squidgy rabbit things, vicious plants and a couple of others not being enough.
I, Hope doesn’t do an awful lot right with its relatively short, couple of hours, adventure, with problems in the gameplay mechanics standing in the way and immense frustration found at dying through no fault of your own. The execution of the idea is what hampers the experience, as there are some good blueprints here in regards both the platforming and puzzling aspects.
If it wasn’t a charity game, I’d not give it a second look. But as I, Hope is for a good cause, this is fair warning as to what it will bring to your gaming library – a constant reminder of the people you’re helping to support… but only should you decide it doesn’t matter about the game itself.