The last few years have seen the Resurrection of Retro. Games have been appearing in old formats from 8 to 64 bit resolution and the resurgence doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. One of the more recent additions to this is iHUGu. I thought life couldn’t get weirder than Clock Simulator but now I’m playing a game where I hug random strangers. Pretty sure I was specifically told not to do that as a child…
iHUGu is a memory game where you need to hug each new NPC who appears on the screen throughout a multitude of locations, whilst making sure not to embrace any awkward, neckbeardy, hair-sniffing folk a second time. This makes for a rather unique approach to a memory/puzzle game based off of this premise.
I will always have a soft spot for retro, pixelated graphics. Its a form of sentimentality for an older generation of ‘gamer’ (I hate the label so it’s going to sit in quotations). The thunderous uproar of this throwback speaks volumes and are a great way to show that graphics do not make the game. Sure they help but to me, it isn’t the most important. Albeit, when a game itself takes this into consideration then I feel a warm, fuzzy feeling rise and almost start to feel human again.
Saying that, iHUGu would probably be a strange game if it DID tone up from its classic conception. I feel that the simplicity of the graphics style running parallel to the gameplay and premise are a match made in heaven (oh how cliché).
The gameplay of iHUGu, however, is lacking a little. The big thing for this game is flicking the left analog stick either left or right. This will either initiate a hug or have you offer up the cold shoulder like a frozen pork joint. I know that you can’t have a great deal of variety with this sort of concept but maybe a little bit more brainstorming could have made the core of the game a little more challenging.
Between levels, you can partake in a handful of minigames. The disappointment here though is that there is a distinct lack of diversity. One such minigame sees you jumping over bins for four-leaf clovers, another sees you moving from left to right for the same reason, and the third sees you smashing the A button to out-hug a randomly selected NPC. Soooooo, yeah, three. These really don’t serve much of a purpose other than to bump your score a touch and don’t really offer up any sort of challenge.
iHUGu also supports couch co-op. This means you can compete with a friend to be the most overzealous with handing out hugs. This stops the game being as stale as it could be at least by introducing what is most definitely the most friendly competition known to man. It is definitely an odd inclusion to the title, but it somehow works in its favor, and considering you can just split the JoyCon its always just a quick hug away.
There are a few things that iHUGu does offer up to do, however, throughout the game you can earn stars, specifically 3 per character. “Well, how many characters are there?” I hear you ask. What if I were then to say there were over 100 characters to unlock? Sounds pretty good, no? This does offer up a nice amount of replayability, though some of the objectives to obtain a star require very unique elements.
Considering that the game randomly selects near all available variables, some objectives can be a bit of a drain. Like getting stuck in a crowd of scene kids that say shit like “RAWR is I love you in dinosaur” and have super edgy names and listen solely to Mindless Self Indulgence and Hollywood Undead, you know the type.
Having over 100 playable characters is quite an astounding number. Now, the real curveball. You can create your own custom character. For every character, you unlock you can then use them in the creation of your cuddly character so that is over 100 interchangeable heads and bodies for literally thousands of unique creations. You can even give them the body of a llama. Life = Complete.
I also rather enjoyed the sound design in iHUGu. Following the same route as the graphics, there is a delightful and cheerful retro soundtrack to accompany it. It falls in like the last piece of a puzzle and really helps to set the overall mood of the game with it being wonderfully happy. There’s that warm fuzzy feeling again just thinking about it.
Despite enjoying iHUGu overall, I believe it doesn’t suit a console release. All the signs point towards a mobile game (which it is, by the way). It feels quite bizarre considering that the game is already readily available on iOS and Android devices so to spend money seems odd. Then again if you do enjoy it on mobile devices then spending $3.99 (£3.59) isn’t a bad shout to support the developers of this adorable title.