Hokko Life

Hokko Life Review – A Familiar-Feeling Farm Sim with Limitless Creative Freedom

Hokko Life is a cozy life sim game with a custom design twist that offers hours of creative gameplay.

Hokko Life on PC

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Hokko Life is a community simulation game with a familiar feel. Cozy farming and city-building sims are everywhere, but its creative design elements make it much more than just another farm sim. Even if you think you’ve played a dozen games like it before, Hokko Life has plenty of unique elements to keep you entertained for hours.

Hokko Life has been in early access on PC via Steam since June 2, 2021. After over a year of development, refinement, and expansion, the game is finally ready for its full release on PC, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, and Xbox One on Sept. 27, 2022. Despite mixed early access reviews, Hokko Life has evolved into a game with nearly endless hours of gameplay and room to keep growing after launch. 

Character Customization

The game begins with a character customization screen that is gender-neutral and refreshingly racially diverse. To begin, you select your character’s hairstyle from an impressive selection of options. The hair textures are amazingly well done, given the cartoon quality of the game, and all the hairstyles are together in one category rather than being subdivided by gender. 

In fact, you’re never asked (or even given the opportunity) to select a gender for your character, who will use they/them pronouns and wear non-gendered clothing throughout the game. As a non-binary person, it was so satisfying and affirming to be able to customize my character without having to choose a binary gender option. I also noticed that the default skin tone and hair texture were black, which I love. 

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Once you select your character’s hairstyle, you can customize their skin color, eye color, hair color, and highlights. Here is where you first get a taste of the creative freedom Hokko Life offers you. You can choose from one of eight presents, but each color is 100% customizable using red, green, and blue sliders to create the exact color you want.  You can also add freckles and cheek highlights if you wish. Once you’re finished customizing, the game begins.

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Welcome to Hokko

In the opening scene, you’re staring at the rain out the window of a speeding train. You doze off, and when you awake, you wander off the train to find yourself in the tiny town of Hokko. As you make your way to the center of town, you see the lights on at the inn.

Inside, you meet the innkeeper, Oma, and the town shopkeeper, Moss. Oma welcomes you to town with your choice of coffee, hot tea, or water and offers you the empty room at the inn if you want to stay awhile. Moss and Oma tell you all about the slow, peaceful pace of life in Hokko and that they hope you’ll decide to stay. 

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The next morning, you wander the neighborhood, meeting the other villagers, Ren and Poa. Ren asks you to help him find his lost red scarf, the first of many tasks you’ll complete as a resident of Hokko. That’s right – you’re moving into one of the empty houses in town, and you’re going to love it so much that you’ll convince everyone passing through to move in, too. 

Make Yourself at Home

Once you’ve met your neighbors, you can choose which run-down house you want to fix up for your own, and there the game begins in earnest. You get your first axe from Moss to help you chop trees and collect wood to fix up your house, but from then on, you’ll have to build most of your tools yourself in Sally’s workshop. 

The process of building your own home in the town of Hokko is your initial tutorial to the game, but you’ll continue to customize and decorate it time and time again. Once you’ve settled in, you’ll complete requests to help your neighbors by collecting resources, gathering collectible items, running errands, and crafting furniture. 

But sustainability is central to life in Hokko, so while you’re learning to chop down trees to build houses for new residents, you’ll also plant more. Growing new trees, flowers, grasses, and crops are all part of helping Hokko thrive.

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Design Your World

If all of this sounds pretty familiar, that’s because it’s very similar to the Animal Crossing franchise and many other community simulation games. But where Hokko Life stands out is its creative design mode.

At the start of the game, you can only craft a few pre-designed objects based on design plans that your neighbors give you to complete their requests. But as the game progresses and you complete more tasks, you gain access to greater levels of customization, from changing the colors and textures of pre-existing in-game objects to building your own one-of-a-kind creations from scratch. 

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You can place your unique designs anywhere in your home or neighborhood, decorating the town of Hokko any way you can imagine. But your Hokko Life creations don’t stay stuck in your town. Once you unlock the train to City Center, you can share your designs with the world. In the City Center, you can sell your creations in your shop, buy other creators’ designs, and enter the Creator Challenge, a themed community design challenge. 

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I’ve never played a game with such a detailed design mode, where you can freely place every single piece of an object, crafting it from the ground up using resources you’ve collected. I’ve spent nearly as much time designing unique furniture as I have the more familiar game parts, such as fishing, butterfly collecting, and mining. Throughout the game, you continue to unlock customization options, such as paints, fabric dyes, materials, and differently shaped pieces to design the furniture and decor of your dreams.

Ultimate Cozy Vibes

As you meet new villagers, invite them to town, and build new homes for them to move into, you’ll quickly get to know the vibe of the community. Hokko Life is delightfully anti-capitalist, with all the characters seeking joy, pleasure, and peace away from the hustle and bustle of the city. 

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Some characters wax metaphysical about life, reality, and the afterlife, while others talk about their latest plan to protest corporate greed. But everyone in Hokko is kind, encouraging, and supportive. Characters express their feelings and moods often, openly discussing when they have bad days. They’re all looking for a bit of relief from the world’s chaos, and the game’s music, sound effects, dialogue, and story are the perfect escape from the real world.

The only major downside of Hokko Life is that, while most of the gameplay elements are familiar, they’re not necessarily intuitive. For example, It took me several in-game days to realize that my neighbors weren’t going to just walk up and tell me how to go fishing. I had to take the initiative to clean up the trash around the pond before I could learn how to craft a fishing rod. 

Similarly, you have to invite a specific character to move to town and build them a house before you can get access to the farming area. This takes quite a few game days and a certain degree of good timing to meet the right character. Certain significant gameplay elements like these are left out of the main storyline tutorial, which makes them challenging to find, especially if you’re not familiar with this style of game. 

But aside from that, Hokko Life is a well-developed cozy life sim that feels familiar enough to settle right into but has plenty of unique mechanics and creative freedom to keep even seasoned life sim players entertained for many hours of gameplay.

Hokko Life
Hokko Life is a well-developed cozy life sim that feels familiar enough to settle right into but has plenty of unique mechanics and creative freedom to keep even seasoned life sim players entertained for many hours of gameplay.
  • Hokko Life’s familiar community-building gameplay is soothing and stress-free.
  • The unique Design Table functionality offers endless hours of creative gameplay.
  • The game’s anti-capitalist, pro-sustainability, and gender-neutral sentiments are refreshing.
  • The tutorial storyline leaves out some essential game features that aren’t intuitive to find or activate on your own.
  • Hokko’s residents are a little creepy looking.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review. Reviewed on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC.

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Juniper Finch
Juniper (they/them) is a lifelong gamer, starting with Mario 64 way back in the day. They love all things cozy, from relaxing farm sim games to endlessly rewatchable comfort TV. Their all-time favorite games are the Sims, Stardew Valley, Skyrim, and Assassin's Creed: Odyssey.