The best worlds are often the ones that give you the choice to explore their secrets at your own pace. Where the right path isn't often the most obvious one, but the journey to finding it is satisfying nonetheless. Travelling through the biomechanical realm of Hob: The Definitive Edition, it's easy to lose track of exactly why you're pushing blocks to solve puzzles or using your robotic arm to move between platforms, but that wayward nature rarely feels like a byproduct of fault, rather a conscious desire to embrace a zen-like approach to adventuring.
When it first arrived in 2017, Runic Games' sedate mixture of platforming, combat and puzzle solving charmed critics and players alike on PS4 and PC, with a beguiling art style and a subtly presented story reminiscent of Journey. It had its faults - namely a clunky UI and a fixed camera that often made platforming more of a chore than it needed to be - but the solid foundations for a lovely little game were there. So when you learn that Panic Button Games and its golden touch is behind this latest Nintendo Switch port, you're already half-sold on the claim that this really is a 'Definitive Edition' and not some hollow port no one asked for or wants.
And Panic Button really has done Runic Games' latest offering justice. This is no foray into buggy and broken territory as we see with the similarly positioned Rime - a game utterly ruined on Switch due to a nearly unplayable port - but rather a faithful update that prioritises performance over presentation while incorporating some quality of life changes that make a considerable difference to a game that was already great in so many ways. But we'll get to those changes shortly. Let's dive into what continues to make Hob a charming platformer good enough to rub shoulder with the likes of Journey and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.
Hob's world is its greatest character, and it's one that keeps revealing sides to itself the further you're willing to delve. There are fields full of swaying long grass, hidden valleys dressed in lichen and an ecosystem of wildlife that roam both above and below. But then you turn a key, blast through a wall or uncover a secret entrance and soon you're seeing the cogs whirring beneath. Entire hills rise and fall to reveal new platforms; pistons turn and depress as you solve puzzles; seemingly immobile ruins shift to reveal long dormant forms of robotic life. TLDR: its Cybertron meets Hyrule.
The camera is still fixed, but there are far fewer instances of it getting stuck as you enter a cave, or when a piece of rendered scenery draws too close in the foreground. Now you're free to enjoy the sense of depth Runic has worked so hard to instil. New or high/low-positioned platforms are often kept in view as you discern how to climb up or down to reach a piece of treasure or a doorway to a secret location. Future locales are often teased in the background, with the camera slowly pulling in and out so you can truly appreciate just how intricate Hob's mechanical world truly is.
The titular hero suffers an unfortunate encounter with a poisonous goop that’s corrupting the land, so one chop later and our silent protagonist now has a giant mechanical arm fit for purpose. You'll occasionally collect a green currency you can spend back at your home cave on upgrades, but as you progress through the game you’ll also unlock new ways to utilise your metallic appendage. You’ll start off with a powerful punch strong enough to smash buttons and blast through previously impassable walls, but later you’ll unlock the ability to grapple to high ledges or even warp across the map. Each one is perfectly placed, unlocking new paths throughout the world as you go.
UI used during gameplay is still minimalist to the point of being almost non-existent (although now you can adjust how much info appears on screen in the options menu), but it’s been completely cleaned up in the menus. With Switch’s touchscreen support, you can now flick between the map, your abilities screen, your inventory and more with ease. It makes navigating the map (which has also been updated to make it a little easier to read) significantly easier, which is a great addition considering how important it is to a game that’s purposefully obtuse with its guidance.
Panic Button really has done wonders with Hob. Loading screens, which were previously a little too long in length, have now been noticeably shortened. You can pitch the camera up and down should you want a little more control when jumping between narrow platforms, but we encountered very little issues with the camera’s natural positioning. That cel-shaded art style really does make a difference when it comes to balancing out the visual sacrifices, but Hob is still a beautiful little game that retains much of its original appeal.
We've been stung before with ports of console and PC games - especially those lauded for the size and intricacy of their worlds - but Panic Button has proved, once again, that it really does know how to do the right games justice within the constraints of Switch's hardware design. Hob: The Definitive Edition retains all the qualities of the original, with only a reasonable downgrade in its visuals serving as a caveat. With a cel-shaded art style helping negate the effect of this aesthetic sacrifice and all the improvements genuinely helping elevate Hob's overall quality, Hob becomes the latest 3D platformer to secure a well-earned place among Switch's most exciting new additions.