Hob’s clockwork world is beautiful and bittersweet

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The world is under threat in plenty of video games. In Hob, the world is broken, a vast mechanism that has been gummed up and misaligned. Your job is to save it by fixing it, wielding a sword that looks like a key and tinkering with locks and escapements and cogs and gears, realigning, repositioning, sliding crucial pieces back into place.

There is a thing out there in the world these days called lock sports: people love locks and keys and spend their spare time learning how to mess with them, how to play with tumblers and get the pins bouncing. It is recreational lock-picking, basically, and there’s a lot of that appeal to Hob, as you move around, a Link-alike in a carefully reconfigured Hyrule. It goes some way to explaining why this action RPG above all others lingers in the mind and is well worth a second replay now it’s finally landed on Switch.

But there’s another reason, I think. Hob is almost a very cute game. You are small and determined, and the world is lush and pretty in its greenery, in its sculpted stones and brilliant use of copper to accent then ancient machines and give them a surprising texture. But there is also a splinter of malice in there, a sharp darkness that sticks. There’s the pink goop that is spoiling this landscape for starters. Then there is the uncanny long legs and long necks of the creatures you come across, limbs extended and knees knobbly, everything just a little bit off.

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