I, Hope was created without the objective of making a profit. Developer Kenny Roy is teaming up alongside the GameChanger Charity to ensure that all proceeds for the game are donated to said charity, which supports children and children fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. It’s a beautiful thing, really, though now I feel somewhat bad because I got my copy through Twitch Prime’s free games of the month thing. Hopefully Twitch is donating some funds their way based on the amount of service subscribers they have or something like that. All that said, I wish I, Hope was better than it ultimately is, and I’m finding it difficult to criticize a game with such an earnest cause and outlook. Still, I must.
I, Hope is the coming of age story about a young girl named Hope whose town has been taken over by Cancer. The game is not trying to be subtle whatsoever with its narrative. You are Hope, you are battling Cancer. Other games have tackled this subject, such as That Dragon, Cancer and Re-Mission, though I can’t speak about how on the nose or not they played it. As Hope, you are traveling to a bunch of islands to collect tools to help her on her quest to push back Cancer, and to get these tools, she’ll need to defeat monsters and solve various puzzles. It’s a typical third-person, character action game in the veins of Devil May Cry and Bayonetta, but with the violence toned way down, no insane combos, and graphics that look like they’d call the PlayStation 2 home, not that that’s a bad thing really. Actually, now that I think about it, the game also reminds me a bit of Invizimals: The Lost Kingdom.
The gameplay consists of you, as Hope, running around a somewhat sparse level, attacking cancer-infected monsters with your staff and solving environment-based puzzles. The problems start immediately. The jumping and attacking don’t feel great, and I even fell through the world a few times, popping the “That’s not how the story went…” screen, which brings you back to a checkpoint. Trying to move objects is basically a dice roll as to whether or not you can even move the block when you hit the button to lock on to it. You also acquire some abilities, such as being able to see hidden elements with the goggles or freezing moving platforms with a cymbal thingy. Each world seems to end with a boss fight that often requires you to use that island’s specific power to defeat it. Also, you can collect letters to spell hope, which unlocks some extra content–I think it’s just a soundtrack selection–from the main menu.
I got to the end boss of the third island, the volcano-themed heckhole, and called it quits, something I really don’t like doing in any game. Sure, sure, I’ll walk away from a game or take a break, but always with the intention to return to it eventually. With I, Hope, I was saying, “Nope, no more.” The cause is good, the gameplay is not, to the point of it being frustrating. I found next to zero coverage of the game on YouTube, but one person did play through the whole thing, and I’m glad I stopped when I did because the puzzles seemed to only become more maddening as Hope gathered more tools and tricks to use against the Cancer tentacles. It also ends abruptly after a light-bouncing-between-mirrors puzzle that we have all experienced before in games like Beyond Good & Evil and the Professor Layton puzzle games, on both a down and up beat. I just don’t know.
I, Hope has one thing going for it–its unceasing amount of support for those fighting cancer. Me too. Cancer sucks, hard. As a game, one for all ages, but seemingly geared towards a younger group, it’s both bland and underdeveloped, and I found nothing satisfying in either the platforming, combat, or puzzle solving, and those are the three main elements that make up Hope’s quest. I am all about supporting causes for cancer research, and this is one of ’em, but a word of warning–you’ll be extremely disappointed if you also want a good game to play out of the donation.